49 slain in Orlando nightclub, worst mass shooting in U.S. history

At least 53 people are injured

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun took hostages and opened fire inside a crowded Florida nightclub, killing 50 people and wounding at least 53 others before dying in a gunfight with SWAT officers, police said Sunday.

Police Chief John Mina also said the shooter had some sort of “suspicious device.” He said the suspect exchanged gunfire with an officer working at the club around 2 a.m., then went back inside and took hostages among more than 300 people inside.

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

Photo obtained by ABC News.
Photo obtained by ABC News.

The suspect in the mass shooting has been identified as Omar Mateen of Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Mateen’s parents were born in Afghanistan, and he was “on the radar” of U.S. officials for some time, but was not the target of a specific investigation, law enforcement officials told ABC News.

The mayor of Orlando says there were 50 casualties and there are 53 more hospitalized after a mass shooting at a popular gay nightclub there.

“There’s blood everywhere,” Mayor Buddy Dyer said Sunday at a news conference, hours after the shooting.

He says the shooter used an assault rifle on all those killed.

Earlier, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson identified the shooter as Omar Mateen of Port St. Lucie, Florida. He cited law enforcement officials in speaking to reporters.

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson identified the shooter in the Sunday incident. He cited law enforcement officials in speaking to reporters.

A federal law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation also identified him. The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent in Charge Danny Banks said earlier that the mass shooting is being investigated as an act of terrorism. He says authorities are looking into whether the incident was an act of domestic or international terror, and if the shooter was a lone wolf.

Around 5 a.m., authorities sent in a SWAT team to rescue the hostages, and the suspect then died in a gunfight with those officers. Mina said police have not determined an exact number of casualties, but that “approximately 20” people were dead inside the club.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent in Charge Danny Banks said during a news conference that the mass shooting is being investigated as an act of terrorism. He says authorities are looking into whether this was an act of domestic or international terror and if the shooter was a lone wolf.

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

FBI Special Agent in Charge Ron Hopper said there’s no further threat to Orlando or the surrounding area.

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

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

Mina Justice was outside the club early Sunday 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.”

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

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

Dozens of police vehicles, including a SWAT team, swarmed the area around the club. At least two police pickup trucks were seen taking what appeared to be shooting victims to the Orlando Regional Medical Center.

Pulse Orlando 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.”

Police said local, state and federal agencies were investigating.

The incident 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 it happened around, 2 a.m., 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 started hearing gunshots. He continued to hear shooting even after he emerged, where police were telling people to back away from the club. He saw injured people 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.”

Gov. Rick Scott says in a statement Sunday, hours after the incident, that thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.

The statement says he’ll meet with law enforcement and local officials in Orlando.

Scott says: “We will devote every resource available to assist with the shooting in Orlando. Our state emergency operations center is also monitoring this tragic incident.”

His statement also thanks the first responders.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent in Charge Danny Banks said earlier that the mass shooting is being investigated as an act of terrorism. He says authorities are looking into whether the incident was an act of domestic or international terror, and if the shooter was a lone wolf.

President Barack Obama has been briefed by his homeland security and counterterrorism adviser about the shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando that left about 20 people dead and 42 wounded.

The White House said Sunday, several hours after the incident, that Obama has been briefed and has asked for regular updates as the FBI and other federal officials work with Orlando police on the case.

Press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement that the president has directed federal officials to provide “any necessary assistance to pursue the investigation and support the community.”

Reactions to Florida nightclub mass shooting

Reaction to the Florida mass shooting at the Pulse Orlando nightclub Sunday when police say a gunman wielding an assault-type rifle opened fire before dying in a gunfight with SWAT officers; at least 50 people were killed and dozens of others wounded.

—Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones: “Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this recent tragedy. What happened in Orlando is all too familiar here in our state to those families from Virginia Tech where 32 people were killed. Until today, the Virginia Tech incident was known as the deadliest shooting rampage in American history.  Now the Orlando massacre is known as the deadliest.

“How many deaths will it take for us to see change ushered in concerning gun control? How many more examples do we need to accept that some fundamental things have to change; especially with respect to the availability of assault weapons?  It’s just common sense reform that we need; reform that we have no more time to waste waiting for.”

—Richmond Police say that they’ve “checked with state and federal resources and there is no direct threat to Richmond.”

—Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), a vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus’ Gun Violence Prevention Task Force and a member of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, issued the following statement on last night’s mass shooting in Orlando, Florida:

“My thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims, as well as with the entire LGBT community.  While details continue to emerge, last night’s shooting is particularly insidious in that it occurred at a prominent gay night club when Americans across the country were gathering to celebrate LGBT Pride Month and the remarkable diversity of our nation.

“These tragedies are far too common and we cannot continue to sit idly by as these incidences continue to happen.  Congress must review every available proposal to determine what we can do to reduce all forms of gun violence.  Americans are understandably frustrated at our inability to come together to address this problem in a meaningful way.  I will continue to fight for evidence-based policy proposals to address this issue.  I just hope that the leadership in Congress will finally agree that enough is enough.  Meaningful action is long overdue.”

“How many deaths will it take for us to see change ushered in concerning gun control? How many more examples do we need to accept that some fundamental things have to change; especially with respect to the availability of assault weapons?” — Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones

—Virginia Senator A. Donald McEachin issued this statement this morning about the Orlando shooting last night. “While I recognize that no words can make a difference to those grieving after this tragedy, I offer my prayers and hope that the victims and families find comfort and peace.

“Unfortunately, we find ourselves in these circumstances all too often in this country – comforting the grieving and burying the innocent. While the causes and solutions are complex, no doubt one aspect must be to keep guns from those who are violent and dangerous. Although we don’t yet know the circumstances of this particular tragedy, I renew my call for universal background checks, prohibition of firearms to those who are violently mentally ill and limits on assault weapons.

—Virginia Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam released the following statement in response to last night’s mass shooting in Orlando, Florida:

“The news this morning of senseless violence in Orlando is absolutely horrifying: the deadliest shooting in our nation’s history. Pam and I are keeping the victims and their loved ones in our thoughts and prayers. We must support the first responders, law enforcement, LGBT community, and all those affected by this tragic event.”

— “Please keep everyone in your prayers as we work through this tragic event. Thank you for your thoughts and love.” Pulse Orlando on its Facebook page.

—“I was thinking, ‘Are you kidding me?’ So I just dropped down. I just said, ‘Please, please, please, I want to make it out.’ And when I did, I saw people shot. I saw blood.” Christopher Hansen, who was in the VIP lounge when he heard gunshots.

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

—“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, families and all those affected by this horrific tragedy. We are a strong and resilient state and we will devote every resource available to assist with the shooting in Orlando.” Gov. Rick Scott.

—“We are heartbroken and angry that senseless violence has once again destroyed lives in our state and in our country. Gay 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.” Equality Florida.

—“Woke up to hear the devastating news from FL. As we wait for more information, my thoughts are with those affected by this horrific act.” Tweet from Hillary Clinton, Democratic presidential candidate.

—French President Francois Hollande “condemns with horror” the mass killing in Florida and “expresses the full support of France and the French with America’s authorities and its people in this difficult time.” Statement from Hollande’s office.

—“We condemn this monstrous attack and offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed or injured. The Muslim community joins our fellow Americans in repudiating anyone or any group that would claim to justify or excuse such an appalling act of violence.” Rasha Mubarak, Orlando regional coordinator for Florida’s chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

—“Our heart is with our American brothers.” Tweet from Italian Premier Matteo Renzi.

—“aghast by the ever more dramatic news of the nightclub massacre.” In a tweet from Italy’s foreign minister, Paolo Gentiloni.

Florida nightclub attack just the latest US mass shooting

A gunman took hostages and opened fire inside a crowded gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, early Sunday morning, killing approximately 20 people and wounding 42 others before SWAT officers killed him, authorities said. Police Chief John Mina said the shooter had an assault-style rifle, a handgun and a “suspicious device” with him during the attack, which is being investigated as an act of terrorism.

Here’s a look at some of the nation’s deadliest rampages since 2012:

– Feb. 25, 2016: Cedric Ford, 38, killed three people and wounded 14 others lawnmower factory where he worked in the central Kansas community of Hesston. The local police chief killed him during a shootout with 200 to 300 workers still in the building, authorities said.

– Feb. 20, 2016: Jason Dalton, 45, is accused of randomly shooting and killing six people and severely wounding two others during a series of attacks over several hours in the Kalamazoo, Michigan, area. Authorities say he paused between shootings to make money as an Uber driver. He faces murder and attempted murder charges.

– Dec. 2, 2015: Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, opened fire at a social services center in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 people and wounding more than 20. They fled the scene but died hours later in a shootout with police.

– Oct. 1, 2015: A shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, left 10 people dead and seven wounded. Shooter Christopher Harper-Mercer, 26, exchanged gunfire with police, then killed himself.

– June 17, 2015: Dylann Roof, 21, shot and killed nine African-American church members during a Bible study group inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Police contend the attack was racially motivated. Roof faces nine counts of murder in state court and dozens of federal charges, including hate crimes.

– May 23, 2014: A community college student, Elliot Rodger, 22, killed six people and wounded 13 in shooting and stabbing attacks in the area near the University of California, Santa Barbara, campus. Authorities said he apparently shot himself to death after a gunbattle with deputies.

– Sept. 16, 2013: Aaron Alexis, a mentally disturbed civilian contractor, shot 12 people to death at the Washington Navy Yard before he was killed in a police shootout.

– July 26, 2013: Pedro Vargas, 42, went on a shooting rampage at his Hialeah, Florida, apartment building, gunning down six people before officers fatally shot him.

– Dec. 14, 2012: In Newtown, Connecticut, an armed 20-year-old man entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and used a semi-automatic rifle to kill 26 people, including 20 first graders and six adult school staff members. He then killed himself.

– Sept. 27, 2012: In Minnesota’s deadliest workplace rampage, Andrew Engeldinger, who had just been fired, pulled a gun and fatally shot six people, including the company’s founder. He also wounded two others at Accent Signage Systems in Minneapolis before taking his own life.

– Aug. 5, 2012: In Oak Creek, Wisconsin, 40-year-old gunman Wade Michael Page killed six worshippers at a Sikh Temple before killing himself.

– July 20, 2012: James Holmes, 27, fatally shot 12 people and injured 70 in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

– April 2, 2012: Seven people were killed and three were wounded when a 43-year-old former student opened fire at Oikos University in Oakland, California. One Goh was charged with seven counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder, but psychiatric evaluations concluded he suffered from long-term paranoid schizophrenia and was unfit to stand trial.

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