At least 50 people are dead and another 53 have been wounded at a popular LGBT club in Orlando, Fla., after a gunman opened fire at the club just after 2 a.m., according to The New York Times. Reports indicate this is the deadliest mass shooting incident in U.S. history.
President Obama appeared at the White House to address the killings. "We know enough to say this was an act of terror and an act of hate," he said. "The FBI is appropriately investigating this as an act of terrorism," he continued, adding, "What is clear is he was a person filled with hatred."
The single gunman, who police identified as Omar S. Mateen, was killed in a shootout with police around 5 a.m., according to CNN. Officials are treating the incident as a “terror incident,” and said the gunman was “well prepared,” armed with an “assault-style rifle, a handgun and possibly an explosive device,” the Times reports.
The rifle is the same type of gun used in the mass shootings in Aurora, Colo.; Newtown, Conn.; and San Bernardino, Calif., according to the Times.
Sources including NBC News say Mateen had called 911 moments before the shootings erupted, to pledge allegiance to the leader of ISIS, according to law enforcement sources. CNN reports he also praised the Muslim brothers who bombed the Boston Marathon in 2013.
The shooting occurred at Pulse nightclub, one of Orlando’s largest gay bars, around 2 a.m. The club, which bills itself as “Orlando’s Latin hot spot,” was hosting its weekly “upscale Latin Saturdays,” according to the Times.
The Times spoke with Orlando Police Chief John Mina, who confirmed that there were at least 100 patrons inside the club when the gunman, who was not from the Orlando area, opened fire. The paper continued:
The shooting began inside the club, the chief said, and continued outside when an officer working at Pulse attempted to confront him. The gunman then ran back into the club, resumed shooting and took hostages.
At 5 a.m., Chief Mina said, the police decided to attempt a rescue, detonating two explosives to distract the gunman and to help clear the club.
“With that advantage,” the chief said, nine officers moved into the club to confront the gunman. In the ensuing shootout, one of the officers was slightly wounded, saved by his Kevlar helmet, the authorities said.
“We rescued about 30 people,” Chief Mina said. During the rescue and shootout, officers with the SWAT team — using an armored vehicle — entered the club and hurried people to safety. Many of them had sought shelter in other sections of the sprawling club.
Mateen's father told NBC News, "This has nothing to do with religion." Mir Seddique told NBC his son got angry when he saw two men kissing in Miami a couple of months ago and thinks that may be related to the shooting.
"We are saying we are apologizing for the whole incident. We weren't aware of any action he is taking. We are in shock like the whole country," Seddique said.
According to NPR, public records list Mateen as living in Port St. Lucie, Fla., but other reports show him to be a resident of Fort Pierce. Florida Today reports Mateen is registered as the owner of a home in Fort Pierce and that he had an apartment in his name in Port St. Lucie. Police and other law enforcement are searching both residences.
Mateen had a firearm license and he received a security officer license in both 2011 and 2013, NPR reports. Its records search did not turn up any criminal record.
U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, a strong LGBT ally and the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, says law enforcement officials and the intelligence community are checking to see what information they had on the shooter prior to the massacre.
Schiff called the attack “painfully reminiscent” of the November shootings at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris.
The congressman announced in a statement, “This morning, I will be marching in the West Hollywood Pride Parade with a heavy heart, but we will march in solidarity with all those who are the victims of terrorism and hatred,” according to the Associated Press,
Earlier, Florida Gov. Rick Scott spoke at a news conference, at which he called the shootings “heart-wrenching” and said those who went into the nightclub knowing there was an active shooter are heroic.
According to the AP, Scott urged people to donate blood, and declared, “This is clearly an act of terrorism. It’s sickening. It should make every American angry.”
At the morning news conference, Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, thanked law enforcement officials for their efforts, and described the incident as unpredictable. "No one could have expected this, no one could have prepared for it, it could have happened anywhere," said Musri. "It's like lightning."
He described the city of Orlando and its Muslim community as "heartbroken."
This story is developing. Check back for updates.