Deadliest Mass Shooting In U.S. History Leaves More Than 50 Dead At Gay Orlando Nightclub
“We are investigating this from all points of perspective as an act of terrorism.” At least 50 are dead and 53 injured. The gunman was killed by police The FBI had questioned the shooter twice, but he still legally obtained guns U.S. officials have said there is no evidence of a direct link to ISIS Victims are being honored at vigils around the country ORLANDO, Fla. — In what police are calling the worst shooting in American history, a lone gunman killed 50 people and injured at least 53 others after opening fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Authorities say Omar Mateen stormed the downtown Pulse nightclub around 2 a.m. Sunday before taking dozens of people hostage and killing dozens more. So far, ten victims who lost their lives have been identified by the City of Orlando. They are Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34, Stanley Almodovar III, 23, Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20, Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22, Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36, Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22, Luis S. Vielma, 22, Kimberly Morris, 37, Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30, and Darryl Roman Burt II, 29. Orlando Police Chief John Mina said at a press conference that SWAT officers exchanged gunfire with the suspect, killing Mateen. Mina said Mateen “appeared to be carrying a rifle, an assault-type rifle and a handgun and had some type of device on him.” Mateen, of Fort Pierce, Florida, “was organized and well-prepared,” the FBI said, according to ABC News. FBI agent Ron Hopper said the suspect may have had leanings toward extreme Islamic ideologies, the Orlando Sentinel reported. But U.S. officials have said there is no evidence of a direct link to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Mateen purchased two guns — a handgun and a “long gun” — approximately a week before the shooting, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Despite being questioned by the FBI in 2013 for suspected terrorist ties, then again in 2014, Mateen was still able to obtain the guns legally. Police lock down Orange Avenue around Pulse nightclub, in Orlando, Florida, where a gunman went on a shooting rampage. At 2 a.m., Mateen entered the club with an AR-15-type assault rifle. He began shooting, and at one point entered a gunfight with an armed, off-duty officer. Mateen left the building, then went back in, where the violence turned into a hostage situation, Mina said. Around 5 a.m., authorities decided to attempt to rescue the hostages, leading to a gunfire exchange that ended in the suspect’s death, Mina said. The type of gun Mateen used is the same legally obtainable weapon used in the Newtown massacre, the Colorado theater shooting and the San Bernardino shooting, in which 14 people were killed. “We are investigating this from all points of perspective as an act of terrorism,” said Special Agent Danny Banks, who’s in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. “Any time we have potentially dozens of victims in any of our communities, then I think we can qualify that as terrorism activity. Whether that is domestic terrorism activity or an international one is certainly something that we will get to the bottom of.” A total of 11 officers exchanged fire with Mateen, and all have been removed from duty, as is protocol for officer-involved shootings. José Colom, 48, lives down the street from Pulse and was near the club when the shooter arrived. He said Mateen drove up, appeared to change clothing in his car, then emerged with weapons in his hands. He proceeded to shoot three people outside before entering the building. “This isn’t a bad neighborhood,” Colom said while standing next to a pile of flowers outside the nightclub. He said the deaths of so many people during Pulse’s Latin Night was also an assault on Hispanics in the community. “This is an attack on us.” Several accounts about Mateen’s disposition before the attack have cast the man as a dangerous figure who set off warning bells at home and in the workplace. In an interview with The Washington Post, Mateen’s ex-wife said he was an abusive husband who routinely beat her during their marriage. “He was not a stable person,” the woman said, who requested to remain anonymous out of fears for her safety. “He would just come home and start beating me up because the laundry wasn’t finished or something like that.” Daniel Gilroy, who previously worked with Mateen as a security guard, told the Los Angeles Times he complained “multiple times that he was dangerous” to their employer, including one incident where he said he wanted to kill black people. Gilroy said the man was equally angered by women, Jewish and queer people. “You meet bigots,” he said. “But he was above and beyond. He was always angry, sweating, just angry at the world.” Family members are still desperately trying to find out how their loved ones are doing: “We don’t know why he chose our club,” Cheresse Young, a resident DJ at Pulse who has worked there for five years, told HuffPost. “The club is totally safe. ... We don’t need a lot of security and we only have three to four security guys and that’s it. It’s a safe space and everyone knows that.” In a statement from Pulse’s owner, Barbara Poma expressed her “profound sadness” over the tragedy. “Like everyone in the country, I am devastated about the horrific events that have taken place today,” Poma said. “Pulse, and the men and women who work there, have been my family for nearly 15 years. From the beginning, Pulse has served as a place of love and acceptance for the LGBTQ community. I want to express my profound sadness and condolences to all who have lost loved ones. Please know that my grief and heart are with you.” Hours after the shooting, President Barack Obama publicly addressed the nation about the tragedy, saying it was an “especially heartbreaking day” for the LGBTQ community. “The place where they were attacked was more than a nightclub, it was a place of solidarity and empowerment,” for the LGBTQ community, Obama said. Witnesses recalled hearing a barrage of gunfire at the start of the violence. The dance club urged patrons to “get out” and “keep running” in a post on its Facebook page. Mina noted that one officer was injured when a bullet hit his Kevlar helmet.