Law enforcement authorities say 50 people were killed and 53 wounded in a mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub.
Police said a gunman, using an assault rifle and pistol, opened fire inside a crowded Florida nightclub early in the morning before dying in a gunfight with Special Forces officers. The attack killed at least 50 people, making it the worst mass shooting in American history.
The authorities were investigating it as an act of terrorism.
The mayor of Orlando said at least 53 people were hospitalized.
“There is blood everywhere,” said Mayor Buddy Dyer.
The suspect exchanged fire with an officer working for the gay club known as Pulse Orlando around 2 am, when more than 300 people were inside. Police Chief John Mina said the gunman then returned inside and took hostages.
At around 5 am, the authorities sent a SWAT team to rescue the hostages. Police did not specify the exact number of victims, but Mina said that “about 20” bodies were inside the club.
Mina said that in addition to the weapons, the shooter had some kind of “suspicious device”.
Authorities were looking into whether the attack was a domestic or international act of terrorism, and whether the shooter acted on his own, according to Danny Banks, undersecretary of law enforcement in Florida.
“This is an incident, as I see it, and we definitely classify it as a domestic terrorist incident,” said Jerry Demings, Orange County Sheriff.
The suspect was identified as Omar Moutin from Port St. Lucy, Florida.
Rep. Alan Grayson shot the shooter, citing law enforcement officials. A federal law enforcement official familiar with the investigation also confirmed the name. The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
There is no other threat to Orlando or the surrounding area, said Ron Hopper, an FBI agent.
The police had said earlier on Twitter that there was a “controlled explosion” at the scene of the shooting. Mina said the noise was caused by a device intended to distract the shooter.
A woman who was outside the dance club early on was trying to call her 30-year-old son, Eddie, who texted her when the shooting happened and asked her to call the police. He told her he ran to the bathroom with the other club patrons to hide. Then he texted her: “He’s coming.”
Mina Justice said: “The next text says:“ He is with us, and he is here with us. ”“That was the last conversation. ”
Dozens of police cars stormed the area around the club. At least two police pickup trucks were seen transporting what appeared to be shooting the victims to the Orlando Regional Medical Center.
Pulse posted on her Facebook page around 2 am: “Everyone gets out of their pulse and keeps running.” Before 6 am, the club posted an update: “As soon as we have any information, we will update everyone. Please keep everyone in your prayers as we work through this tragic event. Thank you for your thoughts and love.”
Local, state, and federal agencies were investigating.
John Alamo said he was in the back of a club room when a man with a gun entered the front of the room.
“I heard 20, 40, 50 rounds,” Alamo said. “The music has stopped.”
One of the club’s pioneers, Rob Rick, said the shooting started just before closing time.
“Everyone was drinking their last sip,” he said.
He estimated that more than 100 people were still inside when he heard gunshots, and he got down on the ground and crawled towards the DJ booth. The goalkeeper has smashed a partition between the club area and an area in the back where only workers are allowed. The people inside managed to escape afterwards through the back of the club.
Christopher Hansen said he was in the VIP lounge when he heard gunshots. He continued to hear gunfire even after his appearance, and the police urged people to retreat from the club. He saw the wounded being treated across the street.
I was thinking, ‘Are you kidding me? And he said, “ Please, please, please, I want to do it. ” And when I did, I saw people shot. And I saw blood. Hope and pray not to be shot.