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Latest From Orlando: Tracking Gunman's Motives; Updates On Victims

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We are monitoring quite a bit here as this city recovers from a terrible mass shooting at a nightclub on early Sunday morning. Right now, we are hearing from surgeons and some of the victims who have been hospitalized just across the street from where we are broadcasting from at Orlando Regional Medical Center. These are some of the dozens of people who were fortunately not killed in that attack and some of whom have been fighting for their lives. We're expecting to hear from some of the victims themselves as well as the surgical team who have been treating some of these victims.

In addition, we are following the investigation into how exactly this happened and the motive behind this attack that was carried out by Omar Mateen, trying to understand why he did this. Omar Mateen was killed by the authorities when they went into this club early Sunday morning. Let's begin with NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson who has been following this investigation from Washington. Carrie, good morning.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Good morning David.

GREENE: So what is the latest here? What are the authorities focused on right now?

JOHNSON: The FBI Director James Comey says they're trying to untangle different streams of motivation. And in this case, as with many others, that's been a very difficult task so far. The FBI director says it appears this person, Omar Mateen, had self-radicalized after viewing and reading a lot of the internet propaganda, jihadist propaganda. It does not appear at this point that he had any direction from any overseas terrorist group, although the FBI and local police in Florida are still looking at that. They're reviewing his phone, other electronic evidence, talking with his wife and other witnesses and associates.

But David, this picture of a man who allegedly pledged an oath of allegiance to the Islamic State and its leader and mentioned the Tsarnaev brothers, the Boston bombers, as his homeboys in a 911 call in the middle of this attack on Sunday, has been complicated by accounts from people, according to local newspapers, that this man had frequented the Pulse nightclub in the past and may have used a gay dating app. Now, what's not clear to investigators at this stage, David, is whether Omar Mateen was casing this area and looking for victims and targets or whether something about his own sexual identity was also in play here or a mix of both. It could take a while...

GREENE: Carrie, you're saying casing not just potentially this nightclub by physically being there at times, it sounds like, but maybe potentially using this dating gap to look at potential victims. I mean, we just have no idea what he was doing on there at this point.

JOHNSON: The FBI is looking at all of these things right now. And I'm every from law enforcement sources they've made no determinations at this early stage in the investigation.

GREENE: OK. Carrie Johnson, stay with us if you can. I'm joined here in Orlando by our colleague Hansi Lo Wang. And Hansi, tell us exactly what is going on across the street at this hour. This is the Orlando Regional Medical Center where a press conference is happening. Who are we expecting to hear from?

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: We're expecting to hear from a team of surgeons, about six surgeons who worked and treated about two dozen patients that arrived on Sunday morning at the hospital. Also, we're nobody going to hear from two survivors of the attack. And they may give us details about what exactly happened inside the club during the shooting. And it's not clear exactly how long they were there.

GREENE: All right. And it sounds like we're just looking on a television screen here in our studio. And we're going to try, if we can, to bring you some of this press conference live. It looks like there's a surgical team. And as Hansi just told us, we're expected to hear from some survivors as well. So let's go to that press conference.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

MICHAEL CHEATHAM: We still have 27 patients that are admitted in the hospital. Of these, six patients are in the intensive care unit. And 21 patients are on the floor. Of these patients, we have six patients remaining in the hospital that are critically ill. We have five that are in guarded. condition, And we have 16 patients that we would consider to be stable. No patients have succumbed to their injuries since the initial nine patients who came to us at the time of the shooting. All of the patients, since arrival to the hospital, are still with us. They are steadily improving.

There were a number of victims that left the scene of the nightclub. They were trying to get away from the shooting. Several of those patients have subsequently presented to our hospitals. Yesterday, we saw two patients that presented to one (inaudible) our sister hospitals, (inaudible) Hospital. And there was another patient that presented, I understand, this morning to another of our sister hospitals, Health Central Hospital. We anticipate that we may see other victims come into the hospitals over the next few days as they identify injuries that they may have sustained. Patients continue to go to the operating room for their injuries...

GREENE: Michael Cheatham, who is a trauma surgeon at the Orlando Regional Medical Center.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

CHEATHAM: ...In addition to the 28 cases that we did the (inaudible) day of the response. Yesterday, we completed eight further operations. And we have another eight operations that are scheduled for today on the victims of this event. (Unintelligible).

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: So over the last couple of days, you may have seen or you may have spoken to a number of our surgeons about their experiences that early morning. And if you haven't heard them say it, they all want you to know that they do not work in isolation, that it takes a team. So before I introduce them, I want to recognize some other very...

GREENE: OK. We've been listening there to a press conference. Dr. Michael Cheatham, one of trauma surgeons, treating some of the injured from the nightclub here in Orlando on Sunday morning. We're told that there are six people still in critical condition. The doctor told us that, fortunately, so far, everyone brought to his hospital has survived, even though we have six who are still in critical condition.

And let me just bring in Carrie Johnson one more time. We just have a few seconds left here, Carrie. But one question I have - I mean, some of the injured here, is it possible that that long delay before the authorities went into that nightclub - that it was hard to reach them and their injuries actually got worse?

JOHNSON: We just don't know at this point, David. Local police in Florida and the FBI have been unwilling, at this stage, to identify how many victims died immediately in the half an hour after the shooter Omar Mateen burst into the Pulse nightclub between 2 and 2:30 and how many died in the course of the SWAT team rescue. Obviously, there were a lot of wounds and a...

GREENE: Yeah.

JOHNSON: ...Lot of bleeding.

GREENE: All right. We've been talking to NPR's Carrie Johnson, NPR's Hansi Lo Wang with me in Orlando as we hear, for the first time, from some of the victims at the hospital right across the street from where we are. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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