50 people killed, 53 injured in a Florida gay nightclub shooting

Local media reported, from seven to as many as 20 people had been shot in the incident, but had no further detail on the shooting at the Florida night club.

FP Staff June 12, 2016 17:02:54 IST
50 people killed, 53 injured in a Florida gay nightclub shooting

In a shooting that took place at the Pulse nightclub at Florida, 50 people were killed and 53 injured, according to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

"We have cleared the building, and it is with great sadness that I share we have not 20 but 50 casualties in addition to the shooter," Dyer told a news briefing. The City of Orlando has a declared state of emergency, tweeted the Orlando police.

As a mark of respect, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has ordered for flags to be flown at half-staff, reported ABC News. NYC will also light City Hall in the colours of the rainbow at sunset to represent LGBT pride.

Florida Gov Rick Scott called the shooting "heartwrenching" and that the people who went into the building knowing there was an active shooter are "heroic". Scott also urged people to donate blood and that officials were doing everything they can.

He added that the massacre was "clearly an act of terror."

Previously, it was reported that at least 20 were killed and 42 people injured at the gay nightclub. The shooting began early on Sunday, with Orlando police reporting "multiple injuries".

At a press conference earlier in the day, the Orlando Police said that the 42 injured have been rushed to many hospitals. "I think we will see the death toll rise," said Dr Mike Cheatham, a trauma surgeon at Orlando Regional Medical Center.

The FBI has confirmed that there were no other immediate threats.

Meanwhile, a report by The Guardian quoted Florida Senator Bill Nelson as saying that there appeared to be a connection to radicalism, (as opposed to Islamic State, which was previously reported by the website) according to information given by intelligence officials. President Obama will make a speech at 1.30 ET (11pm IST), from the Brady Room of the White House. It added that Vice-President Joe Biden released a statement, who offered his prayers for all those killed and injured in the shooting.

Pete Williams of NBC, wrote The Guardian, reported that the gunman Omar Mateen called 911 and pledged his support to IS before the shooting incident.

Orlando police tweeted that Orange Ave, where the nightclub is situated, will be closed from Kaley to Grant on Sunday and Monday and that residents were to use alternate routes to go downtown

The gunman has been identified as Omar Mateen of Port St. Lucie, Florida. U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson identified the shooter in the Sunday incident. He cited law enforcement officials in speaking to reporters. CBS News said Mateen was born to Afghan parents in 1986.

Orlando Police, at a press conference, said that this was one of the worst mass shootings in America's history

The father of Mateen said on Sunday that he believed his son was motivated by hatred of gays — not by his religion.

"This had nothing to do with religion," Mir Seddique told NBC News. He said his son, Omar Mateen, recently lashed out in his presence after witnessing a gay couple embracing in downtown Miami, and suggested the incident may have triggered the atrocity. "He saw two men kissing each other in front of his wife and kid and he got very angry," Seddique told the network.

The FBI also set up a crisis hotline for missing family members.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent in Charge Danny Banks said that authorities are looking into whether Mateen was a lone wolf.

Orlando police have not issued an official statement confirming the identity of the suspect.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, on his official Twitter account, said that due to the scale of the incident, he has requested for a state of emergency in the city.

He also spoke at to the media calling for "help to get through this".

The White House said President Barack Obama has been briefed by his homeland security and counter-terrorism adviser on the incident. Obama 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."

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump took to Twitter to voice their views on the Orlando shooting.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who was on Meet The Press, said that the incident was "horrific" and "unthinkable", tweeted NBC News PR.

In response to the incident, Facebook turned on its 'Safety Check' tool, allowing people in Orlando to mark themselves safe and friends and family can be notified

Orlando Police Chief John Mina did not immediately provide an exact number of how many people were killed. Police had said previously that the shooting was a "mass casualty situation." It added that OPD first responders and SWAT rescued at least 30 people from inside the club and brought them out alive.

CNN reported that a canine unit indicated there were explosives inside the suspect's car as well and at least nine officers were involved in the shootout, according to Mina. Several coroner vans were seen traveling towards the nightclub.

One officer reportedly suffered an eye injury when a bullet struck his Kevlar helmet, said Danny Banks. The helmet saved the officer's life, Banks added.

Mina says that the shooter was armed with an AR15 type rifle, a handgun and some type of device. Police had said previously on Twitter that there was a "controlled explosion" at the scene of the shooting at Pulse Orlando.

That sound was a controlled explosion by law enforcement. Please avoid reporting inaccuracies at this time.

— Orlando Police (@OrlandoPolice) June 12, 2016

Mina also says the suspect had exchanged gunshots with an officer working at the club, then went back inside and took hostages around 2 am About three hours later, a SWAT team made the decision to go inside and rescue the hostages. The shooter died in a gunfight with those officers.

A post on the department's official Twitter account early Sunday morning said that "multiple injuries" have been reported following the incident at the Pulse Orlando nightclub near Orange and Kaley avenue. The department also advised people to "stay away from area."

Earlier, the FBI also set up a hotline for more information.

"Officers are going in to search the building and to get people out," a police dispatcher told AFP. He said "There are injuries. I am not sure if there are any deceased at this time," the dispatcher said, describing it as an "active shooting."

50 people killed 53 injured in a Florida gay nightclub shooting

Representational Image. Reuters

Local media reported that from seven to as many as 20 people had been shot in the incident, but had no further details. The nightclub urged patrons in a post on its Facebook page to "get out" and "keep running."

The incident began at around 2 am (0600 GMT) at the Pulse nightclub in downtown Orlando, with witnesses speaking of a gunman opening fire with an automatic weapon.

Multiple emergency vehicles have reportedly responded. Several patrons have also posted on social media that a gunman was holding hostages.

Video posted online showed a large response by police and emergency vehicles outside the nightclub.

Pulse Orlando's earlier posted a note to its own Facebook page that said: "Everyone get out of pulse and keep running."

The incident came just two days after a deadly shooting at the nearby Plaza Live Theater in which a heavily-armed gunman shot and critically wounded singer Christina Grimmie, a former contestant on the popular TV talent show The Voice. She was rushed to hospital but died of her wounds. The gunman, 27-year-old Kevin James Loibl, then killed himself.

The police confirmed that there was no link between the Orlando club shooting and Grimmie's murder.

He was found to be armed with armed with two handguns, ammunition and a hunting knife, police said. His motive remains unknown.

Speaking to Sky News, clubber Ricardo Negron, who was inside when the shooting began, described how the gunman raked the club with bullets.

"At around 200 am someone started shooting. People just dropped on the floor. I guess the shooter was shooting at the ceiling because you could see all the glass from the lamps falling," he told the network.

He described hearing "non-stop firing" which probably lasted less than a minute but felt like a lot longer.

"There was a brief pause in the shooting and some of us just got up and ran out the back. People have definitely been injured — or worse."

It was not immediately clear how many people were inside the club when the shooting began.

Another clubber called Christopher Hanson told CNN he heard "loud banging noises, like gunshots going off."

He said at first he thought it may have been the music "until you heard too many shots. It was like, bang, bang, bang, bang."

"I didn't see any of the actual shooters. I just saw bodies going down," he told CNN, saying he was ordering a drink at the bar at the time.

"I fell down. I crawled out. People were trying to escape out the back. I just know that when I hit the ground, I was crawling and I hit my elbows and my knees. When I got across the street, there were people — blood everywhere," he said.

With inputs from agencies

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