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50 dead in Florida nightclub shooting, worst in U.S. history

A gunman opened fire inside crowded gay Orlando nightclub Pulse, before being killed by SWAT officers


 
Jermaine Towns, left, and Brandon Shuford wait down the street from a multiple shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. Towns said his brother was in the club at the time. A gunman opened fire at a nightclub in central Florida, and multiple people have been wounded, police said Sunday. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Jermaine Towns, left, and Brandon Shuford wait down the street from a multiple shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. Towns said his brother was in the club at the time. A gunman opened fire at a nightclub in central Florida, and multiple people have been wounded, police said Sunday. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

ORLANDO, Fla. — A gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun opened fire inside a crowded gay nightclub early Sunday, killing at least 50 people before dying in a gunfight with SWAT officers, police said. 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. The gunman’s father recalled that his son recently got angry when he saw two men kissing in Miami and said that might be related to the assault.

The shooter called 911 shortly before the attack and referenced ISIS, FBI agent Ronald Hopper said.

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

“There’s blood everywhere,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said.

All of the dead were killed with the assault rifle, according to Rep. Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat.

MORE: Scott Gilmore on the one thing the Orlando shooting will change

Witnesses described a chaotic scene when the gunfire began shortly before the club known as Pulse was to close.

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

The suspect was identified as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old American citizen from Port St. Lucie, Florida, who had worked as a security guard. Mateen’s ex-wife said his family was from Afghanistan but that her ex-husband was born in New York. His family later moved to Florida.

The shooter in 2013 made inflammatory comments to co-workers, and Mateen was interviewed twice, Hopper said. He called those interviews inconclusive.

In 2014, Hopper said, officials found that Mateen had ties to an American suicide bomber. He described the contact as minimal, saying it did not constitute a threat at the time.

Mateen purchased at least two firearms legally within the last week or so, according to Trevor Velinor of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Orlando Police officers direct family members away from a fatal shooting at Pulse Orlando nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Orlando Police officers direct family members away from a fatal shooting at Pulse Orlando nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

The suspect exchanged gunfire with 14 police officers at the club, which had more than 300 people inside.

At one point, he took hostages, Police Chief John Mina said. Around 5 a.m., authorities sent in a SWAT team to rescue the hostages.

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.”

In addition to the assault rifle, the shooter also had some sort of “suspicious device,” the police chief said.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, police departments across the country stepped up patrols in neighbourhoods frequented by the LGBT community.

Authorities were looking into whether the attack was an act of domestic or international terrorism, 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 previous deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. was the 2007 attack at Virginia Tech, where a student killed 32 people before killing himself.

Orlando shooting

Mateen’s father, Seddique Mir Mateen, told NBC News about his son seeing the men kissing a couple of months ago.

“We are saying we are apologizing for the whole incident,” Seddique said. “We are in shock like the whole country.”

A federal law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation said Mateen was known to the FBI before the nightclub attack and had been looked at by agents within the last few years. The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The matter for which he came under investigation was “open and closed pretty quickly,” the official said.

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

Mateen’s father said the attack had nothing to do with religion, he said.

The gunman was a security guard with a company called G4S. In a 2012 newsletter, the firm identified him as working in West Palm Beach.

In a statement sent Sunday to the Palm Beach Post, the security company confirmed that he had been an employee since September 2007.

State records show that Mateen had held a firearms license since at least 2011. It was set to expire in 2017.

President Barack Obama called the shooting an “act of terror” and an “act of hate” targeting a place of “solidarity and empowerment” for gays and lesbians. He urged Americans to decide whether this is the kind of “country we want to be.”

MORE: Barack Obama’s remarks on the Orlando shooting

Authorities said they had secured a van owned by the suspect outside the club. Meanwhile, a SWAT truck and a bomb-disposal unit were on the scene of an address associated with Mateen in a residential neighbourhood of Fort Pierce, Florida, about 118 miles southeast of Orlando.

Emergency personnel wait with stretchers at the emergency entrance to Orlando Regional Medical Center hospital for the arrival of patients from the scene of a fatal shooting at Pulse Orlando nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Emergency personnel wait with stretchers at the emergency entrance to Orlando Regional Medical Center hospital for the arrival of patients from the scene of a fatal shooting at Pulse Orlando nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Relatives and friends, many in tears, gathered outside the hospital to learn the fate of loved ones.

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

Christine Leinonen drove to Orlando at 4 a.m. after learning of the shooting from a friend of her 32-year-old son, Christopher Leinonen, who was at Pulse and is missing.

She had not heard from her son and feared the worst.

“These are nonsensical killings of our children,” she said, sobbing. “They’re killing our babies!”

She said her son’s friend Brandon Wolf survived by hiding in a bathroom and running out as the bullets flew.

A woman who was outside the 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.”

MORE: Caught in the shooting, a son’s heartbreaking texts to his mom

Hundreds of volunteers line up to donate blood at OneBlood Center after the late night shooting at Pulse, an Orlando night club, on Sunday, June 12, 2016 in Orlando. A gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun opened fire inside a crowded Florida nightclub before dying in a gunfight with SWAT officers, police say. The attack left at least 50 people dead, making it the worst mass shooting in American history. (Zack Wittman/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Hundreds of volunteers line up to donate blood at OneBlood Center after the late night shooting at Pulse, an Orlando night club, on Sunday, June 12, 2016 in Orlando. A gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun opened fire inside a crowded Florida nightclub before dying in a gunfight with SWAT officers, police say. The attack left at least 50 people dead, making it the worst mass shooting in American history. (Zack Wittman/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

A bartender said she initially thought the gunshots were music. But after a second shot, there was a pause, followed by more shots. That’s when Tiffany Johnson realized something was wrong.

Johnson said people dropped to the ground and started running out of the club. She ran to a fast-food restaurant across the street and met one of her customers who let her get in his car. They drove away.

Club-goer Rob Rick said the shooting started just as “everybody was drinking their last sip.”

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 where only workers are allowed. People were then able to 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 saw the wounded being tended 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.”

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


 

50 dead in Florida nightclub shooting, worst in U.S. history

  1. The shooter was born and raised in NY, and his father said he hated gays.

    • Yeah, based on what has been released so far. this seems more like a hate crime than a terrorist act to me. But the moment a person has a Middle Eastern name, everyone’s knee-jerk reaction is “terrorism.”

      • People with mental disorders and guns is a bad combination…..but I figured there was no hope of action after they let Sandy Hook go

        • According to the perpetrator’s ex wife he beat her regularly. Psychopathy and Sociopathy are not mental disorders but rather personality disorders. The accurate term is anti-social personality disorder. This was a hate crime. Mental health disorders are things like schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder….in short disorders where on might lose tough with reality and no realize what one is doing is wrong.

          • Mental disorders….all of them

          • Not according to the law. Paul Bernardo was not put in a psychiatric hospital because he is a psychopath. He would have been had he had schizophrenia. One type makes an a-hole; the other makes them not criminally responsible. It is a big difference according to the diagnostic tool used and the law courts.

          • Gage…mental disorders….all of them

      • They called it “domestic terrorism” just as they did with Timothy McVie. His father said it had nothing to do with religion however most strict religions whether they be evangelical or Catholic or otherwise are not known to be progressive when it comes to sexual orientation beyond heterosexuality.

        • In McVeigh’s case, it was a political statement; an attack on the government for supposed wrongdoing. It fits the bill for terrorism. So far, all we know about this attack is that it was against a gay nightclub – so, for now at least, hate crime is the better descriptor.

          McVeigh has always said his actions were not religiously motivated – though some (Emily included) refer to him as a “Christian terrorist”. We do not yet (and may never) know if Mateen’s attack was religiously motivated.

          • McVeigh was a Freeman of the Land……Christian Libertarians

          • Hey Em – from Wikipedia: “In McVeigh’s biography American Terrorist, released in 2002, he stated that he did not believe in a hell and that science is his religion.” There are plenty of other citations available to this effect as well.

            He may have been raised Christian, but he wasn’t actively practicing and his actions were politically – not religiously – motivated. For you to try to pin it on his faith say quite a lot about you, though. Where Christians are concerned, as evidenced by dozens of posts on this site over the years, you’re not much different from Trump and his view of Muslims.

          • “It also stands to reason that anyone who sympathizes with the enemy or gives aid or comfort to said enemy is likewise guilty. I have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic and I will. And I will because not only did I swear to, but I believe in what it stands for in every bit of my heart, soul and being. I know in my heart that I am right in my struggle, Steve. I have come to peace with myself, my God and my cause. Blood will flow in the streets, Steve. Good vs. Evil. Free Men vs. Socialist Wannabe Slaves. Pray it is not your blood, my friend.” Wikipedia

            Freeman of the Land

            Christian Libertarian

          • You just proved my point Em. While God gets a passing reference there, the statement is clearly and overtly political. He’s talking about defending the constitution and the nation – NOT about upholding biblical precepts.

            For something to be religious terrorism, the primary driving force has to be the upholding of religious beliefs. That was not the case with McVeigh – and thus you have to question the motives of anyone who tries to twist it to fit that narrative. Buh-bye, Trumpina.

          • Freeman of the Land MEANS he’s religious Bram

            It’s like saying Anglican or Mormon…..it’s a belief system

          • Em – please supply proof that the Freemen movement is religion-based. I cannot find any proof of this. It is a (bizarre) political movement – not a religious one. Calling it a “belief system” does not make it religious, unless capitalism, communism… or even atheism… are.

          • It’s your argument Bram…..YOU prove your point.

          • Sorry Bram…..you aren’t a ‘normal’ individual

          • It was about the FBI attack on Ruby Ridge, etc. It had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with being libertarian.

          • Gage…..Ruby Ridge and Waco were religious

            Go find your Goole button

          • McVeigh’s disgust with Waco and Ruby Ridge was not of a religious bent. It was about the government, specifically the FBI insinuating itself with no cause on private land with guns blazing and killing people with no probable cause. McVeigh didn’t believe in the government’s right to collect taxes. He believed in the right of free men to bare arms against the government. He saw them as the enemy. That is why he bombed a government building in Oklahoma City. The government was infringing on the rights of the people. He didn’t give a sh*t about religion. It was all about the right of the one over the right of the many as per the US constitution. Next you are going to try to tell us the Unibomber’s manifesto is about religion. Did you know he and McVeigh were in adjoining cells at the super max prison? The lights never get turned off. The Unibomer writes constantly.

      • He boasted to his colleagues about his ISIS beliefs, but that was denied when twice interviewed by the FBI. He frequently beat his wife. Before the attack, he telephoned the FBI that his action is ISIS related. He, obviously, has Arabic heritage, and misinterpreted the Arabic version of the Qu’ran. What more needs to be known.

        • The truth needs to be known…not Trump fairy tales

          • Is Trump reporting for Macleans Magazine and CNN? Apparently the a-hole did phone 911 saying it was for ISIS. Since the incident, ISIS has been happy to take credit. Why not…it’s a freebie for them. Antisocial homophobe uses assault rifle and shoots a hundred people. Of course they’ll take the credit.

          • Gage….okay, enough

            Keep up, or go play elsewhwere

    • Naturally, the predictable Emilyone responded with complete, kneejerk denial of the facts.

      • What facts has she denied? She has speculated on his mental state, but the things she has presented as fact (American born; purported to have hated gays) are accurate. Emily and I butt heads a lot, and she does often get the facts wrong – but I don’t see how you can conclude that in this instance.

          • But you so often interpret them wrongly – see the McVeigh exchange above. As I’ve told you so many times, you need course in remedial reading; you have a hard time understanding context.

        • I interpret them differently than you ya mean

          Now focus on the topic, not me.

          • Differently indeed. Differently than the normal application of logic … or even basic reading skills… would lead any coherently thinking individual to conclude.

            But hey – that’s what makes you so special.

          • Bram You are neither logical nor coherent….and you aren’t special either

            Now get back to the topic at hand

            This petty bickering you do is boring

          • Yes, truth is indeed petty and boring when it doesn’t match one’s perceptions.

        • Barrack Obama called it terrorism. Terrorism is the act of terrorizing a group. It is domestic because it involves an American citizen. It is similar Timothy McVeigh because it was intended to send a message of disgruntlement. Timothy was disgruntled with the government and the FBI’s treatment of citizens at WACO and Ruby Ridge. This A-hole was disgruntled with the fact that gay people in America can show their affection in public. Neither Timothy McVeigh nor this A-hole was mentally ill according to the terms laid out by the law although they both completely lacked in empathy and enjoyed killing others as evidenced by their behaviour. Neither would have been sent to psychiatric facility even in Canada because they knew what they were doing was wrong and that is the litmus test. Emily is often wrong in the essential facts but she calls anyone who challenges her silly or intoxicated.

          • Gage-babble again

          • You call it babble; I call it accurate information…not coloured by political or religious bias. Just the facts. By the way, you too could collect and report them via Google and the DSM V should you want to provide a cohesive and easily understood argument in your blog v. The same old nasty digs. Feel free to take a lesson.

          • It’s babble….sorry

  2. Btw….the worst massacre in US history was Wounded Knee

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