Early on Sunday, in Orlando, Florida, a gunman killed 50 people and injured 53 in a crowded gay nightclub before being shot dead by the police. Authorities say this is the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
Buddy Dyer, Orlando Mayor said,
“We are dealing with something we never imagined. Since the last update, we have gotten better access to the building, cleared the building. It is with great sadness I share that we have 50 casualties, in addition to the shooter. Because of the scale I have called Governor Scott to request a state of emergency and we are issuing a state of emergency in the City. This allows us to bring additional resources to support our efforts. Our focus in the coming hours will be identifying the victims and notifying the families. We are setting up a hotline for concerned family members – 407.246.4357. The identification process may take some time. We ask for your patience as we want to be accurate. I continue to be proud of how our community has responded.”
Omar S. Mateen, identified as the shooter. He has been linked to have had leanings towards Islamic State militants by a senior FBI official.
Officials described the attack as a “terrorism incident” but that the suspected Islamist connection needed further investigation.
Police officials said, an officer working as a security guard at the club exchanged fire with the suspect at about 2 a.m. (0600 GMT).
A hostage situation developed, and three hours later a squad of officers raided the club and shot dead the gunman. It was unclear when the gunman shot the victims.
Danny Banks, special agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was asked,
“Do we consider this an act of terrorism? He replied, “Absolutely, we are investigating this from all parties’ perspective as an act of terrorism,”
“Whether that is domestic terrorist activity or an international one, that is something we will certainly get to the bottom of.”
Ronald Hopper, an assistant FBI agent in charge, when asked about the connection of the gunman with Islamic militants.
“We do have suggestions that the individual may have leanings toward that particular ideology. But right now we can’t say definitively.”
The FBI said they are still trying to pin down whether the attack was a hate crime against gays or a terrorist act.
In a statement, President Barack Obama ordered the federal government to aid Florida police in thier investigation.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said the attacker carried an assault rifle and a handgun, He was also carrying an unidentified “device”.
On Sunday, the attackers father Mir Saddique, said
“We were in Downtown Miami, Bayside, people were playing music. And he saw two men kissing each other in front of his wife and kid and he got very angry,”
“They were kissing each other and touching each other and he said, ‘Look at that. In front of my son they are doing that.’ And then we were in the men’s bathroom and men were kissing each other.”