A gunman armed with an assault rifle and a pistol stormed a gay nitghclub in Orlando early Sunday morning, killing at least 50 people and leaving another 53 wounded. This incident is the deadliest mass shooting in United States history, tagged as an act of terrorism.
The shooter, who was identified by law enforcement official as Omar Saddiqui Mateen, a 29-year old American born Florida resident turned the celebrations, enjoyable activities at the crowded Pluse nightclub into a disaster scene of worst slaughter, the floors filled with blood, and the dead and wounded people everywhere. Panicked people were screaming and running towards the front door.
“Everyone get out of pulse and keep running,” the nightclub, Pulse, posted on their Facebook page at 2:09 am.
“We are here suffering, knowing nothing,” said Baron Serrano, whose brother, Juan Rivera, 36, had been celebrating a friend’s birthday with his husband and was now unaccounted for. “I cannot understand why they can’t tell me anything because my brother is a very well-known person here in Orlando. He is a hairstylist, and everybody knows him.”
The Police rushed at the scene, raided the club with an armored vehicle lead by a SWAT team, engaged in a shootout with Omar Mateen, leaving him dead and an officer wounded. They rescued at least 30 people. At least 320 people were inside the club, of which one-third was shot. What they found was horrifying: “The look in the eyes of our officers told the whole story,” Orlando Police Chief John Mina said.
“In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another,” President Obama said in a special address from the White House. “We will not give in to fear or turn against each other. Instead, we will stand united as Americans to protect our people and defend our nation, and to take action against those who threaten us.”
This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school or a house of worship or a movie theater or a nightclub,” Mr. Obama said. “We have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. To actively do nothing is a decision as well.”
It has been the deadliest attack in the US history and the worst act of terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001. Mateen was on the FBI’s radar for having ISIS sympathies and called 911 20 minutes into the attack to pledge his allegiance to the terror group, officials said at a 2:30 pm press conference. Mateen was not under FBI surveillance at the time of the incident. His name had been flagged in 2013, after he made inflammatory comments to his coworkers, officials said at the 2:30 pm press conference. The FBI had interviewed Mateen twice in 2013 and later found he had ties to a 2014 American suicide bomber, but both those investigations were inconclusive and deemed non-threatening, the FBI’s Ronald Hooper said at the press conference.
Mateen’s father apologized for the whole incident, and told reporters his family was “in shock like the whole country,” adding that his son expressed anti-gay sentiments after seeing two men kissing a couple months ago. “This had nothing to do with religion,” Mateen’s father told NBC.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, in a statement released over an encrypted phone app used by the group. It stated that the attack “was carried out by an Islamic State fighter,” according to a transcript provided by the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks jihadist propaganda. Though, Mateen was inspired by the group, he had not been trained or in direct contact with the group, officials cautioned.
American Muslim groups condemned the shooting. “The Muslim community joins our fellow Americans in repudiating anyone or any group that would claim to justify or excuse such an appalling act of violence,” said Rasha Mubarak, the Orlando regional coordinator of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.