UNITED STATES—On Sunday, June 12, a man entered a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida with an assault rifle and a pistol, according to reports, and fatally shot 49 people, and injured more than 53 other people, before he was shot and killed.
President Barack Obama described the event in a statement as the deadliest mass shooting in American history. Around 2 a.m., Omar Mateen, 29, from Fort Pierce, Florida, entered the nightclub Pulse and proceeded to open fire on the over 300 clubgoers in attendance.
Mateen called 911, pledged allegiance to the terrorist group ISIS and mentioned the Boston marathon bombings. Pulse posted on their Facebook page for everyone to get out of the club and keep running.
After the initial shooting, local law enforcement surrounded the building as the attack turned into a hostage situation with Mateen still inside and clubgoers attempting to hide. The people inside used their phones to communicate with law enforcement until around 5 a.m.
Police then used an armored vehicle and stun grenades to crash into the club. Once inside police shot and killed Mateen. Around 39 people including the shooter were pronounced dead at the scene and 11 people were transported to local hospitals where they were later pronounced dead.
“Today, as Americans, we grieve the brutal murder — a horrific massacre — of dozens of innocent people,” said president Obama. “We pray for their families, who are grasping for answers with broken hearts. We stand with the people of Orlando, who have endured a terrible attack on their city.”
Few details have been released about Mateen’s motive for committing this crime. According to CNN, Mateen’s ex-wife said she thinks he was mentally ill. Two weeks prior to the attack Mateen had legally purchased a Glock pistol and a long gun, although it is not clear if these are the guns that were used in the attack. His wife mentioned to reporters that her former husband was abusive.
Mateen had been investigated by the FBI in 2013 and 2014 after having sympathized with a suicide bomber. He was found to not be a threat during these investigations and was not under surveillance during the time of the shooting.
Since the attack, the Orlando community has come together to help victims and their families. According to Orlando Mayor, Buddy Dryer, residents have donated their blood to help victims of the attack. The city of Orlando has also set up a webpage with the names of the victims whose next of kin have been notified of their passing.
“This morning our community, and our nation, experienced a horrific crime. Our hearts and prayers are with the victims and their families,” said Mayor Dryer. “We are dealing with a tragedy that we never could have imagined. What happened this morning in our city could have happened in any community in the country.”
President Obama stated that the investigation is being conducted by the FBI with help from local law enforcement. CNN says that there has been no claim for responsibility of the attack on jihadist forums, but ISIS sympathizers have been praising the attack on pro-Islamic state forums.
“Like everyone in the country, I am devastated about the horrific events that have taken place today,” said Barbara Poma, owner of Pulse nightclub in a statement. “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.”
On the same day, a man was arrested in Santa Monica with assault rifles, high capacity magazines, ammunition and tannerite, a chemical that can be used to make explosives, found in his car. According to reports, he told authorities he was headed to the West Hollywood Pride Parade to meet a friend. No connection has been made between this case and the Orlando shooting.
Anyone who wants to view the list of confirmed victims can visit cityoforlando.net/victims.