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UPDATE: 50 Dead In Orlando Nightclub, Suspect ID’d In Largest Mass Shooting In U.S. History

The suspect in the Orlando attack was identified as Omar Mateen. The ATF says he legally purchased weapons in the past few days. At least 53 others were hurt when inside the Pulse nightclub early Sunday morning.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott talks with law enforcement before a briefing about the Sunday morning shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott talks with law enforcement before a briefing about the Sunday morning shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

Updated at 2:38 p.m. from the Assoicated Press and Houston Public Media: 

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 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 suspect in the Orlando attack was identified as Omar Mateen, 29, of Port St. Lucie, Florida by the FBI. Agents twice investigated Mateen in 2013 and 2014 for alleged links to terrorism. He was cleared both times.

Pulse nightclub shooting suspect Omar Mateen is accused of committing the largest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Pulse nightclub shooting suspect Omar Mateen is accused of committing the largest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The ATF confirmed that Mateen purchased two weapons this week: a handgun and a long-rifle. They declined to give any more details.

Multiple news outlets reported that the shooter had called 911 shortly before the attack and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. Those reports cited unnamed law enforcement officials.

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.

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

All of the dead were killed with the assault rifle, according to Rep. Alan Grayson.

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 exchanged gunfire with a police officer working at the club, which had more than 300 people inside. The gunman then went back inside and 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.

Grayson, a Florida Democrat, named the shooter, citing law enforcement officials. A federal law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation confirmed the name. The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Mateen’s father, Mir Seddique, 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.”

The law enforcement official said Mateen was known to the FBI before the nightclub attack and had been looked at by agents within the last few years.

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, FBI agent Ron 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 had been licensed as a private security guard in Florida. It was not immediately clear if he had actually worked in such a job. The license requires 28 hours of classroom training.

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.

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.

Previoulsy: A gunman opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., early Sunday, killing at least 50 people and wounding at least 53 others. It’s the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The death toll far exceeds initial estimates. Orlando Police Chief John Mina had initially said “around 20” people succumbed to gunshot wounds inside the Pulse Orlando nightclub, but later said police found far more victims once they gained full access to the scene. He said the suspected gunman is also dead.

The suspect has been tentatively identified as Omar Mateen, two law enforcement officials tell NPR’s Carrie Johnson. No further information about Mateen was immediately provided. FBI Assistant Special Agent In Charge Ronald Hopper declined to identify the suspect, saying that they are still notifying the next of kin.

The shooter opened fire at Pulse, a popular gay nightclub, at approximately 2 a.m. EST, which later developed into a hostage situation. Mina describes how the events unfolded:

“At approximately 0202 hours this morning, we had an officer working at Pulse nightclub, who responded to shots fired. Our officer engaged in a gun battle with that suspect. That suspect at some point went back inside the club, where more shots were fired. This did turn into a hostage situation. Obviously multiple officers from various agencies responded, SWAT team responded. At approximately 0500 hours this morning, the decision was made to rescue hostages that were in there.”

Law enforcement used explosive devices and an armored vehicle to blast through a wall, he says, where a gun battle ensued with the suspect, ultimately killing him.

“There were at least 30 people who were saved during that rescue,” Mina says.

The suspect “appeared to be carrying a rifle — an assault-type rifle — and a handgun, and had some type of device on him,” Mina adds.

Law enforcement officials say they have cleared the area and are in the process of clearing the suspect’s van.

A police officer was injured in the shooting of the suspect, Mina says, saying that his Kevlar helmet likely saved his life. Eight other officers were involved in that shooting.

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Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings says they are classifying this as a “domestic terror incident.”

Authorities have released very few details about the suspect. Hopper said they are looking into “all angles” regarding motivation for the attack. When asked whether the suspect had a connection to radical Islamic terrorism, he said that they have “suggestions that the individual might have leanings toward that ideology,” without providing details.

Mina says it appears the shooter was “organized and well-prepared.” He added that they’re in the process of identifying victims and that it could take some time.

According to a search of public records, Mateen is 29 years old and listed as living in Port St. Lucie, Fl. The search shows that Mateen had a firearm license and he received a security officer license in both 2011 and 2013. The search did not turn up any criminal record.

“Everyone get out of pulse and keep running,” Pulse Orlando posted to its Facebook page at 2:09 a.m.

Authorities say it is not clear whether Pulse Orlando was targeted specifically because it is a gay nightclub. “We don’t know that that had any specific impact on the actions taken this evening, at least not yet,” Hopper says.

Terry DeCarlo, head of the GLBT Center Of Central Florida, told WMFE reporter Catherine Welch that they’re opening crisis hotlines to help the LGBT community.

“We can’t confirm — and I’ve talked extensively with the police department — that it was a direct hate crime against the LGBT community, it could have just been a person looking for a packed nightclub to go in and start shooting. We can’t confirm that yet,” he says. He adds that his main concern now is providing support for community members and their families.

The Human Rights Campaign says it has lowered its flag to half mast.

“This tragedy has occurred as our community celebrates pride, and now more than ever we must come together as a nation to affirm that love conquers hate,” HRC President Chad Griffin says in a statement.

A statement from the White House said that President Barack Obama has “directed that the federal government provide any assistance necessary to pursue the investigation and support the community.” It adds: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of the victims.”

Likewise, Florida’s governor Rick Scott said, “We are a strong and resilient state and we will devote every resource available to assist with the shooting in Orlando.”

This comes a day after a gunman shot and killed singer Christina Grimmie at an Orlando concert venue, though police emphasized that they see no indication the two events are connected.

This is a developing story from NPR. Some things that get reported by the media will later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from police officials and other authorities, credible news outlets and reporters who are at the scene. We will update as the situation develops.

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