At least 20 dead in shooting at Orlando gay club

Orlando Police officers direct family members away from a multiple shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Orlando Police officers direct family members away from a multiple shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

More than 40 injured; gunman shot dead by police; FBI says suspect may have ‘leanings’ to Islamic extremism

(SOURCE)   A gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun took hostages and opened fire inside a crowded Florida nightclub, killing approximately 20 people and wounding 42 others before dying in a gunfight with SWAT officers, police said Sunday.

Police Chief John Mina also said the shooter had some sort of “suspicious device.” He said the suspect exchanged gunfire with an officer working at the club around 2 a.m., then went back inside and took hostages among more than 300 people inside.

Around 5 a.m., authorities sent in a SWAT team to rescue the hostages, and the suspect then died in a gunfight with those officers. Mina said police have not determined an exact number of casualties, but that “approximately 20” people were dead inside the club.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent in Charge Danny Banks said during a news conference that the mass shooting is being investigated as an act of terrorism. He says authorities are looking into whether this was an act of domestic or international terror, and if the shooter was a lone wolf.

“This is an incident, as I see it, that we certainly classify as domestic terror incident,” said Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Ron Hopper said there’s no further threat to Orlando or the surrounding area.

An Orange County Sheriff's Department SWAT member arrives to the scene of a fatal shooting at Pulse Orlando nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

An Orange County Sheriff’s Department SWAT member arrives to the scene of a fatal shooting at Pulse Orlando nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

When asked if the gunman had a connection to radical Islamic terrorism, Hopper said, “we do have suggestions that individual has leanings towards that.”

Police said the gunman was well prepared and organized and wasn’t from the Orlando area, the New York Times reported.

Police had said previously on Twitter that there was a “controlled explosion” at the scene of the shooting at Pulse Orlando. Mina said that noise was caused by a device intended to distract the shooter.

Mina Justice was outside the club early Sunday trying to contact her 30-year-old son Eddie, who texted her when the shooting happened and asked her to call police. He told her he ran into a bathroom with other club patrons to hide. He then texted her: “He’s coming.”

“The next text said: ‘He has us, and he’s in here with us,’” she said. “That was the last conversation.”

Dozens of police vehicles, including a SWAT team, swarmed the area around the club. At least two police pickup trucks were seen taking what appeared to be shooting victims to the Orlando Regional Medical Center.

Pulse Orlando posted on its own Facebook page around 2 a.m.: “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running.” Just before 6 a.m., the club posted an update: “As soon as we have any information we will update everyone. Please keep everyone in your prayers as we work through this tragic event. Thank you for your thoughts and love.”

The incident follows the fatal shooting late Friday of 22-year-old singer Christina Grimmie, who was killed after her concert in Orlando by a 27-year-old Florida man who later killed himself. Grimmie was a YouTube sensation and former contestant on “The Voice.”

Jermaine Towns, left, and Brandon Shuford wait down the street from a multiple shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Jermaine Towns, left, and Brandon Shuford wait down the street from a multiple shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Jon Alamo said he was at the back of one of the club’s rooms when a man holding a weapon came into the front of the room.

“I heard 20, 40, 50 shots,” Alamo said. “The music stopped.”

Club-goer Rob Rick said it happened around, 2 a.m., just before closing time.

“Everybody was drinking their last sip,” he said.

He estimated more than 100 people were still inside when he heard shots, got on the ground and crawled toward a DJ booth. A bouncer knocked down a partition between the club area and an area in the back where only workers are allowed. People inside were able to then escape through the back of the club.

Christopher Hansen said he was in the VIP lounge when he started hearing gunshots. He continued to hear shooting even after he emerged, where police were telling people to back away from the club. He saw injured people being tended to across the street.

“I was thinking, are you kidding me? So I just dropped down. I just said please, please, please, I want to make it out,” he said. “And when I did, I saw people shot. I saw blood. You hope and pray you don’t get shot.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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2 comments

  1. Thomas Harrison of Christian Life Center

    The terrorist suspect wanted the world to go to hell and that is why he wanted to “kill the christians by bombing the centers” and that lone criminals working for ISIS are planning to shoot up and set fires in all schools, colleges, camps, stores, shopping centers and banks. Money and bill taken before doing so and that good places such as nightclubs and worship centers are ususlly safe but if good things get attacked, that means that the whole world is doomed to go underground. We have to judge things in retrospect. This past Wednesday night, a man from a homeless shelter that is on parole came into our church looking for some spare change in one of the offering baskets and he had something in his pocket ready to use on one of our staff, but with the grace of God a staff person was able to wrestle him to the floor and I called the police and they came and took him away and locked him up. We thanked God for our good police and security team for protecting our center from theft and violence. Have to say that you are never safe anymore even in the best areas because you always have to safeguard your surroundings in every area these days. Look at what happened in Orlando, Florida recently! Learn from the news, right? Case in point!

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