ORLANDO, Florida — A gay nightclub in Orlando was the scene early Sunday, June 12th of the worst terror attack in U.S. history since 9/11.
50 people were killed inside the Pulse club and at least 53 people were injured, police say. The gunman was Omar Saddiqui Mateen of Fort Pierce, Florida, a law enforcement source told CNN.
Orlando police shot and killed Mateen.
Law enforcement sources told CNN that the suspect had possible explosive devices strapped to his body and in his vehicle, but a U.S. official said later that no explosives were found.
At least nine officers were involved in the shootout, Mina said. Several coroner vans were seen traveling toward the nightclub.
One officer suffered an eye injury when a bullet struck his Kevlar helmet, said Danny Banks, special agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Orlando bureau. The helmet saved the officer’s life, Banks said.
Orlando authorities said they consider the violence an act of domestic terror. The FBI is involved. While investigators are exploring all angles, they “have suggestions the individual has leanings towards (Islamic terrorism), but right now we can’t say definitely,” said Ron Hopper, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Orlando bureau.
Authorities are also looking into the possibility the attack was a hate crime, a law enforcement source told CNN.
“It’s appears he was organized and well-prepared,” Orlando Police Chief John Mina said early Sunday. The shooter had an assault-type weapon, a handgun and “some type of (other) device on him.”
Officials, aided by the FBI, warned that a lengthy investigation was ahead, given the number of victims and the scope of the violence.
“There’s blood everywhere,” U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson told reporters. “There’s an enormous amount of evidence to be collected.”
It’s just shocking,” said Christopher Hansen, who was inside Pulse when he heard gunshots, “just one after another after another.”
“It could have lasted a whole song,” he said.
Hansen was getting a drink at the bar about 2 a.m. when he “just saw bodies going down.”
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said he had declared a state of emergency for the city and has requested the governor do the same for the state.
Before Sunday, the deadliest shootings in U.S. history were at Virginia Tech in 2007 and Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, with 32 and 27 killed.