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50 Dead In Nightclub, Worst Mass Shooting In U.S. History

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A heavily armed assailant opened fire in a packed nightclub early Sunday, killing 50 people in the deadliest shooting spree in U.S. history, local authorities said.

President Obama called the massacre “an attack of terror and an attack of hate.” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said the suspect, identified by federal authorities as Omar Mateen, declared allegiance to the Islamic State in a communication with law enforcement at some point before he died in a shootout with police.

Mayor Buddy Dyer said 53 another people were wounded at Pulse Orlando, a gay club just south of downtown.

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“Tonight our community witnessed a horrific crime… that will have a lasting effect on our community,” a solemn Dyer said.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina said the tragedy began at 2:02 a.m., when three police officers engaged the suspect in a gun battle outside the club. A hostage situation then took place inside, and a SWAT team was called in, Mina said. Police received updates from patrons trapped in the club, and decided to storm the club at about 5 a.m.

“Our biggest concern was further loss of life,” Mina said. “We exchanged gunfire with the suspect, and he was dead at the scene.”

Mina initially estimated the death toll at more than 20 people. Hours later the true scale of the horror was revealed. Mina said one officer was wounded and at least 30 people were rescued.

Orlando nightclub shooter: What we know

The shooter suspected of killing 50 people has been identified as Omar Seddique Mateen. Here’s what we know so far:

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— Who is the suspect: Omar Seddique Mateen ofPort St. Lucie, Fla., about 125 miles southeast of Orlando, is the suspected shooter, a federal law enforcement official stated. The official did not want to be named because of the sensitivity of the investigation. CNN, citing an unnamed law enforcement source, reported that Mateen worked as a private security guard and rented a car to drive to Orlando. The suspect was killed by police after a hostage situation at the Pulse nightclub.

Suspect upset about men kissing: The suspect’s father, Mir Seddique, told NBCNews on Sunday that his son had recently expressed anti-gay sentiments and had become angry when he saw two men kissing a few months ago in Miami.  He said the attack “had nothing to do with religion.” Multiple media outlets said the shooter was a Muslim.

— Terrorism being investigated: FBI Special Agent Ronald Hopper said authorities are trying to determine whether there is a connection with radical Islam. “We do have suggestions that the individual may have leanings toward that particular ideology,” Hopper said. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., told reporters that information he’s received from members of the Senate intelligence committee staff indicates there may be some connection between the suspect and the Islamic State, the extremist group that has seized territory in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

 

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