UPDATE: FBI releases new information in Orlando nightclub shooting

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UPDATE 6/20/16 @ 1:20 p.m.
ORLANDO, Fla. (WSAZ/AP/NBC) -- It's been one week and one day since the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history when a gunman opened fire at Pulse, a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people and injuring 53 others.

Monday, investigators released partial transcripts of the gunman's 911 calls as well as his conversation with a hostage negotiator in the early morning hours of June 12.

FBI and city officials said they would not release the audio of the phone calls and they redacted portions of the transcripts out of respect for the victims and their families as well as to avoid encouraging copy cat killers.

At a news conference, Ron Hopper of the FBI said officials are "not going to propagate violent rhetoric" by giving full transcripts with no redactions.

According to the Associated Press, city officials have refused to provide hundreds of 911 calls from the Orlando nightclub massacre to the AP and a coalition of news organizations, citing confidentiality under Florida law and arguing that an ongoing investigation kept the tapes secret.

The AP and others requested the 911 tapes and related data, "a common practice after such major events," the outlet said. "The recordings could offer insight into how law enforcement responded to the worst shooting in modern U.S. history."

As for what was released, NBC reports the transcripts reveal Mateen called himself an "Islamic soldier" and pledged his allegiance to a radical Islamic group.

"I let you know, I'm in Orlando and I did the shootings," the gunman told 911 dispatchers, according to NBC.

Hopper said in the press conference that the gunman made "murderous statements" in a "chilling, calm and deliberate manner."

After making the 911 calls, Orlando Police Chief John Mina says Mateen spoke with a hostage negotiator.

NBC reports this was the summary of those conversations:
2:48 a.m.: First crisis negotiation call occurred lasting approximately nine minutes.
3:03 a.m.: Second crisis negotiation call occurred lasting approximately 16 minutes.
3:24 a.m.: Third crisis negotiation call occurred lasting approximately three minutes.
In these calls, the shooter, who identified himself as an Islamic soldier, told the crisis negotiator that he was the person who pledged his allegiance to [omitted], and told the negotiator to tell America to stop bombing Syria and Iraq and that is why he was "out here right now." When the crisis negotiator asked the shooter what he had done, the shooter stated, "No, you already know what I did." The shooter continued, stating, "There is some vehicle outside that has some bombs, just to let you know. You people are gonna get it, and I'm gonna ignite it if they try to do anything stupid." Later in the call with the crisis negotiator, the shooter stated that he had a vest, and further described it as the kind they "used in France." The shooter later stated, "In the next few days, you're going to see more of this type of action going on." The shooter hung up and multiple attempts to get in touch with him were unsuccessful.

Hopper said in the press conference no explosive devices were found.

Officials said Monday they would not be providing a detailed update about the investigation itself. Hopper said investigators have interviewed more than 500 people, released more than 100 vehicles to family members of the victims, have processed more than 600 pieces of evidence and have received thousands of tips.

Chief Mina addressed criticism they've received about the timeline of the operation and how long law enforcement took to blast through the club walls, ultimately killing the shooter in an exchange of gunfire.

There is an ongoing investigation into the police officers' actions due to the police-involved shooting.

"Their brave actions should not be second-guessed," said Mina, as he clarified the timeline of that morning. "Lives were saved because of their heroic work."

Chief Mina says the incident had evolved from an active shooter situation, into a hostage recovery operation.

Mina says around 2 a.m. is when Mateen fired the first shots. It wasn't until around 5 a.m. that law enforcement blasted through the wall of the club to exchange in gunfire with Mateen and free the remaining hostages.

Mina says law enforcement agencies, including his department, have received criticism about that timeline.

The chief emphasized that during that time period, law enforcement had managed to get Mateen to stop firing and barricade himself inside a bathroom. He says that gave the SWAT team time to get a plan together and get prepared to move in.

He say during those three hours, there was no gunfire. Mina also says, during those hours, officers were entering other areas of the club and rescuing victims.

"Our officers acted heroically and did a phenomenal job," said Mina.

Mina and other officials at the press conference called the officers' actions "nothing short of extraordinary" and that they saved many lives. Mina said he stands by the decisions he made that night.

Investigators say they are now working to keep the crime scene safe as well as vigils and other events honoring the victims. They are also making sure first responders and victims get the help they need after witnessing such disturbing events.

"Our community remains a safe community," Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said.

Demings said law enforcement was prepared for an active shooter situation and had trained with Homeland Security for how to handle a terror event. He encouraged people to still visit Orlando, reminding everyone that it is a "vibrant" and "resilient" community.

Hopper said investigators are looking into any possible motives, not limiting their investigation to just the motive of terrorism. However, investigators did say the gunman appeared to be radicalized domestically, saying there is no evidence of influence by any foreign groups. They also pointed out that Mateen's views do not represent the religion of Islam, but rather a perverted view.

Hopper said investigators are close to being done with processing the crime scene and that the area would likely be back to business as usual sometime this week, but emphasized there is still a lot of work left to do.

"This investigation is one week and one day old and it may last months and even years," said Hopper. "I want you to know that we will endeavor to bring justice to the victims who survived as well as the families of the deceased who were so viciously murdered. As many of us celebrated Father's Day this past weekend, several were reminded of their lost one and the tragic events that happened on June 12."



UPDATE 6/20/16 @ 11 a.m.
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- The FBI is holding a late morning news briefing to provide an update on the massacre at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando.

An FBI spokesman says agents on Monday will offer further details about the massacre that killed 49 people and wounded another 53 people, making it the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The details include the release of a partial transcript of communications between gunman Omar Mateen and Orlando police negotiators in the early morning hours of June 12.

The briefing is taking place just a few blocks from the nightclub.

Keep clicking on WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 6/15/16 @ 11:20 p.m.
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - A new Senate letter says Orlando gunman Omar Mateen made a series of Facebook posts before and during the attack, including blasting the "filthy ways of the West" and blaming the United States for the deaths of "innocent women and children."

A letter sent Wednesday evening to Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg lays out a series of Facebook posts that Senate staffers say were made the morning of the attack.

The letter, from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, says Mateen in one post pledged allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State. Another said "America and Russia stop bombing the Islamic State."

According to the letter, he also searched that morning for "Pulse Orlando" and "Shooting."

An FBI spokesman did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Meanwhile, a Senate committee is asking the FBI to turn over its files on Orlando gunman Omar Mateen.

In a letter Wednesday to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs asked the FBI to provide records related to two previously closed investigations concerning Mateen.

The committee also requested details of the placement and removal of Mateen from a terrorist watch list, any prior visits to the Pulse nightclub or Walt Disney World before the attack and his travel to Saudi Arabia.

In addition, the committee said it wanted information about Mateen's use of social media before and during the attack, and the FBI's communication with state and local law enforcement about Mateen's comments about terrorism prior to the attack.

A U.S. official says the FBI has determined that Mateen was in the area of Disney World at some point before the attack unfolded, though it's unclear for what purpose.

The official briefed on the investigation who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke Wednesday on condition of anonymity.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said Mateen drove around the Orlando area Saturday evening, going from one place to another, before he opened fire at the gay nightspot about 2 a.m. Sunday. Forty-nine people were killed and more than 50 injured.



UPDATE 6/14/16 @ 10:05 p.m.
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - The owner of another Orlando LGBT club says he got a Facebook friend request last week from the gunman in the Pulse nightclub shooting.

WKMG-TV reports that owner Michael Bass says he looked through Omar Mateen's Facebook friend list and didn't see anything that would relate to a LGBT club, so he rejected the friend request. He says he recognized Mateen after news of the Sunday shooting that left 49 people dead and more than 50 others injured.

The station says investigators from the Orlando Police Department and the FBI interviewed Bass about the contact.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said he was uplifted by the way the community has come together during a citywide prayer service for the 49 people who were killed in a nightclub shooting over the weekend.

More than a thousand people - including many clergy and local, state and national civic leaders - met Tuesday night at First Baptist Orlando to hold a vigil for the victims of the early Sunday morning shooting at the Pulse nightclub.

Dyer said to the crowd: "We will not be defined by the act of a hate-filled killer. We will be defined by our love, compassion and our unity."

Dyer says officials are in the process of putting together an Orlando Family Assistance Center. It will open Wednesday at Camping World Stadium.

Sunday's shooting at the gay dance club ended when police killed gunman Omar Mateen.

The chairman of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee is seeking information from the Florida security company that employed Mateen, the Orlando nightclub gunman.

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin says in a letter to G4S Secure Solutions that he wants to learn more about Mateen's job responsibilities, security reviews and reported concerns raised by co-workers related to his behavior and possible connections to terrorism.

Johnson said the company is not suspected of any wrongdoing in connection with the attack, but says it may have useful information to better identify and address homegrown extremism.

Johnson's committee is examining the June 12 attack at the Pulse nightclub and is considering legislative proposals to address homegrown extremism.



UPDATE 6/13/16 @ 9:45 p.m.
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP/WSAZ) -- The City of Orlando has released the names of all of the victims killed in the Orlando nightclub shooting.

The youngest victim on the list is 18 years old and the oldest is 50.

Police say the gunman, Omar Mateen, opened fire and went on a shooting rampage early Sunday morning at the popular gay nightclub Pulse. The attack left 50 people dead, including the shooter. It is the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

In addition to those killed, 53 people were injured in the attack. Hospital officials said Monday morning five of the wounded were in "grave condition."

The list below includes all 49 of the victims who passed away and whose next of kin have been contacted. The city gave no additional information other than the names and ages.

Orlando officials write, "During this difficult time, we offer heartfelt condolences to the families of the 49 victims who lost their lives during the Pulse tragedy. To the families and friends of the victims, your city is with you and will continue to be with you as you deal with this unimaginable tragedy."

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old

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 Solivan, 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



UPDATE 6/13/16 @ 8:20 p.m.
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP/WSAZ) -- The City of Orlando has released the names of all of the victims killed in the Orlando nightclub shooting except for one.

The youngest victim on the list is 18 years old and the oldest is 50.

Police say the gunman, Omar Mateen, opened fire and went on a shooting rampage early Sunday morning at the popular gay nightclub Pulse. The attack left 50 people dead, including the shooter. It is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The identities of 48 of those victims have been released.

In addition to those killed, 53 people were injured in the attack. Hospital officials said Monday morning five of the wounded were in "grave condition."

The list includes the victims who passed away and whose next of kin have been contacted. The list will be periodically updated as those who died are identified and families and loved ones notified. The city gave no additional information other than the names and ages.



UPDATE 6/13/16 @ 12:10 p.m.
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Hospital officials say five people are still in "grave condition" after they were wounded in the attack at an Orlando nightclub.

Orlando Regional Medical Center says 29 people are still at the hospital and a number of patients remain critically ill and in shock.

Six more surgeries on the victims are scheduled for Monday, a day after a gunman opened fire inside a gay nightclub. The attack left 50 people dead, including the shooter. It is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The City of Orlando has released the names and ages of 36 of the victims killed in the shooting. The list includes victims whose next of kin have been contacted. The list will be periodically updated as those who died are identified and families and loved ones notified. The city gave no additional information other than the names and ages.



UPDATE 6/13/16 @ 11:42 a.m.
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama says there's no clear evidence that the shooter at an Orlando nightclub was directed to conduct his attack or part of a larger plot.

He says it appears the shooter was inspired by extremist information disseminated over the internet.

Obama says the investigation is at the preliminary stages and is being treated as a terrorism investigation. He says the attack appears to be similar to last year's shooting spree in San Bernardino, California.

The president says investigators are still looking into the motivations of the shooter, including the fact that the shooting took place at a gay venue.

Obama spoke in the Oval Office after being briefed on the investigation by FBI Director James Comey, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and other officials.



UPDATED 6/13/16 @ 8:20 a.m.
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - The City of Orlando has released more names and ages of the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. The list includes victims whose next of kin have been contacted. At least 50 were killed in the shooting, including the gunman. The list will be periodically updated as those who died are identified and families and loved ones notified. The city gave no additional information other than the names and ages.

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old

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

___

We are also learning more about the gunman. According to the Associated Press, Islamic State radio calls Orlando mass shooter Omar Mateen 'one of the soldiers of the caliphate in America.'



UPDATED 6/12/16 @ 10:15 p.m.
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - The Latest on the shooting at an Orlando nightclub (all times local):

9:00 p.m.

The ex-wife of the Orlando nightclub gunman says he was "mentally unstable and mentally ill."

Sitora Yusifiy, speaking to reporters in Boulder, Colorado, says Omar Mateen was bipolar and also had a history with steroids.

She says that in the four months they were together he cut her off from her family and regularly beat her. She says that her family visited her and saw she wasn't OK and rescued her from the situation.

Yusifiy says they literally pulled her out of his arms. She says she left all her belongings and has had no contact with him for seven or eight years.

She says Mateen was religious, but she saw no signs of radicalism.

Of the nightclub massacre she says, "there was no sign of any of this at all."

___

8:50 p.m.

Officials have started removing bodies from inside an Orlando nightclub where 50 people were shot and killed.

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.

Authorities say Omar Mateen opened fire at the nightclub, leaving 50 people dead and more than 50 others wounded before he was gunned down by police.

___

7 p.m.

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee tells The Associated Press that investigators have not yet found evidence of direct communication between the Orlando nightclub gunman and Islamic State members overseas.

Rep. Adam Schiff has been briefed multiple times by federal law enforcement. He says it is possible that Omar Mateen was self-radicalized but not "under the command and control of ISIS."

The California congressman says that could change and that it's too early to know whether there was something that could have been done to prevent the attack.

The FBI investigated Mateen in 2013 after he made inflammatory comments to co-workers alleging possible ties to terrorists. The following year, the agency looked into potential ties connecting Mateen to Moner Mohammad Abusalha, the first American to carry out a suicide attack in Syria.

He was cleared after both investigations.

___

6:40 p.m.

Seattle's openly gay Mayor Ed Murray says that every time progress is made in the U.S., there's a blow back and an increase in gay lesbian bisexual transgender violence.

Murray made the remarks Sunday after a gunman slaughtered 50 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Murray says the massacre is absolutely an attempt at intimidation and fear. He says the community will come together and will not be intimidated.

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The father of the Orlando nightclub gunman has a television show on Payam-e-Afghan, a California-based channel that supports ethnic solidarity with the Afghan Taliban, which are mostly Pashtun.

Viewers from Pashtun communities in the United States regularly call in to espouse support for Pashtun domination of Afghanistan over the nation's minorities, including Hazaras, Tajiks and Uzbeks.

Seddique Mateen's "Durand Jirga Show" has an anti-Pakistan slant. The name of the show references the Durand line, the long-disputed border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

A former Afghan official said Seddique Mateen's show also expresses sympathy for the Taliban, complains about foreigners in Afghanistan and criticizes U.S. actions there. The official spoke only on condition of anonymity because he did not want to be linked to coverage of the shooting.

Seddique Mateen, who lavished praise on current Afghan President Ashraf Ghani when he appeared on the TV program in January 2014, has since denounced the Ghani government. The official said that on Saturday, Seddique Mateen, dressed in military fatigues, used his program to criticize the current Afghan government and announce that he would run in the next Afghan presidential election.

___

6:10 p.m.

A woman whose cousin was shot at a gay Orlando nightclub says he is in critical condition at a hospital.

LaToya Hall says her cousin Keon Carter was in the Pulse club early Sunday when a gunman opened fire and killed 50 people and wounded about 50 others.

Hall says her cousin is alert at Orlando Regional Medical Center. She says he tried to hold her hand and turn his eyes to look at her.

Hall says many people are having trouble locating victims because they are being listed under fake names.

___

5:20 p.m.

American Muslim leaders are condemning the attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando that killed 50 people and wounded more than 50 others.

Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called the killings a hate crime and said the group has no tolerance for extremism of any kind.

A law enforcement official has said the gunman, Omar Mateen, called 911 from the nightclub and expressed allegiance to an Islamic State leader.

Awad says members of the LGBT community have stood with Muslims in the past and today they stand that community.

___

TNT has postponed the season premiere of "The Last Ship" in the wake of the shooting in Orlando.

The show, which stars Eric Dane, Rhona Mitra and Adam Baldwin, is about a group of people who've survived a pandemic that killed 80 percent of the world's population.

The network says in a statement that its hearts are with the victims and their families.

___

4:50 p.m.

About 100 people gathered in Paris for a spontaneous vigil at Place Igor Stravinsky to remember those slain and wounded at an Orlando nightclub.

Several people were draped in rainbow flags. They lit candles and took pictures as a person in head-to-toe fetish gear held up a sign saying "Proud." One woman carried a poster showing a ribbon with a rainbow on one side and an American flag on the other.

"To Orlando, we have love," it read.

Remi Perrenoud, 30, said the news hit him particularly hard because, like the victims, he had been out partying at a gay club Saturday night.

Ian Brossat, the capital's deputy mayor for housing, was at the vigil too. He says it seems important to mobilize to voice solidarity and to underline the fight against homophobia.

___

The Orlando mayor says of the 50 victims who died from the shooting at a gay nightclub, 39 were killed at the club and 11 people died at hospitals.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer says at first officers mistakenly thought the gunman had strapped explosives to the dead victims and that the club was boob-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.

___

4:35 p.m.

A law enforcement official says the gunman who killed 50 people at a gay nightclub made a 911 call from the club, professing allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The law enforcement official is familiar with the investigation but was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Authorities say Omar Mateen opened fire at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, killing 50 people and wounding more than 50 others before he was gunned down by police.

It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Authorities were investigating the attack on the Florida dance club as an act of terrorism.

___

4:20 p.m.

A former Afghan official says the father of the Orlando nightclub gunman is a native of Afghanistan who appears on a television program known for "its anti-US tirades" and "pro-Taliban" remarks.

The official says the gunman's father is Seddique Mateen and that the program is broadcast in the Dari language. The official spoke only on condition of anonymity because he did not want to be linked to coverage of the shooting.

Mateen is the father of Omar Mateen, who authorities say killed 50 people at the nightclub.

The official said Seddique Mateen's "Durand Jirga Show" is anti-Pakistan. The name of the show references the Durand line, the long disputed border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Seddique Mateen campaigned in the United States for current Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who appeared on his program in 2014. The program's studio has an address in Fort Pierce, Florida.

___

Afghanistan's president says he "strongly condemns" the attack on a Florida nightclub that killed at least 50 people.

President Ashraf Ghani said in a statement Sunday that "targeting civilians is not justifiable under any circumstances whatsoever." He offered his condolences to President Barack Obama, the American people and the families of the victims.

Afghanistan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah also offered his condolences.

Shooter Omar Mateen was born in New York. His ex-wife told The Washington Post that Mateen's family was from Afghanistan. The family later moved to Florida.

The ex-wife is not named in the Post report.

4:05 p.m.

The FBI says agents twice investigated the man who killed 50 people inside a gay nightclub, but closed those cases after interviewing him.

FBI agent Ronald Hopper said Sunday that Omar Mateen had been interviewed in 2013 and 2014. Hopper said agents first investigated Mateen after he made inflammatory comments to co-workers alleging possible ties to terrorists.

Mateen was interviewed twice and, when investigators were unable to verify the details of his comments, the FBI closed the probe.

In 2014, the agency looked into potential ties connecting Mateen to Moner Mohammad Abusalha, the first American to carry out a suicide attack in Syria. Like Mateen, Abusalha lived in Fort Pierce, Florida.

Hopper says agents determined that contact was minimal and did not constitute a substantive relationship or a threat at that time.

Mateen was 29 years old and born in New York. The FBI says he referred to the Islamic State in a 911 call before the slayings.

___

4:05 p.m.

Organizers of Denver's PrideFest, which holds a parade and rally that has attracted hundreds of thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in past years, is going ahead with their festival next weekend amid heavy security following the shooting deaths of at least 50 people inside a crowded gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday.

Organizer Debra Pollock says parade and rally participants in Denver have always been security-conscious, but members of the GLBT Community Center of Colorado have also received training on how to deal with active-shooter situations.

Pollock says the organizers will have metal detectors and fences set up at Civic Center Park for the rally, and there will also be security on the parade route and people will be searched as in past years.

___

3:45 p.m.

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.

As of 3:45 p.m. Sunday, the list had four names. Fifty people were killed.

Shooter Omar Mateen was killed; his name is not on the list.

Fifty-three more were hospitalized.

The city's website includes the #PrayforOrlando hashtag and says officials are "working tirelessly" to get information to families.

The list can be found at http://www.cityoforlando.net/blog/victims/

___

3:25 p.m.

The ex-wife of the man authorities say killed 50 people at an Orlando nightclub says he beat her repeatedly while they were married.

The ex-wife told The Washington Post that she met Omar Mateen online about eight years ago and decided to move to Florida and marry him. The ex-wife, who wasn't named in the report, says at first the marriage was normal, but then he became abusive.

They were together for only a few months and her parents intervened when they learned Mateen had assaulted her. She says he wasn't very religious and gave no signs of radical Islam. She said he owned a small-caliber handgun and worked as a guard at a nearby facility for juvenile delinquents.

Mateen's ex-wife said his family was from Afghanistan, but her ex-husband was born in New York. His family later moved to Florida.

___

3:20 p.m.

Officials are giving more details about the shooter in a massacre at a gay Orlando nightclub.

Ronald Hopper of the FBI says shooter Omar Mateen was 29 and an American citizen. He was not under surveillance at the time of the shooting.

Hooper says Mateen purchased at least two firearms within the last week or so.

Hooper says some 911 calls involving the shooter and the massacre have become federal evidence. He says the conversations involved the Islamic State.

Hooper says the shooter in 2013 made inflammatory comments to co-workers , and that Mateen was interviewed twice. Hooper calls those interviews inconclusive.

In 2014, Hooper says, officials found that Mateen had ties to an American suicide bomber. Hooper describes the contact as minimal; it did not constitute a threat at that time.

___

3:15 p.m.

Police say a total of 14 law enforcement officers exchanged gunfire with the shooter at a gay Florida nightclub.

Orlando police Chief John Mina and other officials gave the details at a Sunday afternoon news conference.

They say 11 Orlando police officers and three deputy sheriffs actively engaged, and fired their weapons. They're relieved of duties pending an investigation. That's typical procedure in such cases.

___

3:15 p.m.

The suspected Orlando night club shooter Omar Mateen was a security guard with G4S. In a 2012 newsletter, the firm identified him as working in West Palm Beach.

In a statement sent to the Palm Beach Post, the security company confirmed his employment.

"We are shocked and saddened by the tragic event that occurred at the Orlando nightclub. We can confirm that Omar Mateen had been employed with G4S since September 10, 2007. We are cooperating fully with all law enforcement authorities, including the FBI, as they conduct their investigation. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the friends, families and people affected by this unspeakable tragedy."

___

3 p.m.

Multiple news outlets are reporting that the man who killed 50 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando called 911 shortly before the attack and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

The media outlets cited unnamed law enforcement officials in their reports.

Danny Banks is an agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He says authorities are investigating whether the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history was an act of domestic or international terrorism, and if the shooter acted alone.

The suspect in the Orlando attack was identified as Omar Mateen of Port St. Lucie, Florida. The gunman's father recalled to NBC News that his son recently got angry when he saw two men kissing in Miami and said that might be related to the assault.

___

2:55 p.m.

People who were inside the gay Florida nightclub where 50 people were killed are describing a scene of mass chaos.

Two men who were in Club Pulse discussed the Sunday massacre in Facebook chats with The Associated Press.

Orlando resident Brand White was shot. He says, "We are dancing and all of a sudden it just started like a rolling thunder, loud and everything went black."

The 30-year-old was with his cousin, who mentioned something about "a guy with a bomb." After that, White says, his memory is fuzzy; he said he doesn't recall leaving the club or who took him to the hospital.

White was shot in the shoulder. He spoke to The AP as he was being monitored at a hospital. He said he received a blood transfusion.

His cousin was unaccounted for - no one had heard from him as of 2:45 p.m.

Another man, Brett Rigas, says he and his partner were dancing when they heard shots. Rigas was shot in the arm and hid behind a bar. About five minutes later, authorities came in and told everyone to put their hands up and run out.

Rigas said he saw bodies as he ran out.

___

2:45 p.m.

The suspected Orlando nightclub gunman had been licensed as a private security officer in Florida.

State records show suspected shooter Omar Mateen held the firearms license since at least 2011. It was set to expire in September 2017.

It wasn't immediately clear where, if anywhere, Mateen had worked as a security officer. An armed guard license in Florida requires 28 hours of classroom training by a licensed instructor.

___

2:35 p.m.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch is cutting short a visit to Beijing for cybersecurity meetings with Chinese officials and returning to the United States to monitor developments in the nightclub shooting investigation.

Lynch says the Justice Department, including the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, is supporting the investigation.

She says in a statement that she's gotten updates from Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and FBI Director James Comey.

___

2:35 p.m.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel stands "shoulder to shoulder" with the United States after the shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando that killed 50 people and wounded dozens more.

Netanyahu said Sunday that "on behalf of the people and government of Israel, I extend our deepest condolences to the American people following last night's horrific attack on the LGBT community in Orlando."

He wished "heartfelt sympathies to the families of the victims" and "full and speedy recovery to the wounded."

The Orlando attack dominated news in Israel, which has seen a wave of Palestinian attacks in recent months. On Wednesday two Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded five others in Tel Aviv.

LGBT groups in Israel planned rallies and other support for the community in Orlando.

___

2:25 p.m.

Police departments across the country are increasing patrols near locations frequented by the LGBT community after a gunman killed 50 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

In Los Angeles, the mayor says a heavily armed person who was headed to a gay pride parade had been arrested by Santa Monica police. Mayor Eric Garcetti says the arrest was completely unrelated to the Orlando nightclub shooting.

Officer Ernesto Rodriguez of Miami Beach Police Department says the agency is saddened by the massacre and out of an abundance of caution will step up patrols. Boston Pride organizers plan to hold a moment of silence at this weekend's scheduled block parties to honor the Orlando victims and police there said there will be a heavier presence at those events.

The Baltimore Police Department says it is reaching out to the city's LBGT community to discuss concerns and safety after the Orlando massacre.

___

2:20 p.m.

President Barack Obama says the worst mass shooting in U.S. history is a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get a weapon that allows them to shoot people in a school, in a house of worship, a movie theater or a gay nightclub.

Speaking from the White House, Obama says the United States has to decide if that is the "country we want to be." He says that doing nothing is a decision as well.

The shooting has thrust the topic of gun control back into focus as a presidential election nears.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has called for expanding background checks to sales at gun shows and online purchases, and for reinstating a ban on assault weapons. Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump has said the existing background check system should be fixed, not expanded, and that assault-weapons bans do not work.

___

2:15 p.m.

President Barack Obama has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff at the White House and federal buildings until sunset Thursday "as a mark of respect for victims of the act of hatred and terror" at a gay Florida nightclub.

He's also directing the same observance at embassies and other U.S. government facilities abroad.

Obama addressed the nation Sunday, calling the shooting "an act of terror" and an "act of hate."

Fifty were killed, including the shooter, and 53 more hospitalized.

___

2:15 p.m.

Donald Trump isn't pausing his political commentary for the biggest mass shooting in U.S. history unfolding in Florida.

It was unclear whether the shooter who killed at least 50 people in an Orlando, Florida, nightclub was associated with a radical religious organization. President Barack Obama addressed the nation, calling the shooting "an act of terror" and an "act of hate."

Trump tweeted as Obama began speaking: "Is President Obama going to finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism? If he doesn't he should immediately resign in disgrace!"

A law enforcement official tells The Associated Press that the shooter in the massacre at a gay Florida nightclub was known to the FBI before the incident and had been looked at by agents within the last few years.

The official spoke to The Associated Press Sunday about the shooting, the deadliest in U.S. history. The official was not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and on spoke on condition of anonymity.

- AP Writer Eric Tucker in Washington

___

2:05 p.m.

President Barack Obama says the nightclub shooting in Orlando was an "act of terror" and an "act of hate."

He said Sunday that the FBI is investigating it as an act of terrorism and that no effort will be spared to determine whether the shooter was affiliated with terrorist groups.

Obama is speaking at the White House after 50 people were killed overnight at a nightclub in Florida. Officials have said 53 more are hospitalized.

Obama is noting that the killer targeted a gay nightclub. He says it's a "sobering reminder" that an attack on any American is an attack "on all of us."

___

2 p.m.

A bartender who was working at the Orlando nightclub when a gunman opened fire and killed 50 people and wounded about 50 others says at first she thought the gunshots were music.

But after a second shot there was a pause, and then more shots and Tiffany Johnson realized something was wrong.

Johnson says people dropped to the ground and started running out of the Pulse nightclub early Sunday morning. She ran to a fast-food restaurant across the street and met one of her customers who let her get in his car and they drove away.

Johnson says her first instinct was to get somewhere safe.

___

2 p.m.

Sunday evening's Tony Awards have been dedicated to those affected by the Orlando nightclub shooting that killed at least 50 people.

In a statement Sunday, the Tony Awards said "our hearts are heavy for the unimaginable tragedy." The awards, it said, will be dedicated to the friends and family of those affected by the most deadly mass shooting in U.S. history.

Organizers didn't say how the evening's broadcast would be affected. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the star and creator of "Hamilton" - expected to be the night's big winner - tweeted a rainbow-colored heart with "Orlando" written beneath it.

The Tonys are to be hosted by late-night host James Corden.

___

1:40 p.m.

The Vatican says Pope Francis is expressing the "deepest feelings of horror and condemnation" over a massacre at a gay Florida nightclub that killed at least 50 people.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi says the pontiff denounces the "homicidal folly and senseless hatred."

He added that Francis joins the families of victims and injured in the Sunday massacre in "prayer and compassion."

___

1:35 p.m.

A law enforcement official says the shooter in the massacre at a gay Florida nightclub was known to the FBI before the incident and had been looked at by agents within the last few years.

The official spoke to The Associated Press Sunday about the shooting, the deadliest in U.S. history. The official was not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and on spoke on condition of anonymity.

The shooter has been identified as Omar Mateen of Florida. The official says the matter for which Mateen came under investigation was "open and closed pretty quickly."

Other details about the matter weren't immediately available.

-AP reporter Eric Tucker in Washington

___

1:20 p.m.

Hundreds of people in Orlando have lined up to give blood to help the victims of the massacre at a gay nightclub.

Officials at OneBlood say they have received such an overwhelming response that they are now asking donors to come back over the next several days. More than 50 people were injured and 50 were killed when a gunman opened fire inside a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning.

In the hours after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, officials urged people to donate blood to help the victims.

In December, the nation's three-decade-old ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men was formally lifted, but there are still major restrictions to limit who can give blood. The Food and Drug Administration said it replaced the lifetime ban with a new policy barring donations from men who have had sex with a man in the previous year.

___

12:45 p.m.

The ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee says law enforcement officials and the intelligence community are checking to see what information they had on the shooter prior to the massacre at a gay Florida nightclub.

Rep. Adam Schiff called the attack "painfully reminiscent" of the November shootings at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris.

He says in a statement, "This morning, I will be marching in the West Hollywood Pride Parade with a heavy heart, but we will march in solidarity with all those who are the victims of terrorism and hatred."

___

12:30 p.m.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is calling the shooting at a gay Orlando nightclub "heartwrenching" and says first responders who went into the building knowing there was an active shooter are heroic.

He spoke Sunday afternoon at a news conference, hours after 50 people were killed. Officials have said 53 more are hospitalized.

Scott urged people to donate blood. He says officials are doing everything they can.

He says: "This is clearly an act of terrorism. It's sickening. It should make every American angry."

Officials have said they're investigating whether the incident was an act of terrorism.

___

12:25 p.m.

Law enforcement officials are beefing up security for a LGBT pride festival in Washington, D.C., after a deadly shooting at a gay club in Orlando.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a statement that she has been briefed by police Chief Cathy Lanier about increased security measures ahead of Sunday's Capital Pride Festival.

DC Police tweeted that festivalgoers should expect extra police presence Sunday.

Bowser said Washingtonians "will not be deterred by hate as we gather to celebrate love."

Festival organizers said that there will be moment of silence for the victims of the Florida shooting at 1 p.m.

Officials said the shooting at the Orlando nightclub left at least 50 people dead, making it the worst mass shooting in American history.

___

Noon

A SWAT truck and a bomb disposal unit are on the scene of an address associated with the man named as the shooter in a massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

There is a media staging area set up about a block away from the apartment complex in a residential neighborhood in Fort Pierce, Florida, on Sunday. The shooter has been identified Omar Mateen.

Fort Pierce is about 118 miles southeast of Orlando. The apartment complex is a series of two-story buildings.

Numerous police officers and members of the FBI also area there.

___

11:45 a.m.

The father of the man named as the shooter in a massacre at a gay Florida nightclub says he's in shock and that he wasn't aware of anything his son might have been planning.

Mir Seddique is the father of Omar Mateen of Port St. Lucie, Florida. Seddique told NBC News that his son got angry when he saw two men kissing in Miami a couple of months ago and thinks that may be related to the shooting.

Seddique says: "We are saying we are apologizing for the whole incident. ... We are in shock like the whole country."

The father also says the incident has nothing to do with religion.

Officials say the shooter was among the 50 killed, and that they're investigating whether the incident was an act of terrorism.

___

11:45 a.m.

Many are still awaiting word on whether their loved ones are among the 50 killed and 53 hospitalized in a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Thirty-two-year-old Christopher Leinonen was at the popular Pulse club and is missing. That's according to his mother, Christine Leinonen. She drove to Orlando at 4 a.m. She hasn't heard from her son and fears the worst. She was standing in front of an Orlando hospital just down the street from Pulse.

She says: "These are nonsensical killings of our children. They're killing our babies!"

She said her son's friend made it out alive by hiding in the bathroom and running out as bullets were flying.

Also, on Sunday morning Facebook added a "Facebook Safety Check" for people to find out whether friends and family have tagged themselves as safe. The social network is using the heading "The Shooting in Orlando, Florida."

It is Facebook's way of allowing its users who live near the scene of a major crisis to notify people that they're OK.

__

11:20 a.m.

Families and friends are awaiting word outside an Orlando hospital to learn whether their loved ones are among 50 killed and 53 more hospitalized at a shooting at a gay nightclub.

About 50 people were gathered outside Orlando Regional Medical Center on Sunday, many in tears and anxious.

Fatriana Evans frequents the Pulse nightclub and was outside when shots were fired.

Evans says, "It sounded like fireworks - pop, pop, pop - and then everybody scatters."

Jackie Smith was inside the club and says two friends next to her were shot. She says she hasn't gotten updates on their conditions. She came out of the hospital and burst into tears in the arms of friends.

She says: "Some guy walked in and started shooting everybody. He had an automatic rifle, so nobody stood a chance. I just tried to get out of there."

___

11 a.m.

Police say the shooter at an Orlando nightclub used an AR-15-type assault rifle on all the victims.

Officials say 50 were killed at the popular gay club. That makes it the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Police Chief John Mina said at a Sunday news conference that the shooter used the assault rifle, with unknown rounds, and also had a handgun.

Officials at the news conference also say they have securing the suspect's vehicle, a van, right outside the club.

The shooter has been identified as Omar Mateen of Port St. Lucie, Florida. Officials have said they're investigating whether the massacre was an act of terrorism.

Dr. Mike Cheatham is a trauma surgeon at Orlando Regional Medical Center, where 46 patients were taken. The majority are in critical condition.

He tells The Associated Press, "I think we will see the death toll rise."

___

10:50 a.m.

The massacre at an Orlando nightclub that claimed 50 lives is the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

Police Chief John Mina confirmed at a news conference Sunday morning that 50 people were killed, up from 20 as earlier reported.

Mayor Buddy Dyer says 53 more are hospitalized after the early Sunday incident. He says the shooter is among the dead. He also says the shooter used an assault rifle on all those dead. Officials say one officer was shot, and has injuries to his face.

Earlier, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson identified the shooter as Omar Mateen of Port St. Lucie, Florida. He cited law enforcement officials in speaking to reporters.

Officials also have said they're investigating whether the incident was an act of terrorism.

___

10:30 a.m.

The mayor of Orlando says there were 50 casualties and there are 53 more hospitalized after a mass shooting at a popular gay nightclub there.

"There's blood everywhere," Mayor Buddy Dyer said Sunday at a news conference, hours after the shooting.

He says the shooter used an assault rifle on all those killed.

Earlier, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson identified the shooter as Omar Mateen of Port St. Lucie, Florida. He cited law enforcement officials in speaking to reporters.

___

10:20 a.m.

The suspect in the mass shooting at night club in Florida has been identified as Omar Mateen of Port St. Lucie, Florida.

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson identified the shooter in the Sunday incident. He cited law enforcement officials in speaking to reporters.

A federal law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation also identified him. The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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

- Eric Tucker in Washington contributed.

___

10:15 a.m.

Florida's governor is headed to Orlando after a shooting at a gay nightclub there left about 20 dead and 42 wounded.

Gov. Rick Scott says in a statement Sunday, hours after the incident, that thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.

The statement says he'll meet with law enforcement and local officials in Orlando.

Scott says: "We will devote every resource available to assist with the shooting in Orlando. Our state emergency operations center is also monitoring this tragic incident."

His statement also thanks the first responders.

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

___

9:45 a.m.

President Barack Obama has been briefed by his homeland security and counterterrorism adviser about the shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando that left about 20 people dead and 42 wounded.

The White House said Sunday, several hours after the incident, that Obama has been briefed and has asked for regular updates as the FBI and other federal officials work with Orlando police on the case.

Press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement that the president has directed federal officials to provide "any necessary assistance to pursue the investigation and support the community."

___

7:25 a.m.

Police say approximately 20 people have been killed inside a Florida nightclub, and at least 42 were wounded.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina says authorities have not determined an exact number of people killed, but that "approximately 20" have died.

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

Mina says the shooter was armed with an assault-type rifle, a handgun and some type of suspicious device. Police had said previously on Twitter that there was a "controlled explosion" at the scene of the shooting at Pulse Orlando, a popular gay dance club. Mina says that noise was caused by a device intended to distract the shooter.

___

7:15 a.m.

Police say multiple people have been killed inside a Florida nightclub, and at least 42 wounded people have been taken to hospitals.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina did not immediately provide an exact number of how many people were killed. Police had said previously that the shooting was a "mass casualty situation."

Mina says the shooter was armed with an assault-type rifle, a handgun and some type of device. Police had said previously on Twitter that there was a "controlled explosion" at the scene of the shooting at Pulse Orlando.

Mina also says the suspect had exchanged gunshots with an officer working at the club, then went back inside and took hostages around 2 a.m. About three hours later, a SWAT team made the decision to go inside and rescue the hostages. The shooter died in a gunfight with those officers.

___

5:55 a.m.

Police say the person who opened fire inside a popular Florida nightclub is dead.

Orlando Police did not immediately provide further details on the department's official Twitter account on Sunday. It was not immediately clear how the shooter died. Police described the shooting as a "mass casualty situation" and said local, state and federal agencies were involved in the investigation.

It was not immediately clear how many people were wounded in the shooting, or if any of the victims had died. Police have told people to stay away from the area and said a noise in the vicinity was a "controlled explosion." No further details were provided on the explosion.

Dozens of emergency vehicles have swarmed the area around the club.

The club, Pulse Orlando, earlier posted on its own Facebook page just after 2 a.m.: "Everyone get out of pulse and keep running."

___

5:15 a.m.

Police say a loud noise near the scene of a reported shooting at a nightclub in Florida was a "controlled explosion."

Orlando Police said on the department's official Twitter account Sunday that media should avoid "reporting inaccuracies." No further details were immediately provided about the explosion.

Police have said "multiple injuries" were reported following the incident at the Pulse Orlando nightclub near Orange and Kaley avenue. The department also advised people to stay away from area.

Multiple emergency vehicles have reportedly responded, including the Orlando Fire Department's bomb squad and hazardous material team.

Pulse Orlando earlier posted on its own Facebook page just after 2 a.m.: "Everyone get out of pulse and keep running."

___

4:50 a.m.

Orlando Police say they are responding to a shooting at a nightclub in Florida.

A post on the department's official Twitter account early Sunday morning says "multiple injuries" have been reported following the incident at the Pulse Orlando nightclub near Orange and Kaley avenue. The department also advises people to stay away from area.

Multiple emergency vehicles have reportedly responded, including the Orlando Fire Department's bomb squad and hazardous material team.

Pulse Orlando earlier posted on its own Facebook page: "Everyone get out of pulse and keep running."

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."

___

This story has been corrected to show that information about shooting being investigated as act of terrorism came from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, not the FBI.



ORIGINAL STORY
ORLANDO, FL (WSAZ) -- Approximately 50 people are dead and at least 53 hurt after a gunman opened fire and took hostages at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, early Sunday morning, Orlando Police said.

Officials said a hostage situation developed after the gunman stormed the Pulse Nightclub about 2 a.m.

The shooter was identified by several law enforcement sources as Omar Mateen.

He was shot dead about three hours later when a SWAT team entered the club, police said.

The law enforcement sources told NBC News that Mateen was born in New York in 1986 and was listed as living at a residence in Port St. Lucie, about 125 miles south of Orlando.

The incident is being investigated as an act of terrorism, officials said.

Orlando Police officers directed family members away from the shooting scene at Pulse nightclub.

"We don't want to give you an exact figure," Orlando Police Chief John Mina said during a news conference. He said 42 people had been hospitalized.

Mina said a uniformed officer working extra duty exchanged gunfire with the shooter, who was armed with an assault-type rifle, a handgun and some type of suspicious device.

"The officer engaged in a gun battle with that suspect. The suspect at some point went back inside the club and more shots were fired. This did turn into a hostage situation," Mina said.

Officials made the decision "to go in on a rescue" just after 5 a.m. Mina said, adding that an officer was injured after being shot in the head.

"It appears his helmet saved his life," he said. "So he has an injury to his eye, but it looks like the bullet did hit his helmet."

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said the incident "could definitely be classified as domestic terrorism."

However, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent in Charge Danny Banks said authorities were also investigating whether international terror was involved, and if the shooter was a lone wolf.

Police had previously reported on Twitter that there was a "controlled explosion" at the scene of the shooting. Mina later clarified that the noise was caused by a device intended to distract the shooter.

Revelers described scenes of horror inside the club. One witness told MSNBC that they had to crawl over bodies to escape.

A post to the club's Facebook page at around 2 a.m. warned "everyone get out of Pulse and keep running." Witness video from outside showed dozens of first responders at the scene, and several victims on the ground.

"It was tragic," club-goer Christopher Hansen said. "I wasn't sure if it was the music, because ... it went with the beat almost until you heard just too many shots."

"It was just like — bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang — and that's when you just know chaos is just, it was in turmoil," he added.

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 told The Associated Press. "That was the last conversation."

Witness Anthony Torres posted to Facebook that he and his friends made it out of the club "just barely as we started to hear fire being shot."

"They are just pulling people out in stretchers loading them up," he said, referring to first responders. "Omg please god let everyone make it."

Emergency services respond to the shooting.

"People are screaming that people are dead," Torres wrote in another post.

The shooting at the nightclub comes during a series of national celebrations that mark LGBT pride month.

"As soon as we have any information we will update everyone," the club later posted to Facebook. "Please keep everyone in your prayers as we work through this tragic event. Thank you for your thoughts and love."

Click on the link for the latest updates.



 
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