Home News Terrorism in America: 50 killed, 53 injured in Orlando nightclub massacre

Terrorism in America: 50 killed, 53 injured in Orlando nightclub massacre

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UPDATE:
4:35 p.m.

A law enforcement official says the gunman who killed 50 people at a gay nightclub made a 911 call from the club, professing allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The law enforcement official is familiar with the investigation but was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Undated photo or selfie of Omar Mateen, identified as the gunman in mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando, Florida on June 12, 2016. The shooting death toll rose to 50 with a further 53 wounded. Photo Balkis Press/ABACAPRESS.COM
Undated photo or selfie of Omar Mateen, identified as the gunman in mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando, Florida on June 12, 2016. The shooting death toll rose to 50 with a further 53 wounded. Photo Balkis Press/ABACAPRESS.COM

Authorities say Omar Mateen opened fire at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, killing 50 people and wounding more than 50 others before he was gunned down by police.

It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Authorities were investigating the attack on the Florida dance club as an act of terrorism.

4:20 p.m.

A former Afghan official says the father of the Orlando nightclub gunman is a native of Afghanistan who appears on a television program known for “its anti-US tirades” and “pro-Taliban” remarks.

The official says the gunman’s father is Seddique Mateen and that the program is broadcast in the Dari language. The official spoke only on condition of anonymity because he did not want to be linked to coverage of the shooting.

Mateen is the father of Omar Mateen, who authorities say killed 50 people at the nightclub.

The official said Seddique Mateen’s “Durand Jirga Show” is anti-Pakistan. The name of the show references the Durand line, the long disputed border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Seddique Mateen campaigned in the United States for current Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who appeared on his program in 2014. The program’s studio has an address in Fort Pierce, Florida.

Afghanistan’s president says he “strongly condemns” the attack on a Florida nightclub that killed at least 50 people.

President Ashraf Ghani said in a statement Sunday that “targeting civilians is not justifiable under any circumstances whatsoever.” He offered his condolences to President Barack Obama, the American people and the families of the victims.

Afghanistan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah also offered his condolences.

Shooter Omar Mateen was born in New York. His ex-wife told The Washington Post that Mateen’s family was from Afghanistan. The family later moved to Florida.

The ex-wife is not named in the Post report.

4:05 p.m.

The FBI says agents twice investigated the man who killed 50 people inside a gay nightclub, but closed those cases after interviewing him.

FBI agent Ronald Hopper said Sunday that Omar Mateen had been interviewed in 2013 and 2014. Hopper said agents first investigated Mateen after he made inflammatory comments to co-workers alleging possible ties to terrorists.

Mateen was interviewed twice and, when investigators were unable to verify the details of his comments, the FBI closed the probe.

In 2014, the agency looked into potential ties connecting Mateen to Moner Mohammad Abusalha, the first American to carry out a suicide attack in Syria. Like Mateen, Abusalha lived in Fort Pierce, Florida.

Hopper says agents determined that contact was minimal and did not constitute a substantive relationship or a threat at that time.

Mateen was 29 years old and born in New York. The FBI says he referred to the Islamic State in a 911 call before the slayings.

4:05 p.m.

Organizers of Denver’s PrideFest, which holds a parade and rally that has attracted hundreds of thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in past years, is going ahead with their festival next weekend amid heavy security following the shooting deaths of at least 50 people inside a crowded gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday.

Organizer Debra Pollock says parade and rally participants in Denver have always been security-conscious, but members of the GLBT Community Center of Colorado have also received training on how to deal with active-shooter situations.

Pollock says the organizers will have metal detectors and fences set up at Civic Center Park for the rally, and there will also be security on the parade route and people will be searched as in past years.

3:45 p.m.

The city of Orlando is publishing the names of those killed in a massacre at a gay nightclub on its website after their families have been contacted.

As of 3:45 p.m. Sunday, the list had four names. Fifty people were killed.

Shooter Omar Mateen was killed; his name is not on the list.

Fifty-three more were hospitalized.

The city’s website includes the #PrayforOrlando hashtag and says officials are “working tirelessly” to get information to families.

The list can be found at http://www.cityoforlando.net/blog/victims/

3:25 p.m.

The ex-wife of the man authorities say killed 50 people at an Orlando nightclub says he beat her repeatedly while they were married.

The ex-wife told The Washington Post that she met Omar Mateen online about eight years ago and decided to move to Florida and marry him. The ex-wife, who wasn’t named in the report, says at first the marriage was normal, but then he became abusive.

They were together for only a few months and her parents intervened when they learned Mateen had assaulted her. She says he wasn’t very religious and gave no signs of radical Islam. She said he owned a small-caliber handgun and worked as a guard at a nearby facility for juvenile delinquents.

Mateen’s ex-wife said his family was from Afghanistan, but her ex-husband was born in New York. His family later moved to Florida.

3:20 p.m.

Officials are giving more details about the shooter in a massacre at a gay Orlando nightclub.

Ronald Hopper of the FBI says shooter Omar Mateen was 29 and an American citizen. He was not under surveillance at the time of the shooting.

The ATF says Mateen purchased at least two firearms legally within the last week or so.

Hooper says some 911 calls involving the shooter and the massacre have become federal evidence. He says the conversations involved the Islamic State.

Hooper says the shooter in 2013 made inflammatory comments to co-workers, and that Mateen was interviewed twice. Hooper calls those interviews inconclusive.

In 2014, Hooper says, officials found that Mateen had ties to the first American to carry out a suicide attack in Syria. Hooper describes the contact as minimal; it did not constitute a threat at that time.

(Corrects that ATF, not FBI says firearms were bought legally)

3:15 p.m.

Police say a total of 14 law enforcement officers exchanged gunfire with the shooter at a gay Florida nightclub.

Orlando police Chief John Mina and other officials gave the details at a Sunday afternoon news conference.

They say 11 Orlando police officers and three deputy sheriffs actively engaged, and fired their weapons. They’re relieved of duties pending an investigation. That’s typical procedure in such cases.

3:15 p.m.

The suspected Orlando night club shooter Omar Mateen was a security guard with G4S. In a 2012 newsletter, the firm identified him as working in West Palm Beach.

In a statement sent to the Palm Beach Post, the security company confirmed his employment.

“We are shocked and saddened by the tragic event that occurred at the Orlando nightclub. We can confirm that Omar Mateen had been employed with G4S since September 10, 2007. We are cooperating fully with all law enforcement authorities, including the FBI, as they conduct their investigation. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the friends, families and people affected by this unspeakable tragedy.”

3 p.m.

Multiple news outlets are reporting that the man who killed 50 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando called 911 shortly before the attack and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

The media outlets cited unnamed law enforcement officials in their reports.

Danny Banks is an agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He says authorities are investigating whether the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history was an act of domestic or international terrorism, and if the shooter acted alone.

The suspect in the Orlando attack was identified as Omar Mateen of Port St. Lucie, Florida. The gunman’s father recalled to NBC News that his son recently got angry when he saw two men kissing in Miami and said that might be related to the assault.

2:55 p.m.

People who were inside the gay Florida nightclub where 50 people were killed are describing a scene of mass chaos.

Two men who were in Club Pulse discussed the Sunday massacre in Facebook chats with The Associated Press.

Orlando resident Brand White was shot. He says, “We are dancing and all of a sudden it just started like a rolling thunder, loud and everything went black.”

The 30-year-old was with his cousin, who mentioned something about “a guy with a bomb.” After that, White says, his memory is fuzzy; he said he doesn’t recall leaving the club or who took him to the hospital.

White was shot in the shoulder. He spoke to The AP as he was being monitored at a hospital. He said he received a blood transfusion.

His cousin was unaccounted for — no one had heard from him as of 2:45 p.m.

Another man, Brett Rigas, says he and his partner were dancing when they heard shots. Rigas was shot in the arm and hid behind a bar. About five minutes later, authorities came in and told everyone to put their hands up and run out.

Rigas said he saw bodies as he ran out.

2:45 p.m.

The suspected Orlando nightclub gunman had been licensed as a private security officer in Florida.

State records show suspected shooter Omar Mateen held the firearms license since at least 2011. It was set to expire in September 2017.

It wasn’t immediately clear where, if anywhere, Mateen had worked as a security officer. An armed guard license in Florida requires 28 hours of classroom training by a licensed instructor.

2:35 p.m.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch is cutting short a visit to Beijing for cybersecurity meetings with Chinese officials and returning to the United States to monitor developments in the nightclub shooting investigation.

Lynch says the Justice Department, including the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, is supporting the investigation.

She says in a statement that she’s gotten updates from Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and FBI Director James Comey.
Senator Bill Nelson has stated during a live interview that Intelligence Committee staff have informed him that there believed to be a link to the terror group ISIS. The shooter, Omar Mateen, was shouting “Allah Ackbar” during the attack.

At the 10:15 (EST) press conference, Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer announced that the total number of those killed in last night’s terror attack on a gay club is 50, and 53 injured; not the earlier estimated 20 killed and 42 injured. Gasps could be heard from the reporters when Dyer made the announcement. This is the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. history.

The suspect is being identified by multiple news outlets as Omar Saddiqui Mateen, 29, of Fort Pierce, Florida. Mateen is Muslim and he was born in New York. Mateen’s family is from Afghanistan.

Earlier:

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun opened fire inside a crowded Florida nightclub early Sunday, killing at least 50 people before dying in a gunfight with SWAT officers, police said. It was the worst mass shooting in American history.

Authorities were investigating it as an act of terrorism.

At least 53 other people were hospitalized, most in critical condition, officials said. A surgeon at Orlando Regional Medical Center said the death toll was likely to climb.

Mayor Buddy Dyer said all of the dead were killed with the assault rifle.

“There’s blood everywhere,” Dyer said.

The suspect exchanged gunfire with an officer working at the gay club known as Pulse around 2 a.m., when more than 300 people were inside. The gunman then went back inside and took hostages, Police Chief John Mina said.

Around 5 a.m., authorities sent in a SWAT team to rescue the hostages.

Jackie Smith, who was inside the club, said two friends next to her were shot.

“Some guy walked in and started shooting everybody. He had an automatic rifle, so nobody stood a chance,” Smith said. “I just tried to get out of there.”

In addition to the guns, the shooter also had some sort of “suspicious device,” Mina said.

Authorities were looking into whether the attack was an act of domestic or international terror, and if the shooter acted alone, according to Danny Banks, an agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

“This is an incident, as I see it, that we certainly classify as domestic terror incident,” Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said.

The suspect was identified as Omar Mateen of Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Rep. Alan Grayson named the shooter, citing law enforcement officials. A federal law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation also confirmed the name. The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

FBI agent Ron Hopper said there was no further threat to Orlando or the surrounding area.

When asked if the gunman had a connection to radical Islamic terrorism, Hopper said authorities had “suggestions that individual has leanings towards that.”

Authorities said they had secured the suspect’s vehicle, a van, right outside the club.

Relatives and friends, many in tears, gathered outside the hospital to learn whether their loved ones were among the dead or wounded.

Smith did not know the conditions of her friends and came out of the hospital and burst into tears.

The wounded included one police officer who was shot and suffered injuries to his face, officials said.

Police had said previously on Twitter that there was a “controlled explosion” at the scene of the shooting. Mina said that noise was caused by a device intended to distract the shooter.

A woman who was outside the dance club early Sunday was trying to contact her 30-year-old son, Eddie, who texted her when the shooting happened and asked her to call police. He told her he ran into a bathroom with other club patrons to hide. He then texted her: “He’s coming.”

“The next text said: ‘He has us, and he’s in here with us,'” Mina Justice said. “That was the last conversation.”

Pulse posted on its own Facebook page around 2 a.m.: “Everyone get out of Pulse and keep running.” Just before 6 a.m., 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.

President Barack Obama was briefed on the attack and asked for regular updates on the investigation, the White House said.

The attack follows the fatal shooting late Friday of 22-year-old singer Christina Grimmie, who was killed after her concert in Orlando by a 27-year-old Florida man who later killed himself. Grimmie was a YouTube sensation and former contestant on “The Voice.”

Jon Alamo said he was at the back of one of the club’s rooms when a man holding a weapon came into the front of the room.

“I heard 20, 40, 50 shots,” Alamo said. “The music stopped.”

Club-goer Rob Rick said the shooting started just before closing time.

“Everybody was drinking their last sip,” he said.

He estimated more than 100 people were still inside when he heard shots, got on the ground and crawled toward a DJ booth. A bouncer knocked down a partition between the club area and an area in the back where only workers are allowed. People inside were able to then escape through the back of the club.

Christopher Hansen said he was in the VIP lounge when he heard gunshots. He continued to hear shooting even after he emerged and police urged people to back away from the club. He saw the wounded being tended to across the street.

“I was thinking, ‘Are you kidding me?’ So I just dropped down. I just said, ‘Please, please, please, I want to make it out,'” he said. “And when I did, I saw people shot. I saw blood. You hope and pray you don’t get shot.”

Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington and Terrance Harris in Orlando contributed to this report.

This story has been corrected to show that Banks is with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, not the FBI.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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3 COMMENTS

  1. America’s heart goes out to the victims and their families.

    ISIS called for attacks on Americans in their homeland could this be just the start?
    This is not a hate crime as it’s being spun to be….no proof this was a terrorist attack,,yet….
    and if it was I wonder how the White House will spin it……

  2. The way they are going to spin it is the way they always spin it. We need to ban guns. We need more gun free zones. All that bullshit.

  3. Prayers to the wounded and the families of the dead.Donald Trump needs to fly down and pay his respects to the wounded at the hospital and the families of the dead before Hillary and Obama start with the gun control BS. He should not bring up the Muslim angle,this is not the time.He should thank LE for their quick response and offer the mayor any assistance he can. If he doesn’t Hillary will.

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