Shooter in Orlando gay club named as US citizen of Afghan descent
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Mass shooting is being investigated as an act of terrorism

Shooter in Orlando gay club named as US citizen of Afghan descent

Omar Mateen, 30, of Port St-Lucie, kills 50, dies in firefight with police; FBI says he may have had links to Islamic terror

Omar Mateen, 30, from Port St. Lucie, Florida, the gunman in a mass shooting attack that killed 50 at an Orlando gay nightclub on June 12, 2016
Omar Mateen, 30, from Port St. Lucie, Florida, the gunman in a mass shooting attack that killed 50 at an Orlando gay nightclub on June 12, 2016

The suspected shooter who killed approximately 50 people at a crowded Florida nightclub on Sunday was identified by police as Omar Mateen, a US-born citizen to Afghani parents, according to local news outlets.

Authorities were checking whether Mateen, 30, from Port Saint Lucie in Florida, had ties to Islamic terrorism.

The FBI said there were “suggestions” Mateen had “leanings” toward Islamic terror. Authorities said he had no criminal history.

Wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun, Mateen is suspected of opening fire at club-goers in Orlando, about a two-hour drive from Port St. Lucie, killing approximately 50 people and wounding 53 others before dying in a gunfight with SWAT officers. Mateen also took hostages during the attack.

Omar Mateen, 30, from Port Saint Lucie, is the suspected gunman in a mass shooting attack at an Orlando nightclub for the LGBT community, according to police, June 12, 2016. (MySpace)
Omar Mateen, 30, from Port Saint Lucie, is the suspected gunman in a mass shooting attack at an Orlando nightclub for the LGBT community, according to police, June 12, 2016. (MySpace)

The initial death toll was listed as 20, with 42 people wounded.

Police Chief John Mina also said the shooter had some sort of “suspicious device.” He said the suspect exchanged gunfire with an officer working at the club around 2 a.m., then went back inside and took hostages among more than 300 people inside.

People wait outside the emergency entrance of the Orlando Regional Medical Center hospital after a shooting involving multiple fatalities at Pulse Orlando nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
People wait outside the emergency entrance of the Orlando Regional Medical Center hospital after a shooting involving multiple fatalities at Pulse Orlando nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Around 5 a.m., authorities sent in a SWAT team to rescue the hostages, and the suspect then died in a gunfight with those officers. Mina said police have not determined an exact number of casualties, but that “approximately 20” people were dead inside the club.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent in Charge Danny Banks said during a news conference that the mass shooting is being investigated as an act of terrorism. He says authorities are looking into whether this was an act of domestic or international terror, and if the shooter was a lone wolf.

“This is an incident, as I see it, that we certainly classify as domestic terror incident,” said Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings.

Orlando Police officers direct family members away from a multiple shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Orlando Police officers direct family members away from a multiple shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

FBI Special Agent in Charge Ron Hopper said there’s no further threat to Orlando or the surrounding area.

When asked if the gunman had a connection to radical Islamic terrorism, Hopper said, “we do have suggestions that individual has leanings towards that.”

The White House said in a statement that President Barack Obama was “asked to receive regular updates as the FBI, and other federal officials, work with the Orlando Police to gather more information, and directed that the federal government provide any assistance necessary to pursue the investigation and support the community.”

An Orange County Sheriff's Department SWAT member arrives to the scene of a fatal shooting at Pulse Orlando nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
An Orange County Sheriff’s Department SWAT member arrives to the scene of a fatal shooting at Pulse Orlando nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Police said the gunman was well prepared and organized and wasn’t from the Orlando area, the New York Times reported.

Police had said previously on Twitter that there was a “controlled explosion” at the scene of the shooting at Pulse Orlando. Mina said that noise was caused by a device intended to distract the shooter.

Mina Justice was outside the club early Sunday 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,'” she said. “That was the last conversation.”

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.

Pulse Orlando 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.”

The incident follows the fatal shooting late Friday of 22-year-old singer Christina Grimmie, who was killed after her concert in Orlando by a 27-year-old Florida man who later killed himself. Grimmie was a YouTube sensation and former contestant on “The Voice.”

Jon Alamo said he was at the back of one of the club’s rooms when a man holding a weapon came into the front of the room.

Jermaine Towns, left, and Brandon Shuford wait down the street from a multiple shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Jermaine Towns, left, and Brandon Shuford wait down the street from a multiple shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

“I heard 20, 40, 50 shots,” Alamo said. “The music stopped.”

Club-goer Rob Rick said it happened around, 2 a.m., just before closing time.

“Everybody was drinking their last sip,” he said.

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 in the back where only workers are allowed. People inside were able to then escape through the back of the club.

Christopher Hansen said he was in the VIP lounge when he started hearing gunshots. He continued to hear shooting even after he emerged, where police were telling people to back away from the club. He saw injured people being tended to 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.”

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