Around 50 Killed and Officer Shot in Orlando Club (Update)
In what appears to be an act of terrorism, a lone gunman with possible terrorist ties, opened fire in an Orlando gay club. SWAT officers responded and killed the suspect. In the raid, one of the SWAT officers was shot and his Kevlar helmet is reported to have saved his life. The condition of the shot officer is not currently known.
FOX News reports:
A gunman who federal authorities say had possible ties to terrorism opened fire early Sunday morning at a packed Florida nightclub, killing approximately 20 people and wounding scores more in a bloody scene that ended hours later when police stormed the building and killed the suspect.
The shooting in Orlando at Pulse, which bills itself as “the hottest gay bar” in the city and was packed with more than 300 people, was reported minutes after 2 a.m. Sunday. In addition to those killed inside the club, at least 42 people were taken to area hospitals. Dozens of party-goers remained hostages in the club for several hours after the initial shooting, prompting SWAT teams to pour inside. Shortly after 6 a.m. local time, Orlando police tweeted that the gunman had been killed.
The shooter was identified as Omar Mateen, according to several major news outlets citing law enforcement sources. Mateen, a 29-year-old U.S. citizen from Fort Pierce, Fla., allegedly has parents of Afghani origin.
Fox News confirmed that the suspected gunman was Muslim.
The gunman “may have leanings” toward radical Islam, FBI Special Agent in Charge Ron Hopper said when asked by Fox News whether the suspect had ties to Jihadist terror groups. Hopper said the investigation is looking into possible threats made previously by the suspect in connection to radical Islam groups. He said the agency is still investigating and has yet to confirm any role a terror group may have played in the mass shooting.
The incident “is being investigated as an act of terrorism,” said Danny Banks, special agent in charge at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, who added that “around 20” people are believed dead inside the nightclub.
Banks said the suspected shooter – who was armed with an “assault-type rifle” and a handgun — also was dead inside the club, where he was shot and killed at around 5 a.m. in a shootout with SWAT team officers who were called in “to rescue hostages,” Chief John Mina of the Orlando Police Department said.
Mina said officers were engaged in a gun battle outside the club before the suspect went back into the building, where more shots were fired. He said the gunman then took several hostages.
“It appears he was organized and well-prepared,” the chief said, adding that the shooter had an assault-type weapon, a handgun and “some type of (other) device on him.”
At least 9 officers were involved in raiding the nightclub, and one officer was injured, according to Banks. The injured officer was hit by a bullet and his Kevlar helmet saved his life, Banks said.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer credited law enforcement with saving more lives by their heroic efforts.
“Many were saved by the heroic efforts of the Orlando Police Department and Orange County Sheriff’s Office,” he said.
The responding officers are all heroes. We will keep you updated as more information is released.
UPDATE 06/12/2016: The death count is now up to 50 people, with 53 more injured. There are no updates on the condition of the injured officer, but we do have a picture of his helmet:
It’s becoming clear that the suspect was an Islamic extremist intent on committing an act of terrorism, and his ties to terror groups are being investigated.