50 Killed in Florida Gay Nightclub, Worst Mass Shooting in US History

October 02, 2017 06:57 AM

A gunman opened fire at a gay night club in Orlando, Florida, early Sunday, killing 50 people and wounding 53 more before he was killed in a shootout with SWAT team members. Authorities say he may have had a connection with radical Islamic terrorism, and his father said he became angry a couple of months ago when he saw two gay men kissing. Here's what we know about the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history:  

MASS CASUALTIES:  At least 50 people are dead, and 53 were hospitalized, most in critical condition, officials said. A surgeon at Orlando Regional Medical Center said the death toll was likely to climb.

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THE SHOOTER: Authorities have identified the shooter as 29-year-old Omar Mateen of Fort Pierce, Florida.

In a 911 call from the club, Mateen professed allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Mateen was a U.S. citizen born in New York. His ex-wife said his family was from Afghanistan.

Authorities say Mateen was not under surveillance, but that in 2014, they discovered he had ties to an American suicide bomber. They said the ties were minimal and they didn't think he represented a threat at the time.

They say he also made inflammatory comments to co-workers in 2013.

Authorities also say Mateen legally purchased at least two firearms within the past week or so.

Security company G4S said in a statement to the Palm Beach Post that he had been an employee of the company since September 10, 2007.

Mateen's father, Seddique Mir Mateen, said his son got angry when he saw two men kissing in Miami a couple of months ago. He said that might be related to the attack. The father said the attack had nothing to do with religion.

ACT OF TERROR?: Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings called the attack a "domestic terror incident." Other authorities said they are looking into whether the attack was an act of domestic or international terror, and if the shooter acted alone. FBI agent Ron Hopper said there was no further threat to Orlando or the surrounding area. When asked if the gunman had a connection to radical Islamic terrorism, Hopper said authorities had "suggestions that individual has leanings toward that."

WHAT HAPPENED: Police say Mateen, equipped with an assault rifle and a handgun, opened fire on patrons early Sunday. He also exchanged fire with an officer working at the club about 2 a.m., when more than 300 people were inside. Police say the gunman then went back inside and took hostages. Police sent in a SWAT team to rescue hostages about 5 a.m. and Mateen died in an exchange of gunfire with SWAT officers.

THE VICTIMS: The city of Orlando is publishing the names of those killed on its website after their families have been contacted. The list can be found here.

SECOND DEADLY SHOOTING IN TWO DAYS: The attack 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."

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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.


Hospital officials say five people are still in "grave condition" after they were wounded in the attack at an Orlando nightclub.
    
Orlando Regional Medical Center says 29 people are still at the hospital and a number of patients remain critically ill and in shock.
    
Six more surgeries on the victims are scheduled for Monday, a day after a gunman opened fire inside a gay nightclub. The attack left 50 people dead, including the shooter.
    
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11:30 a.m.
    
President Barack Obama says there's no clear evidence that the shooter at an Orlando nightclub was directed to conduct his attack or part of a larger plot.
    
He says it appears the shooter was inspired by extremist information disseminated over the internet.
    
Obama says the investigation is at the preliminary stages and is being treated as a terrorism investigation. He says the attack appears to be similar to last year's shooting spree in San Bernardino, California.
    
The president says investigators are still looking into the motivations of the shooter, including the fact that the shooting took place at a gay venue.
    
Obama spoke in the Oval Office after getting briefed on the investigation by FBI Director James Comey, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and other officials.
    
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11:15 a.m.
    
The father of the Orlando nightclub shooter is calling his son's massacre "the act of a terrorist."
    
Seddique Mir Mateen gave a statement to reporters and answered a few questions Monday at his home in Port St. Lucie, Florida. On Sunday, the father suggested that his son's anti-gay hatred may have led to the rampage, saying his son got angry a few months ago when he saw two men kissing in Miami.
    
Mateen apologized for what his son did and said "I am as sad and mad as you guys are."
    
He wouldn't go into details about any religious or political views his son held, saying he didn't know.
    
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10:45 a.m.
    
Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama led a minute of silent prayer for the tragedy in Orlando during a visit to Washington.
    
Dressed in his customary saffron robes, he clasped his palms together, eyes closed, in front of several hundred people Monday at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He was there speaking about the role of youth leaders in resolving world conflict.
    
The prayer came after the last of the bodies were removed from an Orlando gay nightclub. The attack left 49 victims dead.
    
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Spain's King Felipe VI has sent messages of support to President Barack Obama and Florida Gov. Rick Scott condemning the "brutal attack" in Orlando and expressing the condolences of the Spanish government and people.
    
In a telegram to the U.S. president, the king said he was "deeply affected" by what he described as "an execrable act contrary to all the principles of democratic co-existence." He reiterated Spain's firm commitment to continue cooperating closely with the U.S. for the peace and prosperity of both nations.
    
Speaking to Spain's Telecinco television Monday, the king said it was important to stay united against the perpetrators of such attacks.
    
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10 a.m.
    
The father of the man authorities say opened fire at a gay Florida nightclub in a massacre that left 49 victims dead says the attack goes against everything he taught his son.
    
Speaking to reporters Monday morning, Seddique Mir Mateen - the father of gunman Omar Mateen - said the attack was against his principles and against what he taught his son.
    
Seddique Mir Mateen said the family is shocked by what happened and that if he'd known what his son was planning, he would have arrested him himself.
    
Authorities say Omar Mateen opened fire with an AR-15 rifle at a gay nightclub early Sunday before being killed in a shootout with police. Another 53 people were wounded in the shooting.
    
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7:45 a.m.
    
Officials say they don't yet know if anyone will be charged in the massacre that left 50 dead at a gay Florida club.
    
U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley said at a Monday morning news conference that officials have been collecting electronic and physical evidence as part of the ongoing investigation.
    
He says, "We don't know if anyone else will be charged." He adds that officials don't believe there is a threat of imminent danger to the public.
    
Shooter Omar Mateen was killed in the early Sunday incident. Officials say 49 victims were killed in the incident.
    
The FBI says a total of 50 people were left dead, including Mateen.
    
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7:40 a.m.
    
Officials are giving more details about the law enforcement response to a mass shooting that left 50 dead at a gay Florida nightclub.
    
The officials spoke at a Monday morning news conference. Orlando police Chief John Mina says an extra officer was working at the Pulse nightclub in full uniform. The officer engaged with the shooter near an entrance. Additional officers entered, and engaged the suspect in another gunbattle. The shooter retreated to the bathroom.
    
Mina says, "At that time we were able to save and rescue dozens and dozens of people and get them out of the club."
    
Officers then secured everything, and the SWAT team was brought in. Mina says officers then set up for an explosive breach on the bathroom wall. Mina says he made the decision to breach the wall, which created a hole through which dozens of clubgoers were rescued. Then the suspect exited through the same hole, and engaged in another gunbattle with officers. Shooter Omar Mateen was then killed.
    
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7:30 a.m.
    
Officials say that families of 24 of the victims from the massacre at a Florida nightclub have been notified.
    
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer described the progress at a Monday morning news conference. He says that by 11 p.m. Sunday, all bodies of victims had been turned over to medical examiner. The massacre early Sunday left 50 dead.
    
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7:15 a.m.
    
A former Florida police officer who says he once worked with Orlando club shooter Omar Mateen described the 29-year-old as "unstable and unhinged."
    
Daniel Gilroy told multiple news outlets that he worked with Mateen at the G4S security company. Gilroy called him an angry, loud, profane man who used slurs for gay people, blacks, Jews and women. Gilroy said Mateen also regularly made threats of violence.
    
Gilroy told The New York Times, "He talked about killing people all the time." And Gilroy wasn't surprised when he learned of the massacre: He said, "I saw it coming."
    
Gilroy said Mateen started badgering him and sending dozens of text messages to him daily. Gilroy said he reported Mateen's behavior to his bosses.
    
Gilroy says: "I kind of feel a little guilty that I didn't fight harder. If I didn't walk away and I fought, then maybe 50 people would still be alive today."
    
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The item has been corrected to show the name of security company is G4S, not G45
    
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6:05 a.m.
    
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling says one victim of the Orlando nightclub attack worked on the Harry Potter Ride at the Universal Studios theme park.
    
The author tweeted a picture of 22-year-old Luis Vielma in a Hogwarts school tie, and said: "I can't stop crying."
    
Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister David Cameron have sent messages of condolence from Britain for the attack, which killed 50 people at a gay nightclub.
    
Cameron said he was "horrified" by the shooting.
    
Buckingham Palace says the queen sent a message to President Barack Obama saying: "Prince Philip and I have been shocked by the events in Orlando. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been affected."
   
   
"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.
    
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.
    
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 neighborhoods 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.
    
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."
    
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 neighborhood of Fort Pierce, Florida, about 118 miles southeast of Orlando.
    
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."
    
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.
    
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Associated Press writers Eric Tucker in Washington, Terrance Harris and Jason Dearen in Orlando and photographer Alan Diaz in Fort Pierce, Florida, contributed to this report.
    
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This story has been corrected to show that Rep. Alan Grayson, not Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, said all the dead were shot with the assault rifle.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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