ORLANDO — A heavily armed assailant opened fire in a packed nightclub early Sunday, killing 50 people in the deadliest shooting spree in U.S. history, authorities said.
Mayor Buddy Dyer said 53 people were wounded at Pulse Orlando, a gay club just south of downtown. Authorities said the massacre was being investigated as possible terrorism.
A federal law enforcement official told USA TODAY the suspect has been identified as Omar Seddique Mateen of Port St. Lucie, Fla. The suspect’s father, Mir Seddique, told NBC News on Sunday that he was “in shock,” but that his son had recently expressed anti-gay sentiments. He said the attack “had nothing to do with religion.”
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…. see more