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, seven 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, and Luis S. Vielma, 22.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
Family members are still desperately trying to find out how their loved ones are doing:
source: huffingtonpost.com by Nina Golgowski, Sebastian Murdock, Andy Campbell