Several outlets are reporting another horrifying incident in the Orlando area that authorities are “considering an act of terrorism,” this time with ‘mass casualties’ at an LGBT nightclub. Authorities say that a shooter entered the Pulse nightclub at around 2:00 AM and opened fire with an “assault type rife and a handgun,” reportedly hitting several people before engaging police outside and then taking hostages inside the club. At least forty two people have been transported to local hospitals and “approximately 20” deceased inside the club. The Orlando police have been releasing updates via their Twitter account ahead of their media briefing this morning:
The shooter inside the club is dead, Orlando Police said on the department’s official Twitter page. It was not immediately clear how the shooter died, or how many people were wounded in the shooting. Police described it as a “mass casualty situation.”
Police reported “multiple injuries” following the shooting at Pulse Orlando, a popular gay dance club. People were told to stay away from the area.
Dozens of police vehicles, including a SWAT team, swarmed the area around the club. At least two police pickup trucks were seen taking what appeared to be shooting victims to the Orlando Regional Medical Center. Police said via Twitter that a noise heard near the shooting site was a “controlled explosion.” No other details were provided.
The nightclub’s Facebook posted a warning for people to exit the club as soon as the incident began, with CNN speaking with one eyewitness who believed there were at least twenty shots — with other claiming around 40 — before most were aware what was happening.
Police reportedly exchanged fire with the attacker at one point, with several videos at the scene featuring heavy gunfire with the increased police presence. The suspect also apparently had a “device” on his person according to police, later removed via a controlled detonation. Authorities stated that the decision was made to rescue hostages after receiving messages from patrons inside the club:
— WESH 2 News (@WESH) June 12, 2016
Several reports from inside the club have leaked out onto social media, with many reporting the shooter or shooters may have rounded people up inside the club. The Orlando Sentinel spoke to several eyewitnesses:
“There were so many, at least 40,” he said. “I saw two guys and it was constant, like ‘pow, pow, pow,’ “
NBC news also spoke with another eyewitness, giving another picture of the events inside the club:
“It was just continous” shooting, a witness told a local NBC affiliate. “It [the shooting] could have lasted a whole song…people were trying to escape out the back, and when I got out, there was blood everywhere.”
UPDATE: The AP is reporting that at least 50 are dead, making it the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Additionally, the shooter has been identified as Omar Saddiqui Mateen of Port St. Lucie, Florida. He reportedly called 911 to announce his allegiance to ISIS at some point before the attack.
We will have more updates as they continue to be released.