Credit: Orlando Police
UPDATE 5: Mir Seddique, father of gunman Omar Mateen, told NBC News that the murder of 50 people in an LGBT nightclub had “nothing to do with religion.”
He said that his son became enraged after seeing two men kissing in Miami earlier this year, and that may have triggered the attack that took place in the early hours of this morning.
“He saw two men kissing each other in front of his wife and kid and he got very angry,” he said. “They were kissing each other and touch each other…. He was highly educated. He was such a perfect father. I don’t know what went through his mind to go after a gay bar.”
UPDATE 4: Police confirm that there are 50 people dead and a further 53 hospitalized in the wake of last night’s mass shooting, making it the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
Florida Governor Rick Scott has been asked to issued a State of Emergency. Authorities are currently focused on identifying victims and families. The identitification process “may take some time.” A handgun and an “AR-15”-type gun have been recovered, plus an unknown number of rounds.
“We ask that people be patient. Unfortunately, there are many victims inside the club,” said Chief of Police John Mina. “The amount of victims in there, it’s going to take some time.”
He added that there was no indication that the suspect was helped to carry out the shooting. “There was an initial shooting at 2am, and then gunfire exchanged between the Swat team and the gunman.,” Mina added. It’s unknown if any victims were killed after the initial gunfire, or during the hostage process and SWAT rescue.
“Many [victims] are critically ill from their injuries,” said Michael Cheatham, a surgeon from a local hospital. “We are in the process of reuniting the victims with their loved ones.”
He urged for locals to donate blood — ignoring the cruel irony that gay men are essentially banned from donating blood thanks to a one-year deferral.
The FBI have confirmed the shooter, but are investigating and will officially release the name at a later press conference. They’re urging anyone at the nightclub to come forward and provide information, but are “confident” that it is an isolated incident.
“We feel confident there are no immediate threats to the area or the United States of America,” said FBI special agent Ronald Hopper.
Orange County officials expressed their condolences over the incident during the press conference.
“We know that this affects a large part of our community… which has been dramatically impacted,” said Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. “We are a united community and what we saw last night does not reflect what we feel in our heart and our souls…. We stand together.”
“This has certainly been a tragic day for all of us,” added Orange County Sherriff Jerry Dennings.
The president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida issued a statement, calling the shooting “a horrible tragedy.”
“It’s supposed to be a beautiful morning, but it’s already a heartbreaking morning…. It’s a horrible tragedy,” Muhammad Musri said. He then urged news organizations not to twist the shooter’s potential connections with Islam against the faith. “It’s not really time for any sensational news and rushing to judgment. We should all wait until information, facts come out.”
Police Chief Mina stated that many of his officers, including those with two decades on the force, were visibly shaken after entering the club and witnessing the massacre that had taken place.
“It’s absolutely terrible. 50 victims in one location, in one shooting,” Mina said during the press conference. “[It’s] absolutely one of the worst tragedies we’ve ever seen…. A tragedy, not only for our city, but the entire nation.”
UPDATE 3: Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have taken to Twitter to comment on the shooting, with Clinton calling it a “horrific act”:
A police briefing scheduled for 9:30 am has been pushed to 10:15 am.
Metro Weekly will update this story as more information comes in.
UPDATE 2: Authorities have identified the shooter as Omar Mateen, 29, a U.S. citizen from Port St. Lucie, Florida. BBC News reports that he was not on any terrorism watch lists, though he was under investigation for an unrelated crime.
The announcement comes after an FBI representative stated at an earlier press briefing that the shooter may have had links to radical Islamic terrorism, saying that authorities “have suggestions that [the shooter] might have leanings towards that particular ideology.” However, that had not been definitely established, the representative added.
The White House has issued a short statement on the shooting, calling it “tragic.” President Obama was briefed on the incident and has directed the federal government to pursue the investigation and support the community.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of the victims,” the statement reads.
UPDATE 1: “Multiple people” dead inside the club, at least 42 injured sent to area hospitals, police confirm at press briefing.
Orlando Police confirmed “many lives were lost,” but they aren’t yet able to give an exact number. Incident being investigated as “an act of terrorism.” Gunman had rifle, handgun and “some type of device.”
“No indication” of any similar attacks planned in Orlando area or anywhere else, police and FBI say. Anyone with information on the shooter or the incident encouraged to contact local law enforcement.
“There’s nothing we won’t do to get to the bottom of this case,” FBI say. “If you see something and you say something, we will do something.”
At least 9 officers involved in shooting suspect, one officer injured, though not seriously.
“Approximately 20” people dead inside nightclub, police estimate. “At least 30” saved by law enforcement inside club during action against the shooter.
Police confirm shooter was killed by officers and did not commit suicide.
No witness accounts of second shooter, police say, despite reports to the contrary by some news outlets. An officer working at the club responded to gunfire, which might explain witness reports of a second gunman.
ORIGINAL STORY: Orlando police have declared a “mass casualty situation” after a shooting inside an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
An unnamed shooter opened fire on the crowd at around 2am, with local station WESH reporting that witnesses heard about 40 gunshots — though police have yet to confirm how many rounds were fired.
At 5:53am, Orlando police confirmed that the suspect was dead.
WESH reporter Stewart Moore tweeted that the shooter barricaded himself inside the nightclub, taking hostages, and was suspected of having a bomb in his possession. A bomb crew was dispatched and police later tweeted that a controlled explosion took place.
“I heard 20, 40, 50 shots,” John Alamo, who was in one of the club’s rooms, told the Associated Press. “The music stopped.”
“We heard rapid fire go off. In the room I was in, people went down to the floor. I wasn’t able to see the shooter or people get hurt,” Ricardo Negron Almodovar, who was also in the club, told the BBC. “At some point, there was a brief pause, and a group of us got up and went to the exit that leads to the patio area outside. We found an exit and after that… I just ran.”
Pulse Orlando, Credit: Facebook
Images from outside the club showed varying degrees of injury, with people being treated on pavements and those more seriously injured taken to nearby hospitals.
Police officials and the FBI are expected to offer further information at a press briefing shortly. We’ll update when we know more.