A gunman killed
50 people at a packed gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida on Sunday in the
worst mass shooting in U.S. history which authorities described as a
possible act of terrorism.
killed the shooter, who was identified as Omar S. Mateen, a Florida
resident. A top U.S. congressman said Mateen may have pledged allegiance
to the Islamic State militant group.
officials cautioned, however, that they had no immediate evidence of
any direct connection with Islamic State or any other foreign extremist
Fifty-three people were
wounded in the rampage, which Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said was the
deadliest single U.S. shooting incident, eclipsing the 32 people killed
in the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech university.
we’re dealing with something that we never imagined and is
unimaginable,” Dyer said, more than doubling an earlier estimate that
about 20 bodies had been found.
police officer working as a security guard inside the Pulse nightclub,
which has operated in downtown Orlando since 2004 and was hosting some
350 revelers, exchanged fire with the suspect at about 2 a.m. ET, police
“Everyone get out of pulse and keep running,” the club’s management wrote on Facebook as the incident unfolded.
hostage situation developed, and three hours later SWAT team officers
used armored cars to storm the club before shooting dead the gunman. It
was unclear when the victims were killed.
of terrified patrons, some of whom had been hiding in restrooms, were
rescued. One officer was injured when he was hit in his helmet while
exchanging fire with the gunman, police said.
Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on a congressional intelligence
committee, noted that the shooting took place during Ramadan, and that
ISIS leaders in Syria have urged attacks during this time.
“The target was an LGBT nightclub during
Pride, and – if accurate – that according to local law enforcement the
shooter declared his allegiance to ISIS, (that) indicates an
ISIS-inspired act of terrorism,” Schiff said in a statement.
confirmed as an act of terrorism, it would stand as the deadliest such
attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001, when al Qaeda-trained
hijackers crashed jetliners into New York’s World Trade Center, the
Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, killing some 3,000 people.
pair of ethnic Chechen brothers killed three people and injured more
than 260 with a pair of homemade pressure-cooker bombs at the Boston
Marathon in April 2013
if the FBI suspected the gunman might have had inclinations toward
militant Islam, including a possible sympathy for Islamic State, Ronald
Hopper, an assistant FBI agent in charge, told reporters: “We do have
suggestions that the individual may have leanings toward that particular
ideology. But right now we can’t say definitively.”
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who sits
on the Senate intelligence and foreign relations committees, told CNN he
understood that the gunman had worked for a security company and so
would have undergone some background checks.
the next couple of days they’re going to be looking to see where this
individual was inspired to carry out this horrifying act of terrorism,”
Rubio said. “I think we’re going to be talking about a very different
kind of case here soon.”
Barack Obama ordered the federal government to provide any assistance
needed to Florida police investigating the shooting, the White House
said. He was due to speak later Sunday.
attacker was carrying an assault rifle and a handgun, Orange County
Sheriff Jerry Demings said. He was also carrying an unidentified
“device”, Orlando Police Chief John Mina said earlier.
footage showed police officers and civilians carrying some people away
from the club and bending over others on the ground. Dozens of police
cruisers, ambulances and other emergency vehicles could be seen in the
“It’s definitely a tragedy not only for the
city but for our entire nation,” Mina told reporters. “We believe this
is a tragedy that could happen anywhere in the United States of America,
and what we need to do is continue to be vigilant.”
which was crowded for a Latin music night, describes itself on its
website as more than “just another gay club.” One of the founders and
owners, Barbara Poma, opened it more than a decade ago in an effort to
keep alive the spirit of her brother, who died after battling HIV.
choice of target was especially heart-wrenching for members of the U.S.
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, LGBT advocacy group
Equality Florida said in a statement.
clubs hold a significant place in LGBTQ history. They were often the
only safe gathering place and this horrific act strikes directly at our
sense of safety,” the group said. “We will await the details in tears of
sadness and anger.”
Orlando has a
population of 270,930 and is the home of the famed Disney World
amusement park and many other tourist attractions that attracted 62
million visitors in 2014.
the second deadly shooting at an Orlando night spot in as many nights.
Late Friday, a man thought to be a deranged fan fatally shot singer
Christina Grimmie, a former contestant on “The Voice”, as she was
signing autographs after a concert.