An armed man opened fire early this morning at a gay nightclub located in downtown Orlando, Florida. According to the local police, this was a mass casualty shooting that left about 50 people dead and at least 53 injured. The shooter has been identified as Omar Mateen, a US citizen. Police and FBI agents are checking if he had ties to any radical Islamic groups.

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A mass casualty shooting occurred this morning (Sunday) at a gay nightclub, Pulse, in downtown Orlando, Florida. According to reports, people were being held hostage inside the nightclub by the shooter. After a few hours, Orlando Police announced that the shooter was eliminated. According to the local police, approximately 50 people were killed and at least 53 were injured in the shooting.

According to Orlando Police Chief John Mina, at least 100 police officers participated in the operation to eliminate the shooter and save the hostages. “There are multiple people who are dead inside and at least 42 people have been transported to various hospitals,” added Mina. “The shooting at the club turned into a hostage situation. At 0500 hours this morning, the decision was made to rescue hostages that were in there. Our SWAT officers exchanged gunfire with the suspect. The suspect is dead. He appeared to be carrying a rifle, an assault type rifle, and a hand gun. He had some type of device on him.”

“This is an incident, as I see it, that we can definitely classify as a domestic terrorism incident,” said Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings.

Pulse Orlando posted to its Facebook page: “Everyone get out of Pulse and keep running.” 

Photo Credit: Facebook/Channel 2 News

Local news reports claimed that the shooter had barricaded himself in the nightclub along with people he was holding hostage. The shooter claimed that he possessed an explosive device. An explosion was heard near the nightclub but according to local police, this was a controlled explosion.

An eye-witness who was near the nightclub said to a British newspaper that people were “screaming that people are dead.” In addition, the eye-witness said: “They are just pulling people out in stretchers, loading them up.”

Scene of the shooting

Scene of the shooting Photo Credit: Channel 2 News

Another eye-witness, Ricardo Negron, said that more than 100 people were at the club when the shooting began. Negron could not confirm how many shooters were at the scene.

“It was non-stop firing for less than a minute but it felt longer,” said Negron. “There was a brief pause in the shooting and some of us just got up and ran out the back.” On his Facebook page, Negron said that the shooting began at around 2:00 AM (local time).