A gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun took hostages and opened fire inside a crowded gay nightclub in the US state of Florida on June 12, killing 50 people and wounding 53 others before getting killed in a gunfight with SWAT officers.
Authorities identified the shooter as Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, a 29-year-old man born in New York with Afghan origins.
Omar Mateen, a resident of Fort Pierce, a city about 120 miles from Orlando, entered the club armed with an AR-15-type assault rifle, a handgun and many rounds of ammunition, and opened fire in a packed club.
The nightclub, which calls itself “Orlando’s Latin Hotspot,” was holding its weekly “Upscale Latin Saturdays” party with three D.J.s and a midnight show.
It was the deadliest single U.S. mass shooting incident, eclipsing the 2007 massacre of 32 people at Virginia Tech university.
Ron Hopper, special FBI agent in charge of the Orlando office, said that Mateen was interviewed twice by the agency in 2013, after he made “inflammatory comments” to co-workers alleging possible “terrorist ties”. The FBI closed the investigations as they turned out to be “inconclusive” at that time, Hopper said.
In a televised statement, President Barack Obama condemned the shooting as “an act of terror and an act of hate”, calling the shooter “a person filled with hatred”.
He said the attack is “a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon” and commit violence in the US.
Orlando Police chief John Mina described the shooting as “one of the worst tragedies we have seen”, adding that police officers “were shaken by what they have seen inside the club”.
One witness said he heard about 40 shots being fired.
Fearing explosives, police evacuated about 200 people from the apartment complex where Mateen lived while they looked through his residence for evidence.
According to Mateen’s ex-wife, he was mentally ill.
U.S. officials cautioned that they had no immediate evidence of any direct connection between the Florida attack and Islamic State or other foreign extremist group.