BREAKING: Orlando Pulse Nightclub Shooting: About 20 Dead in Act of Terrorism, Police Say
|Attack: A woman sits on the ground outside the club while another party-goer, whose legs are covered in blood, stands beside her -Via DailyMail|
Twenty people are dead after a shooting at Orlando's Pulse nightclub in what investigators are calling an act of terrorism, Orlando Police Chief John Mina said at a morning news conference.
Sources have confirmed to CBS News that authorities are investigating whether the suspect, who has been named as 29-year-old Omar Mateen of Port St. Lucie, had ties to Islamic terrorism. Mateen is a U.S. citizen with no apparent criminal history, according to sources.
A gunman took scores of people hostage overnight inside the nightclub between 2:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.; about 42 people were taken to area hospitals, Mina said.
Officers killed the gunman, who has not been identified, in a shoot out and referred to him as a "lone wolf." He was carrying an assault rifle, a handgun and was possibly wearing an explosive "device." The Orange County Sheriff's Office hazardous device team is now searching the area.
About 30 people were "saved during the rescue," Mina said. About 320 people were in the club when the hostage situation unfolded.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is leading the investigation. Agent Ron Hopper said they cannot rule this out as an act of domestic terrorism and that the suspect, who is not from Orlando, may have leanings toward extreme Islamic ideologies.
Gov. Rick Scott is on his way to Orlando, his office said this morning. Scott has been in touch with local law enforcement and the FBI about the shootings.
Authorities said there is no indication of future attacks in Florida or across the nation.
Mina said the situation is not related to a separate shooting Friday inside The Plaza Live theater in Orlando, where a man opened fire, killing former NBC's "The Voice" contestant Christina Grimmie and himself. Some victims of the mass shooting were transported to Orlando Health, which established a family information center early this morning, asking family members to go to at 52 West Underwood St.
Several family members stood outside the North entrance of ORMC awaiting news and trying to find people still missing.
Kenneth Melendez and his friends were at the club when the shooting happened. Four of his friends were shot and were at ORMC, he said.
"It's just something that you see in the movies but never think would happen to you," he said.
"At first, when I heard the shots I thought it was part of the music, but then we realized it was really happening. I started running and saw someone bleeding from the arm and I was like wow this is really happening and I kept running."
He said he went to Pulse often because it was a "safe environment where you could express yourself ... Not anymore."
Some family members standing outside ORMC said that certain floors were on lockdown and only immediate families of shooting victims could get in.
Florida Hospital wouldn't confirm if any patients have been transported there this morning, but said they can check on names for families.
In the early morning, dozens of emergency vehicles surrounded the chaotic scene at the club at 1912 S. Orange Ave. after the 2 a.m. shooting and rescue squads were transporting multiple victims to area hospitals.
Witnesses said they heard at least 40 shots fired inside the club.
At 5 a.m. authorities used an explosive device to distract the gunman, then authorities plowed through the club with a vehicle.
Police reported just before 6 a.m. that the shooter inside the club was dead. Mina said his officers exchanged gunfire with the suspect in two shootings. Nine officers were involved in the shooting and one sustained an injury to his head and was saved by his helmet.
Afterward, the Orlando Fire Department called for its bomb squad and hazardous material team to the scene after 3 a.m. Police K-9 dogs are searching the area around nearby Orlando Regional Medical Center with an armed deputy in head-to-toe military gear.
Pulse Orlando's posted a note to its own page that said, "Everyone get out of pulse and keep running." The popular gay bar was full of people at the time of the incident.
Emotional witnesses and family members of those who were in the club surrounded the area after shots rang out. One witness said the shooting lasted the duration of an entire song.
It was Christopher Hansen's first visit to the club. The 32-year-old moved to Orlando about two months ago and went to meet someone for a "Latin night." He said he was near the front door of the bar when the shooting started.
"I just fell down and crawled out," he said. "People were trying to escape out the back of the club."
"I helped someone who was on the ground. I wasn't sure if he was dead or alive," he said. "I was like 'hey are you OK?'"
He remembered hearing more than 40 shots, and said the shooting continued as people ran from the bar. Police were yelling for him and others to get out.
He said he took off a bandanna that was wrapped around his head, tied it in a knot and stuck it in the bullet wound in the man's back.
Another witness, Rosie Feba, said she took her girlfriend to the club for the first time Saturday night. It was near closing time.
"She told me someone was shooting. Everyone was getting on the floor," Feba said. "I told her I didn't think it was real, I thought it was just part of the music, until I saw fire coming out of his gun."
Feba and her girlfriend ran out of the club. On the way out, they saw a man who had been shot.
Feba grabbed him. Others around her called 911. Some of the man's blood stained the sleeve of her striped T-shirt.
Both Feba and her girlfriend were unharmed, but shaken. They waited in a CVS parking lot for more information.
Victims experiencing emotional trauam related to the shooting can dial 2-1-1 for support, said Ashley Blasewitz of the Heart of Florida United Way.
This is a developing story. Check back for more details.