ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun took hostages and opened fire inside a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 50 people and wounding at least 53 others before dying in a gunfight with SWAT officers, officials said Sunday.
Please go to the end of the article for a list of names released by Orlando officials.
Pulse Orlando nightclub describes itself on Facebook and its website as a popular gay club in the city.
Police said at a news conference Sunday morning that multiple people were dead inside the club and 53 had been transported to local hospitals.
The shoot has been identified as Omar Mateen, 29, a U.S. citizen from Port St. Lucie, Florida, CBS News reported. Officials have described the attack as potentially being “ISIS-inspired.” The shooting is officially the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
During a press conference, Florida Senator Bill Nelson said that the Islamic State news agency has issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, but it has not been confirmed by U.S. government officials.
A law enforcement official said the gunman made a 911 call from the club in which he professed allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The Orlando mayor says of the 50 victims who died from the shooting, 39 were killed at the club and 11 people died at hospitals.
RELATED: Full Orlando Terror Attack coverage
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer says at first officers mistakenly thought the gunman had strapped explosives to the dead victims and that the club was booby-trapped. A bomb robot sent back images of a battery part next to a body.
Dyer says that held up paramedics from going in until it was determined it was something that fell out of an exit sign or a smoke detector.
The robot was sent in after SWAT team members put explosive charges on a wall and an armored vehicle knocked the wall down in an effort to rescue hostages.
On Sunday night, officials started removing bodies from inside the Pulse nightclub.
Sunday night, workers brought four bodies on stretchers out of club Pulse and loaded them into white vans. The action was repeated over and over.
The bodies were then taken to the Orange County Medical Examiner’s office.
The city of Orlando is publishing the names of those killed in a massacre at a gay nightclub on its website after their families have been contacted.
The city’s website includes the #PrayforOrlando hashtag and says officials are “working tirelessly” to get information to families.
The updated list can be found by clicking here or, for an update as of 2:40 p.m. Monday, go to the end of the article.
Massachusetts authorities say a Mateen mentioned the Boston Marathon bombers in a 911 call he made during the massacre.
Massachusetts State Police said in a statement Sunday afternoon the agency learned of the gunman’s comments during a conference call with federal law enforcement officials.
Police say the shooter referenced the Tsarnaev brothers in the call. Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev perpetrated the April 2013 attack in Boston that killed three and injured more than 260.
One officer was shot in the head during an exchange of gunfire with Mateen. The officer survived thanks to his Kevlar helmet, police said.
Police Chief John Mina also said the shooter had some sort of “suspicious device.” He said Mateen exchanged gunfire with an officer working at the club around 2 a.m., then went back inside and took hostages.
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. That number was updated to 50 at approximately 10:20 a.m.
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.
Following the shooting, Orlando Police told people on the department’s official Twitter account to stay away from the area.
Multiple emergency vehicles responded, including the Orlando Fire Department’s bomb squad and hazardous material team. 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.
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’s earlier posted on its own Facebook page: “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running.”
The Orlando Police Department called the shooting a “mass casualty situation” in a Tweet sent just after 5:45 a.m.
Just after 5:50 a.m. the police department reported that the shooter was dead.
The incident follows the fatal shooting on 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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
Mina Justice was outside the club 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.”
WNCN and CBS News contributed to this report.
The following are the names of the victims, as released by Orlando officials Monday.
- Edward Sotomayor Jr., age 34
- Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old
- Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old
- Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old
- Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
- Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old
- Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old
- Kimberly Morris, 37 years old
- Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
- Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
- Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
- Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
- Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old
- Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
- Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old
- Amanda Alvear, 25 years old
- Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
- Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
- Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
- Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old
- Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old
- Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old
- Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old
- Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
- Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
- Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old
- Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
- Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
- Cory James Connell, 21 years old
- Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old
- Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
- Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
- Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old
- Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old
- Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
- Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
- Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old
- Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old
- Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old
- Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old
- Yilmary Rodriguez Sulivan, 24 years old
- Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
- Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
- Frank Hernandez, 27 years old
- Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
- Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
- Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old
- Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old
- Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old