ORLANDO, Fla—Police are calling the massacre a “terror attack,” after 50 people were slain in popular gay nightclub Pulse. According to Orlando Police Chief John Mina, at least 53 more were injured. The massacre is considered the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, surpassing those at Virginia Tech in 2007 and Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012.
Police have identified the gunman as Omar Mateen. Officials say the gunman was armed with an assault rifle and a handgun, and some speculate that an unidentified third weapon was involved. According to CNN, law enforcement sources speculate the shooter had possible “explosive devices strapped to his body and in his vehicle,” however no explosives were found at the scene.
Reports state that the massacre took place around 2 a.m. Sunday morning when the gunman opened fire. According to the New York Times, the gunman held dozens hostage, “some of them hiding in the restroom frantically calling for help, until after 5 a.m.” Eventually, SWAT was able to raid the nightclub using an armored vehicle and stun grenades, which lead to the killer’s demise, and saved 30 people, according to Mina.
Orlando Regional Medical Center and neighboring hospital, Arnold Palmer were placed on lockdown, while Mayor Buddy Dyer declared a state of emergency for Orlando and the Orlando Police Department tweeted early Sunday morning warning people to “stay away from the area.”
Shooting at Pulse Nightclub on S Orange. Multiple injuries. Stay away from area. pic.twitter.com/5Di2mc6XUY— Orlando Police (@OrlandoPolice) June 12, 2016
FBI and police officials are considering the shooting spree an act of domestic terror and according to CNN, authorities are looking into the possibility that the attack was a hate crime. Investigators are “exploring all angles and have suggestions the individual has leanings towards (Islamic terrorism),” stated FBI assistant agent Ron Haper, “but right now we can’t say definitely,” CNN reports. It is expected to be a lengthy investigation, as police and FBI comb through evidence. In the meantime, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center of Central Florida has stated that it will be offereing grief counseling to those affected by the tragredy.