Gunman massacres 50 at Florida gay club in worst U.S. mass shooting1,400 views
A man armed with an assault rifle and pledging loyalty to Islamic State killed 50 people during a gay pride celebration at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, early on Sunday in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, a rampage President Barack Obama denounced as an act of terror and hate.
Police killed the gunman, Omar Mateen, 29, a New York-born Florida resident and U.S. citizen who was the son of Afghan immigrants and was twice questioned by FBI agents in recent years, authorities said.
Mateen’s former wife said he was emotionally and mentally disturbed with a violent temper, yet aspired to be a police officer.
Working for the global security firm G4S during the past nine years, Mateen was an armed guard for a gated retirement community in South Florida, and had cleared two company background screenings, the latest in 2013, according to G4S..
Preliminary investigations suggested the attack was inspired by Islamic State militants, though there was no immediate evidence that Mateen had any actual ties to the group, law enforcement officials said.
As the shooting rampage was unfolding, Mateen “made calls to 911 this morning in which he stated his allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State,” said Ronald Hopper, the FBI’s assistant special agent in charge on the case.
Shots rang out at the crowded Pulse nightclub in the heart of Orlando, about 15 miles northeast of the Walt Disney World Resort, as some 350 patrons were attending a Latin music event in conjunction with gay pride week celebrations. Clubgoers described scenes of carnage and pandemonium, with one man who escaped saying he hid under a car and bandaged a wounded stranger with his shirt.
“Words cannot and will not describe the feeling of that,” Joshua McGill said in a posting on Facebook. “Being covered in blood. Trying to save a guy’s life.”
Fifty-three people were wounded in the rampage. It ranked as the deadliest single U.S. mass shooting incident, eclipsing the massacre of 32 people at Virginia Tech University in 2007.
“We know enough to say this was an act of terror, an act of hate,” Obama said in a speech from the White House. “As Americans, we are united in grief, in outrage and in resolve to defend our people.”
U.S. officials cautioned, however, they had no conclusive evidence of any direct connection with foreign extremists.
“So far as we know at this time, his first direct contact was a pledge of bayat (loyalty) he made during the massacre,” said a U.S. counterterrorism official. “This guy appears to have been pretty screwed up without any help from anybody.”
The attacker was carrying an AR-15-style assault rifle and a handgun, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said. He also had an unidentified “device,” said Orlando Police Chief John Mina.
The shooting was nearly certain to reignite emotional debates over American gun laws and homeland security in what is shaping up to be a vitriolic U.S. presidential campaign between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.
The attack came six months after a married couple in California – a U.S.-born son of Pakistani immigrants and a Pakistani-born woman he married in Saudi Arabia, fatally shot 14 people in San Bernardino in an attack inspired by Islamic State. That couple died in a shootout with police hours after their assault on a holiday party attended by the husband’s co-workers.
The precise sequence of events in Orlando remained murky. But authorities said the gunman burst into the club and opened fire at about 2 a.m., then took dozens of hostages that he held at gunpoint inside a bathroom during a three-hour siege that ended when police stormed the building using armored cars and killed the gunman.
Officials in Orlando, a city of 270,000 people, were visibly shocked at the high death toll.
“We’re dealing with something that we never imagined and is unimaginable,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said. He said 39 people died inside the club, two outside, and nine others died after being rushed to the hospital.
Mateen had twice been interviewed by FBI agents, in 2013 and 2014, after making comments to co-workers indicating he supported militant groups, but neither interview led to evidence of criminal activity, the FBI’s Hopper said.
News Source Reuters