What We Know So Far:
- At least 49 people were killed after a gunman stormed Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, around 2 a.m. on June 12.
- The shooter was Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, 29, of Port St. Lucie, Florida. He was armed with an assault rifle and handgun.
- Mateen called 911 while inside the club and pledged allegiance to ISIS. Transcripts of these calls were released on June 20 by the FBI.
- ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the FBI said there was no evidence Mateen was directed by a foreign group.
- Mateen's father has implied his son rejected same-sex couples. The FBI is investigating reports that he was a regular at Pulse, and a number of men have come forward to say they recognized Mateen from previous nights at there or from gay dating apps.
- Mateen's wife, Noor, reportedly told the FBI she tried to talk him out of an attack.
- The FBI interviewed Mateen in 2013 over "inflammatory comments" he made to co-workers and again in 2014 over his ties to an American suicide bomber.
Man claiming to be Omar Mateen's former lover says gunman wanted revenge
A man identified only as "Miguel" claimed in an interview Tuesday he was Omar Mateen's lover for two months, and that the gunman in the deadly Orlando shooting "had rage" against Puerto Ricans.
In an interview with Noticias Univision, the man told the Spanish-language newscast he had been questioned by the FBI, and gave agents information about when and where he met Mateen.
"We never took a picture together, but it wasn't because I didn't want to," he told Univision's Maria Elena Salinas. "One time we were in bed together and I took my phone to take a selfie and he grabbed my arm and told me not to do it because we weren't a couple."
Univision noted they have not been able to independently verify "Miguel's" story, but that the FBI did confirm officials have been questioning the man.
"I've spent about four days of hell because my phone won't stop ringing," he said about his contact with investigators.
The man, whose voice was disguised and appeared in a video interview with what appeared to be a mask and makeup, also said Mateen was attracted to Latinos but disliked Puerto Ricans.
In an accompanying article, Miguel reportedly told Salinas that Mateen didn't like Puerto Ricans because of an unprotected threesome he had with men he met at Pulse. One of the men, Mateen had told him, had HIV.
"He hated Puerto Rican gays because of the bad things they did to him," Miguel reportedly said.
Orlando shooter visited club hours before launching attack
Omar Mateen visited the Pulse nightclub in Orlando hours before returning with weapons to carry out the attack that left 49 people dead, multiple news outlets reported Tuesday.
Mateen paid an entry fee, got a wristband, and went inside the club hours before the shooting began, ABC News reported Tuesday.
Investigators believe Mateen may have been checking security before the attack, according to CNN.
The new details fill in some of the timeline gaps on what the gunman in the deadliest attack since 9/11 did on the day of the shooting.
Prior to visiting the club, Mateen reportedly went to work, and later stopped by his father's home. At some point afterward, Mateen made the two-hour drive from his home in Fort Pierce to Orlando.
According to CNN, Mateen's wife, Noor Salman, told investigators he left home angry and with a bag of guns.
Orlando police say Omar Mateen didn’t fire any shots for almost three hours
Officials on Monday said Omar Mateen, the gunman who killed 49 people in an attack on a gay Orlando nightclub on June 12, did not fire a shot for almost three hours after his initial rampage.
Authorities on Monday released transcripts of calls Mateen made to law enforcement during the massacre, creating the clearest official timeline yet of what occurred during the hours-long attack.
DOJ reverses course and releases uncensored 911 transcript
The Department of Justice and FBI on Monday afternoon reversed their decision to release a censored transcript of the 911 call Mateen made from Pulse nightclub, and instead released the full transcript.
"Unfortunately, the unreleased transcript that named the terrorist organizations and leaders have caused an unnecessary distraction from the hard work that the FBI and our law enforcement partners have already been doing to investigate this heinous crime," a DOJ spokesperson said.
Here is the uncensored transcript:
Orlando Dispatcher (OD): Emergency 911, this is being recorded. Omar Mateen (OM): In the name of God the Merciful, the beneficial [in Arabic]
OM: Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [in Arabic]. I let you know, I'm in Orlando and I did the shootings.
OD: What's your name?
OM: My name is I pledge of allegiance to [ISIS chief] Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of Islamic State.
OD: Ok, What's your name?
OM: I pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may God protect him [in Arabic], on behalf of the Islamic State.
OD: Alright, where are you at?
OM: In Orlando.
OD: Where in Orlando?
[End of call.]
House Speaker Paul Ryan criticizes decision to partially redact FBI transcript
FBI releases partial transcripts of 911 calls made by shooter
The FBI on Monday released partial transcripts of telephone calls Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen made during his rampage on June 12.
"Out of respect for the victims of this horrific tragedy, law enforcement will not be releasing audio of the shooter's 911 calls at this time, nor will law enforcement be releasing audio or transcripts of the calls made by victims at the Pulse nightclub during the incident," the FBI said in a statement.
Here is the full statement:
The following is based on Orlando Police Department (OPD) radio communication (times are approximate):
2:02 a.m.: OPD call transmitted multiple shots fired at Pulse nightclub. 2:04a.m.: Additional OPD officers arrived on scene. 2:08 a.m.: Officers from various law enforcement agencies made entrance to Pulse and engaged the shooter. 2:18 a.m.: OPD S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons & Tactics) initiated a full call-out. 2:35 a.m.: Shooter contacted a 911 operator from inside Pulse. The call lasted approximately 50 seconds, the details of which are set out below:
Orlando Police Dispatcher (OD) Shooter (OM)
OD: Emergency 911, this is being recorded. OM: In the name of God the Merciful, the beneficial [in Arabic] OD: What? OM: Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [in Arabic]. I let you know, I'm in Orlando and I did the shootings. OD: What's your name? OM: My name is I pledge of allegiance to [omitted]. OD: Ok, What's your name? OM: I pledge allegiance to [omitted] may God protect him [in Arabic], on behalf of [omitted]. OD: Alright, where are you at? OM: In Orlando. OD: Where in Orlando?
[End of call.]
Shortly thereafter, the shooter engaged in three conversations with OPD's Crisis Negotiation Team.)
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.
4:21 a.m.: OPD pulled an air conditioning unit out of a Pulse dressing room window for victims to evacuate.
(While the FBI will not be releasing transcripts of OPD communication with victims, significant information obtained from those victims allowed OPD to gain knowledge of the situation inside Pulse.)
4:29 a.m.: As victims were being rescued, they told OPD the shooter said he was going to put four vests with bombs on victims within 15 minutes.
(An immediate search of the shooter's vehicle on scene and inside Pulse ultimately revealed no vest or improvised explosive device.)
5:02 a.m.: OPD SWAT and OCSO Hazardous Device Team began to breach wall with explosive charge and armored vehicle to make entry. 5:14 a.m.: OPD radio communication stated that shots were fired. 5:15 a.m.: OPD radio communication stated that OPD engaged the suspect and the suspect was reported down.
Based on OPD radio communications, there were no reports of shots being fired inside Pulse between the initial exchange of gunfire between responding officers and shooter, and the time of the final breach. During this time, the shooter communicated with an OPD 911 operator and an OPD crisis negotiator, and OPD radio communications reported that victims were being rescued.
The FBI urges the public to provide information about the shooter and any contact they may have had with him. Since the release of the FBI's Seeking Information poster, the FBI has received thousands of tips. The FBI will investigate every tip.
Orlando shooter joked about taking gun into a classroom
The gunman behind the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 wanted to be a correctional officer, but flunked out of the academy after falling asleep in class and making disturbing comments.
In April 2007, Omar Mateen joked with a classmate about bringing a gun to class, prompting a superior to recommend he be removed from the academy.
The Orlando gunman's failed attempt at becoming a correctional officer at Florida jails and prisons was detailed in a series of documents released Friday by the Florida Department of Corrections.
The records show Mateen wanted to be a correctional officer in 2007, but he was written several times for falling asleep in class.
In one incident, the young recruit dozed off at the gun range, while he and his team waited their turn.
In another incident, Mateen was written up for leaving the campus and not telling any of his superiors.
The most concerning incident, however, occurred on April19, 2007.
"While the class was given a 15 minute break, Omar Mateen approached me laughing saying that if he was to bring a gun to school would I tell anybody," one recruit wrote in a memo. "I looked at him and turned away."
Officials finally recommended that Mateen be dismissed. His superior noted that considering the Virginia Tech shooting had occurred just days earlier, "Mateen's inquiry about bringing a weapon to class is at best extremely disturbing."
FBI agents visit mosque attended by Orlando shooter
FBI agents are questioning people who may have had contact with the gunman behind the deadly Pulse nightclub shooting, including those who attended the same Fort Pierce mosque he frequented before the deadly shooting.
On Friday, agents visited the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce where they sat down with a person who previously had contact with Omar Mateen, BuzzFeed News has learned.
The interview was one in a series of meetings that have taken place at the request of the FBI, which has been trying to contact anyone who may have interacted with the gunman in the past, Omar Saleh, an attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations told BuzzFeed News.
"They've been happening all week and we expect them to come for weeks to come," he said.
Saleh would not specifically identify anyone who had been questioned by the FBI, but said some of the people that have sat down with agents in the last few days included people who attended the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, a mosque frequented by the shooter.
"They're just members who attended the mosque, and they may, or may not have had contact," he said. "These are people that agents believe may have had a link, any link (to the gunman). (Agents) are just trying to do their jobs."
Agents have contacted people at their homes and work, but Saleh said he has offered the mosque as a neutral location for the interviews to take place.
"The shooter went to the mosque, so we're prepared to sit for interviews with every single member if necessary," he said. "We just don't know who in particular they are looking for."
CAIR officials are urging members of the community to reach out to the FBI if they have any information about the shooter, Saleh said, but they are also recommending they have an attorney present when speaking with the FBI.
Saleh would not go into specifics over what has been asked or who has been questioned at the mosque in recent days, but he said the inquiries have centered on contact made with the shooter.
This is the second time the mosque has made headlines after an attack. The mosque was also attended by Moner Mohammad Abusalha, an American who became a suicide bomber in Syria.
Saleh said members of the Muslim community have been worried about possible backlash because of the shooting at the Pulse nightclub, but said leaders of the mosque are welcoming the community at large to attend if they have questions.
"Nothing that is coming out of (this mosque) is radical," Saleh said. "And the way we can prove that 100 percent is that we have an open door. These sermons are not hidden. Everyone is invited."
Alabama county commissioner refuses to lower flags to honor Orlando victims
A county commissioner in Alabama is refusing orders by President Obama and the state's governor to lower flags to half-staff in honor of the Orlando shooting victims, saying the massacre does not qualify as a valid circumstance for doing so.
Baldwin County Commissioner Tucker Dorsey defended his decision to local media and on Facebook, where he cited U.S. Flag code as part of his defense.
"Once again I have to copy this post regarding lowering the flags because another follower of Islam decided to shoot up a bunch of innocents in a place where they didn't have the chance to defend themselves or flee," Dorsey wrote. "When are we going to acknowledge the truth? When will we stop the PC and identify the enemy?"
Dorsey goes on to point out that the U.S. Flag code does not include a mass shooting or terrorist event as a reason for lowering half-staff.
Secondly and principally, our flag code specifies that 'no other flag shall be above the flag of the United States', and I characterize that as US citizens holding our head up with courage above all others. When the flag is at half-staff, our country's head is figuratively held low, and quite frankly, I am not willing to hang my head down because of a terrorist attack against our people and our allies. I am not willing to hang my head down because evil shoots up a church, school, or movie theater. We need more than a gesture as a response. I want us, as Americans, to stand tall, courageously, and fight back against the forces of evil, and let's fight like we intend to win.
Dorsey also refused orders to lower flags to half-staff after attacks at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Paris, and in San Bernardino.
FBI confirms it was contacted by gun shop about Orlando shooter in May
The FBI is confirming reports that employees of a Florida gun shop talked to agents about the Orlando shooter back in May, a month before the deadly shooting.
Employees with Lotus Gunworks, however, did not have any information for FBI agents to follow up on their tip, officials said in statement, including name, date of birth, phone number of e-mail address.
The owner of Lotus Gunworks in Jensen Beach has told reporters he notified the FBI after a man resembling Omar Mateen wanted to buy high-end body armor and ammunition.
Employees did not have the armor Mateen was seeking, and the owner said he became suspicious when he heard him speak in a foreign language.
On Friday, the FBI released a statement confirming they spoke with employees at the gun shop in May "on an unrelated investigative matter."
"Because the store did not carry that particular style of body armor, it referred this unknown individual elsewhere but was unable to collect any information about him, to include name, date of birth, charge card, telephonic information or e-mail address," the FBI read.
After the deadly shooting at Pulse, the gun shop again contacted the FBI to tell them the man who wanted to buy the armor looked like Mateen.
"Unfortunately, given the lack [of] information about this individual, FBI agents were unable to conduct any meaningful investigative follow up."
This Flight Crew Comforted An Orlando Shooting Victim's Grandmother
A JetBlue flight crew went the extra mile to comfort the grieving grandmother of Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, a 20-year-old victim of the Orlando shooting.
Read the rest here.
Largest LGBT rights group in U.S. endorses gun control reforms
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest LGBT civil rights organization, on Thursday officially endorsed stricter gun control measures as a way to better protect the LGBT community in the wake of the Orlando attack in which 49 people were killed and 53 injured.
The organization said easy access to deadly weapons had "compounded the threat" of bias-motivated violence against LGBT people, and called for restricting access to assault-style rifles, expanding background checks, and limiting the ability of suspected terrorists, and those with a history of domestic abuse, to acquire guns.
"Forty-nine members of our community were murdered on Sunday morning because of a toxic combination of two things: a deranged, unstable individual who had been conditioned to hate LGBTQ people, and easy access to military-style guns," HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. "It is imperative that we address both issues in order to mitigate safety risk to our community."
Orlando shooter wrote a letter for his former employer explaining a high school fight
A letter obtained by NBC's Today show revealed Omar Mateen's explanation to the Florida Department of Corrections for a fight he was involved with in high school.
According to school records, Mateen's third-grade teacher said he was "verbally rude, aggressive," with "much talk about sex and violence, obscenities."
In the fifth grade, his instructor called him oppositional, and said he lacked remorse.
Mateen was charged with battery when he was 14 after getting into a fight with another student at his high school.
In a letter first obtained by Today, Mateen explained the incident in 2006 to Florida Department of Corrections as a part of his job application.
He called it "an experience of me growing up, and I learned a big lesson from it."
Read the full letter here:
Letter of Exploration
On May 2001, I got into a fight with a fellow student in my math class at Martin County High School. After the fight occured [sic], the school resource officer released me to my parents. I did not get handcuffed and did not go to jail. The charge of battery was adjudicated and the charge of disturbing school function was dropped. It has been five years since the fight occured [sic] and I have not gotten in any altercations ending up in physical contact. This was an experience of me growing up and I learned a big lesson from it . I was 14 years old when this fight occured [sic].
Orlando mayor reminds public of care services to cope with tragedy
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer on Friday morning highlighted the social services available to people grieving after the Pulse nightclub shooting.
Two days ago, Dyer's office opened up Camping World Stadium, a massive sports venue in Orlando, to those looking to receive help. So far, 94 families and 256 individuals have visited the stadium.
He also offered free airline tickets to people wanting to reunite with their families, and announced 85 compensation claims for medical funeral expenses. One family received help from 27 different agencies for a funeral.
Families wishing to bury their loved ones in Orlando have the option of doing so at Greenwood Cemetery, the mayor said. A section of the space has been reserved for the victims.
"I will only attend a funeral if the family wants me to," he said. "These are private ceremonies."
Orange County Mental Health and Homeless Issues manager Donna Wyche stressed the importance of self-care when dealing with grief.
"Pay attention to how you're feeling," she said. "Reach out to people you love. Talk to your children about what has happened. Encourage them to understand the world they live in, and that they're safe."
"Get away from the television, get away from the radio, because sometimes you need to do that," she added.
Gay dating site asks members if they communicated with shooter
Gay dating site Adam4Adam is asking members who believe they were in contact with the Orlando shooter to reach out to the company so they can forward the information to authorities.
"Rumours (sic) are that he had an account on many gay apps including Adam4Adam and we would like to find that information to be able to give it to the Police," the company wrote on its Facebook page Wednesday. "We are looking for any piece of information as we speak."
On Wednesday gay hookup app Jack'd told BuzzFeed News that investigators had reached out to them because of reports that the shooter, Omar Mateen, may have used the service.
There have been other reports that said Mateen used Grindr, another gay dating app.
David Lesage, spokesman for Adam4Adam, told the Orlando Sentinal that the company was "looking at all users' profiles in Florida especially where he lived and Orlando as well."
Gunman and wife texted during nightclub attack
According to CNN, Mateen texted his wife around 4 a.m., as he was in a standoff with police two hours after he first began shooting inside Pulse. He asked if she had seen the news, CNN reported.
She also at one point texted that she loved him, CBS reported.
Multiple media outlets have reported that Salman is under investigation as authorities work to determine if she knew of or assisted in planning the attack.
Obama and Biden meet grieving families in Orlando, pay tribute to victims
President Obama on Thursday met with the grieving families of the Orlando shooting victims, telling reporters afterward that their grief was "beyond description."
"As you might have imagined, their grief is beyond description," Obama said. "Our hearts are broken too."
Obama landed in Orlando accompanied by Rep. Corrine Brown and Sen. Marco Rubio, both of Florida, shortly after noon. They were greeted by Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who presented the president with an "Orlando United" T-shirt.
From there, the president met privately with victims' families, as well as survivors at the Amway Center.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, who flew to Orlando separately, also met with Pulse Nightclub owners and staff and visited the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, which has served as a massive memorial site.
"It's a good time for us to reflect on how we treat each other," Obama said. "We have to end discrimination and violence against our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community."
The city, Obama said, had been "shaken by an evil, hateful act," but on Thursday, "most of all, there is love."
As he has down after prior pass shootings, Obama also called for lawmakers to get to work on passing substantive gun control measures to make it harder to obtain high powered weapons.
"Our politics have conspired to make it as easy as possible for a terrorist...to buy extraordinary powerful weapons and they can do so legally," he said.
Obama drew similarities between the Orlando shooter and the gunmen in Aurora, Colorado, and Newton, Connecticut, despite their different motives.
"Those who were killed and injured here were gunned down by a single killer with a powerful assault weapon," Obama said. "The motives of this killer may have been different than the mass shooters in Aurora and Newton, but the instruments of death were so similar."
While he acknowledged the work of some senators to pass stricter gun control laws, he implored Congress to do more.
"We can stop some tragedies. We can save some lives," Obama said. "If we don't act, we'll keep seeing more massacres like this."
Referring to the grieving families he had met with earlier in the day, "They don't care about politics," he added. "Neither do I. This debate needs to change."
Obama also pointed out that the perpetrators behind the Orlando and San Bernardino attacks were "homegrown."
"It's going to take more than our military, it's going to take more than just our intelligence teams," he said. "This debate needs to change and outgrow the old political stalemates."
CIA director: No known link between ISIS and Orlando shooter
CIA Director John Brennan told Congress Thursday that his agency has not found a direct link between ISIS and the Orlando shooter.
"We have not been able to uncover any direct link between that individual and a foreign terrorist organization," Brennan said while testifying in a rare open hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Omar Mateen, he added, was another in a string of "lone wolves" — inspired by ISIS propaganda, but acting on their own with no direct connection to the terror group or its leaders.
Law enforcement officials have previously said early there was no evidence that the attack carried out by Omar Mateen was ordered or directed by ISIS.
The rise in lone wolf attacks has highlighted challenges for the nation's intelligence apparatus, Brennan said, particularly as groups like ISIS harness the internet to spread propaganda and influence sympathizers.
"ISIL is attempting to inspire attacks by sympathizers who have no direct links to the group," Brennan said, using the government's preferred acronym for the group. "It really represents a serious challenge."
The CIA was also working closely with domestic intelligence agencies, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, to share information, Brennan said.
— Ali Watkins
President Obama to visit families of Orlando shooting victims
President Obama is scheduled to meet the families of the victims of the Orlando massacre on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.
Obama will also meet with survivors and thank first responders, EMTs, nurses, and surgeons who "heroically, courageously" disregarded their own safety to save lives, Earnest said, adding that it would be "an emotional trip."
Obama will then speak publicly "to make clear that the country stands with the people of Orlando, stands with the LGBT community in Orlando as they grieve for their loss," Earnest said.
Vice President Joe Biden is also scheduled to accompany Obama on the trip.
Grand jury to consider charges against Orlando shooter's wife, according to multiple reports
A federal grand jury is convening to consider whether the Orlando shooter's wife, Noor Salman, should face criminal charges related to the deadly mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub, according to multiple news sources.
Salman may have known that her now-deceased husband, Omar Mateen, was going to carry out an attack and failed to alert authorities, according to FOX News.
She reportedly told law enforcement investigators that she was with Mateen when he went to buy ammunition that he would use in the shooting that left 49 people dead. She also said she went with her husband at least one time to visit Pulse.
The couple reportedly had a 3-year-old son together.
A BuzzFeed News reporter witnessed three FBI agents leaving the house of Noor Mateen's family in the San Francisco suburb of Rodeo on Tuesday evening.
Orlando gunman pledged allegiance to ISIS on Facebook on day of attack
In a series of Facebook posts purportedly written by Omar Mateen on the day of the shooting that left 49 people dead, the gunman pledged his allegiance to the terrorist group ISIS.
"You kill innocent women and children by doing us airstrikes..now taste the Islamic state vengeance," Mateen wrote, according to a letter sent by the Senate Homeland Security Committee to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. "In the next few days you will see attacks from the Islamic State in the usa."
Committee chairman Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, is seeking more information from Facebook on Mateen's online activity, according to the letter, published by Fox News.
"America and Russia stop bombing the Islamic state..I pledge my alliance to abu bakr al Baghdadi..may Allah accept me," Mateen wrote in a posting.
Officials told ABC News four Facebook accounts associated with Mateen have been found.
In other posts, Mateen said, "The real muslims will never accept the filthy ways of the west" and "You kill innocent women and children by doing us airstrikes..now taste the Islamic state vengeance," according to Johnson, who added that Mateen also searched for Pulse Orlando and shooting.
FBI trying to fill in the timeline leading up to Orlando massacre
Federal officials on Wednesday declined to say whether the wife of Orlando mass shooter Omar Mateen would face charges as they asked the public for more help in filling in his past.
FBI Agent Ronald Hopper told reporters that authorities are "reconstructing the suspect's movements going back months, days, hours, and minutes leading up to the attack."
"I would call it a hate crime. I would call it terrorism. It's both," he said.
Asst. U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley also declined to address speculation that Mateen's wife, Noor Salman, could face charges for allegedly not divulging knowledge of a possible attack to authorities.
"I won't speculate on what charges might be brought in this case," he said. "It's premature to do so."
Meanwhile, the FBI issued a bulletin appealing for the public's help in tracking down more leads.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina also said that the officers involved in fatal shootout with Mateen early Sunday have been temporarily relieved of duty as a matter of protocol pending the outcome of the investigation. He also appealed for the media to respect their privacy, noting that the officers are not allowed to discuss the case.
Authorities contact gay hookup app regarding Orlando shooter
The gay hookup app Jack'd told BuzzFeed News that law enforcement contacted the company on Wednesday morning in relation to reports that Orlando shooter Omar Mateen may have used the service.
"Law enforcement authorities contacted Jack'd early this morning and we are working to assist them in any way that might prove helpful to the investigation. As this is an ongoing investigation, we can not make further comments at this time," Jack'd CEO Hector Camacho said in a statement.
On Tuesday, Camacho said, "We have looked into all information the media has provided to us and have been unable to substantiate that Omar Mateen had a profile on Jack'd."
Kevin West, a regular at Pulse, told the Los Angeles Times he exchanged messages with Mateen on the app.
Orlando shooter criticized BP oil spill clean up in documentary
Orlando shooter Omar Mateen appeared in The Big Fix, a 2012 documentary about the BP oil spill, his former employer, G4S confirmed to BuzzFeed News Wednesday.
Mateen had been stationed as a security guard at Pensacola, Florida, from July to October 2010 to assist with the oil spill cleanup process, according to a spokesperson for G4S, the security company where Mateen worked.
In the clip, Mateen goes on a rant about the cleanup process, telling the filmmaker, "No one gives a shit here."
He goes on to tell the filmmaker that "no one gives a shit here."
"Everyone's just out to get paid," Mateen says. "They're like hoping for more oil to come and more people to complain so they'll have jobs. Because once people get laid off here, it's going to suck for them. They want more disaster to happen because that's where their money-making is."
Autopsies of the people killed in Orlando mass shooting are completed
The autopsies for all 49 people killed in the Orlando massacre have been completed, officials said Wednesday.
Autopsy results, however, would not be made public due to ongoing investigations into the shooting, which also left 53 others injured overnight Sunday.
The City of Orlando Family Assistance Center will provide grief counseling, language translation, and guidance in requesting death certificates and making funeral arrangements, officials added.
"If any good comes out of this it's that we stand more united than ever in our understanding of each other," Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said.
The center opens at 10 a.m.
The FBI interviewed a local news producer who said he got a call from someone claiming to be Omar Mateen during the shooting.
Matthew Gentili, a producer at News 13, said he got a call at 2:45 a.m. early Sunday morning during the shooting from a man who said, "I'm the shooter. It's me. I am the shooter."
Gentili, who was interviewed by FBI agents, said the caller told him, "I did it for ISIS. I did it for the Islamic State."
Gentili said that when he asked the man where he was, the caller responded, "it was "none of my (expletive) business," News 13 reported.
The FBI did not confirm to News 13 whether the caller was Mateen, but the channel is reporting that the number matched one belonging to the shooter.
Father of Orlando shooter says he had no indication son was gay
The father of the Orlando gunman on Tuesday told reporters he doesn't believe his son was gay, addressing reports that Omar Mateen used a gay dating app and previously visited the club where Sunday's shooting took place.
"I didn't notice that he had that habit," Seddique Mateen told reporters huddled in his living room Tuesday. "I don't know if he was, if that's his way of life what can you do if he wanted to be, but I don't believe so."
Reporters asked about Mateen's sexual orientation after recent reports surfaced that he had used a gay dating app and previously visited Pulse, the gay Orlando nightclub where he opened fire.
Regulars of the club told the Orlando Sentinel Mateen had visited the club on prior occasions.
Another regular of the club told the Los Angeles Times he had messaged Mateen on the dating app Jack'd before the shooting.
Seddique Mateen also said Tuesday that his son had stopped by his home at about 3 p.m. Saturday, just hours before the shooting.
"I didn't notice anything different," he said. "Just say, 'Hello,' and I was busy, and (he) left like routine."
FBI agents seen at home of Orlando gunman's in-laws
A BuzzFeed News reporter witnessed three FBI agents leaving the house of Noor Mateen's family in the San Francisco suburb of Rodeo on Tuesday evening. Noor Mateen was married to the Orlando shooter, and reports swirled Tuesday evening questioning whether she knew of the attack.
One neighbor said the Rodeo home was inhabited by Noor Mateen's mother and her teenage daughter. The neighbor said the mother was estranged from Noor, who had only visited once, when her father died several years ago.
A second neighbor told BuzzFeed News he had spoken to Noor Mateen's mother the day after the attack and that she had been upset and crying. He also said Noor Mateen was estranged from her mother, who did not like her husband.
A third neighbor stopped by to drop off flowers. Several journalists who had been staking out the house for two days said the family had not been going outside.
New video calls on ISIS supporters to attack the West
A new video, released by an ISIS-linked propaganda network on Tuesday, praises the attack against a gay club in Orlando and makes the most explicit call to-date asking that ISIS followers wage attacks in the West: "Kill them wherever you find them."
The five-minute video, put out by an outlet called Al Battar, which is not an official ISIS media outlet but produced by sympathizers to the group, opens with a tribute to the gunman who killed 49 people in the weekend attack on the Pulse club.
The FBI confirmed that the Orlando shooter pledged allegiance to ISIS on a 911 phone call, but there is no evidence at this point to suggest ISIS directed the attack.
The second half of the video quotes various extremist clerics who have made arguments supporting attacks on the West.
"The smallest act you do in their lands is more beloved to us than the biggest act done here," the video says, quoting an old statement by Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, an ISIS leader. "It is more effective for us and more harmful to them."
Mosque just outside Orlando vandalized with "#stopthehate" spraypainted on building
A mosque just outside Orlando was vandalized Monday when the spraypainted hashtag "#stopthehate" was discovered on the building's exterior, authorities said.
The Seminole County Sheriff's Office responded to a call Monday afternoon after someone at the Husseini Islamic Center in Sanford noticed the graffiti, Kim Cannaday, an officer with the Sheriff's Office told BuzzFeed News.
"That is all we have to go on at this point, but we believe it happened after midnight," Cannaday added.
In March, local residents were angered when Dr. Farrokh Sekaleshfar, a Shi'a Islamic scholar, gave a talk at the center on women's issues — including a talk titled "How to deal with the phenomenon of homosexuality," according to a report by Orlando TV station WFTV.
U.S. officials concerned over intelligence gaps that failed to prevent Orlando attack
The rise of this ISIS-inspired terror — attacks that are committed by someone who pledges allegiance to the group and is inspired by online propaganda, but aren't directed by the group itself — has laid bare challenging pores in the domestic U.S. counterterror dragnet, which is often criticized for being too wide-reaching.
Somewhere, the system to catch potential attackers in the U.S. has a pinch point. Gun control advocates say it's at the gun shop counter. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and some of his supporters say it's at the borders, though Orlando shooter Omar Mateen, for one, was a native-born U.S. citizen. Some intelligence officials say it's in the interrogation room, or at the FBI's counterterror division, or in a loosely-patrolled cyberspace.
"We don't have a list of suspicious people. We may not like what he says, we may not like how he acts, but if the investigation ends and there are no federal findings…at this point, there is no investigation, so there are no more barriers [on the federal side]," one federal law enforcement official told BuzzFeed News, requesting anonymity as he wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly. "That appears to be what happened here."
Orlando victim says shooter told her black people "had suffered enough"
Patience Carter, who was shot in the Orlando attack, said that gunman Omar Mateen told her and other victims that he "did not have a problem with black people," that he thought they "had suffered enough," and he was "doing this to get America to stop bombing his country."
Minutes after Parker ordered an Uber to take her, a friend, and cousin back to a hotel, Omar Mateen opened fire into the club, killing 49 people and injuring 53.
"We went from having the time of our lives to the worst night of our lives in a matter of minutes," Carter said.
Though she said she didn't immediately register what was happening, Carter dropped to the ground and began crawling toward the door. However, after making it outside the nightclub, she realized her cousin was missing and rushed back in with her friend.
Orlando shooter removed from courthouse job because of "inflammatory comments"
St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said Omar Mateen was removed from his security job at the county courthouse because of "inflammatory comments" he made in 2013.
Mateen worked for security company G4S Secure Solutions USA Inc. as one of several security guards who rotated through the St. Lucie County Courthouse under contract, Mascara said in a statement.
"In early 2013, our staff was made aware of inflammatory comments made by Mateen," the sheriff said.
The company reassigned Mateen after a supervisor asked that he be removed from the court assignment.
"Our agency then made the appropriate notifications to inform our federal partners," Mascara said. "It was at this time that the FBI began an investigation into Mateen that was later deemed inconclusive."
Nearly half of Orlando shooting victims were Puerto Ricans
Nearly half the people killed in the Orlando mass shooting were Puerto Ricans, the island's justice secretary said Tuesday.
Secretary of Justice of Puerto Rico, César Miranda, said 23 of the 49 people who died in the attack at Pulse nightclub overnight Sunday either born on the U.S. mainland to Puerto Rican parents or had moved there.
"Faced with this loss, I have been forced to reflect on all the social problems that led to this massacre: intolerance about gender preferences, discrimination against Latin Americans in the United States, and broad access to weapons in that country," Miranda said in a statement. "That is why we must reaffirm our commitment to these three fronts in Puerto Rico and unite with our diaspora and the American people to continue taking steps toward equity."
President Obama lashes out at anti-Islam rhetoric
President Obama on Tuesday lashed out against anti-Islam rhetoric used in the wake of the Orlando massacre, saying it only does the terrorists' jobs for them.
Using the term "radical Islam" also does not change any strategy because U.S. officials "know who the enemy is," he added.
"So do the intelligence and law enforcement officers who've spent countless hours disrupting plots and protect all Americans, including politicians who tweet and appear on cable news shows," Obama said in a thinly-veiled reference to Donald Trump.
He also called the anti-Islam rhetoric a "political distraction."
Orlando shooting survivor recalls horror of chaotic scene
Angel Colon, who was shot during Sunday's assault at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, on Tuesday described the terrifying events after Omar Mateen open fire on the crowd.
Speaking to reporters at the Orlando Regional Medical Center, Colon said that just as he was saying goodbye to friends, he heard gunshots ring out in the nightclub.
"It just keeps going," he said.
Mateen entered the club around 2 a.m. and opened fire on the crowd with a handgun and AR-15 style assault rifle, killing 49 and injuring 53.
Colon and his friends grabbed each other's hands and ran, he was was shot in the leg three times and collapsed.
"I tried to get back up but everyone started running everywhere, I got trampled over and shattered the bones in my left leg as people ran over me," Colon said from a wheelchair. "All I could hear was the shotgun over and over and people yelling for help."
Orlando shooter's wife reportedly tried to talk him out of attack
The wife of Orlando shooter Omar Mateen tried to talk him out of an attack after driving him to the Pulse nightclub to scope it out, NBC reported Tuesday.
Noor Mateen reportedly told FBI agents that she was with her husband when he bought ammunition and a holster, NBC reported, citing officials familiar with the case, and also drove him to the nightclub to case it. Now, officials are reportedly considering possible charges against Noor related to not divulging what she knew prior to the attack.
Omar Mateen's father, Seddique Mateen, has said Monday that the family was totally unaware of any issues or plans for violence.
"We weren't aware of any action he is taking," he said. "We are in shock like the whole country."
BuzzFeed podcast discusses what we do and don't know about anti-LGBT violence in America.
In a special mini-episode of BuzzFeed's No One Knows Anything politics podcast, legal editor Chris Geidner talks about hate crimes, statistics, and helping police to identify crimes that single out the LGBT community in the wake of the deadly attack in Orlando.
Listen to the episode here.
Six Orlando shooting victims remain in critical condition
Doctors at the Orlando Regional Medical Center hospital on Tuesday said that of the 27 nightclub shooting patients still in their care, six are critically ill and five remain in "guarded" condition.
No patients have succumbed to their injuries since arriving at the hospital.
In total, the hospital saw 44 patients after a lone gunman opened fire inside the Pulse nightclub overnight Sunday, killing 49 people.
One of them, Angel Colon, described being shot multiple times and then playing dead as the shooting continued.
After the girl next to him was shot dead, Colon said he thought, "I'm next, I'm dead."
He also recalled the gunman taking aim at his head, but somehow missing, hitting his hip and hand instead.
Doctors who worked that night described the trauma center quickly being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of patients, many of them in critical condition.
"They were being dropped off in truckloads," Dr. Kathryn Bondani said.
The attending trauma surgeon on duty that night, Chadwick Smith, also described realizing that he would need all hands on deck.
"One came, then another came, then another came," he said. "The flow did not stop."
Paul Ryan says ban on Muslim visitors not in nation's interest
House Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday said he did not support a ban on Muslim's entering the U.S., despite the rhetoric coming from presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
"I do not think a Muslim ban is in our country's interests," Ryan told reporters. "I do not think it's reflective of our principles."
The U.S., he added, should stick to testing visitors based on security, not religion.
Photo shows Orlando officer who was shot in the head but saved by his helmet
A photo published online Monday shows the Orlando police officer who was saved by his Kevlar helmet from a bullet fired during the shooting at Pulse nightclub. Despite a wound on his forehead, Michael Napolitano is seen smiling in the image.
"He was hit in the Kevlar helmet with a round from the suspect," Police Chief John Mina told reporters. "The Kevlar helmet did stop that round but the officer does have some injuries to his face from that gunshot."
Napolitano and the 10 other officers who fired on the Orlando shooter are OK.
Thousands crowd streets near New York's Stonewall Inn in vigil for Orlando victims
Final victims identified in nightclub shooting
Orlando officials on Monday night identified the final victim of the shooting at Pulse nightclub.
In all, 49 men and women between the ages of 18 and 41 died in the massacre. Read their names and stories here.
President Obama will travel to Orlando on Thursday to pay respects to victims' families
President Barack Obama will visit Orlando on Thursday to pay his respects to the families of the victims of the deadliest mass shooting in the nation's history.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest released the following statement:
On Thursday, the President will travel to Orlando, Florida to pay his respects to victims' families, and to stand in solidarity with the community as they embark on their recovery. We will have more information on the President's trip in the coming days.
All wounded patients are expected to survive
Orlando Health announced Monday night that all of the patients still in its care were expected to survive.
Earlier in the day, hospital officials said five people were in grave condition at Orlando Regional Medical Center. A total of 44 people had received treatment; nine of them died, six were released home, and 29 remained in the hospital in various conditions as of 11:30 a.m. local time.
Other patients had been taken to Florida Hospital Orlando following the shooting. As of Monday morning, most had been sent home and those remaining were in fair condition, the L.A. Times reported.
Couple killed in shooting who hoped to marry will have joint funeral
The families of a couple killed Sunday in the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub said they will have a joint funeral instead of the wedding they had hoped for.
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22, and his boyfriend, Christopher "Drew" Leinonen, 32, were among the 49 people killed at the Pulse nightclub Sunday.
The Guerrero family told Time they hope to have a funeral where the couple can be buried side by side.
"If it's not a funeral, they were going to have a wedding together," Juan's 24-year-old sister Aryam said.
11 Orlando police officers who fired at the nightclub killer identified
The city of Orlando has released the names of the 11 police officers who fired on Omar Mateen, the gunman who killed 49 people Sunday at the Pulse nightclub. Their names are as follows:
- Officer working extra duty at Pulse: Officer Adam Gruler, member of OPD since 2001
- First Patrol Unit On Scene (Also a SWAT Member): Lieutenant Scott Smith, member of OPD since 1992
- First Patrol Unit On Scene (Also a SWAT Member): Sergeant Jeffrey Backhaus, member of OPD since 2004
- SWAT: Officer Timothy Stanley, member of OPD since 1998
- SWAT: Officer Kevin Easterling, member of OPD since 1994
- SWAT: Officer Andrew Bishop, member of OPD since 1994
- SWAT: Sergeant James Parker, member of OPD since 1991
- SWAT: Detective Raul Rivas, member of OPD since 1992
- SWAT: Lieutenant Jonathan Bigelow, member of OPD since 2001
- SWAT: Officer Ricardo Duenas, member of OPD since 2014
- Officer shot in the Kevlar helmet: Officer Michael Napolitano, member of OPD since 2012
Gunman previously spent time at gay club, reached out to men online, reports say
Several people said they recognized gunman Omar Mateen from previous nights at Pulse nightclub, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
"Sometimes he would go over in the corner and sit and drink by himself, and other times he would get so drunk he was loud and belligerent," Ty Smith told the Sentinel. Smith added Mateen spoke about his father, wife, and child.
The Associated Press on Tuesday reported that the FBI was investigating the reports.
Chris Callen, who performs at the club as Kristina McLaughlin, told the Canadian Press he'd seen Mateen at Pulse multiple times over the last three years.
Other men in Orlando also said they'd been contacted by Mateen in the past. Micah Bass, owner of another gay club in Orlando, told the New York Times Mateen had previously sent him a Facebook friend request.
Another man told MSNBC that Mateen had contacted him through a gay dating app, and other friends also recognized Mateen's photo from various apps. Two people had turned their phones over to the FBI, showing information from apps including Grindr, Adam4Adam, and Jack'd. The L.A. Times reported that one man said he had messaged on and off with Mateen on Jack'd for about a year.
Citing response to Orlando shooting, members of Congress call for FDA to allow more gay men to donate blood
Members of Congress on Monday called for blood donation to be opened up to more gay men, citing the great need in the aftermath of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
For years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned men who have sex with men from donating blood. In December, the FDA revised the recommended lifetime prohibition to ban only men who have had sex with a man in the last year. Still, U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley and Barbara Lee, along with Sen. Tammy Baldwin, said the ban is outdated and unscientific.
"We find it unacceptable that gay and bisexual men are banned from donating desperately needed blood in response to this tragedy," they said in a statement. "Blood donations are needed now more than ever, yet gay and bisexual men remain unable to donate blood due to an outdated and discriminatory FDA rule."
On Sunday, Orlando residents lined up to donate blood following the shooting massacre. Their letter called on the FDA to focus on individual risk factors to screen out donors.
"Given the enormous response by the citizens of Orlando, including members of the LGBT community, to donate blood to help heal their community, the FDA should lift this prejudicial ban once and for all," the lawmakers said.
Shooter may have scouted Disney World as possible target
Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen may have scouted Disney World as a possible attack target, law enforcement sources told multiple outlets.
The FBI is investigating a trip Mateen made to Disney World that one source told NBC News was "pre-operational," because Mateen had not yet made a plan for attack. The news was also reported by the Wall Street Journal, which cited two sources.
People magazine first reported the news, writing that Mateen and his wife visited the theme park in April.
Clinton: How We Respond To Orlando Says Something About America
CLEVELAND — Hillary Clinton planned to kick off her general election campaign here on Monday "under very different circumstances."—Ruby Cramer
"But today," she said, "is not a day for politics."
Instead, at her first event in a battleground state since becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee, Clinton scrapped a speech directed squarely at Donald Trump and spoke in somber and measured terms about the terrorist attack that left 49 dead late Saturday night at a gay nightclub in Orlando — a tragedy that marked the worst shooting in U.S. history.
The contrast, however, between the two candidates on Monday meant the speech may as well have been about Trump. "This is a moment when all Americans need to stand together," Clinton said, reading slowly from a pair of teleprompters. "No matter how many times we endure attacks like this, the horror never fades. The murder of innocent people breaks our hearts, tears at our sense of security, and makes us furious."
18 messages of support from the London vigil for Orlando
BuzzFeed News was at the London vigil for the victims of the Orlando massacre, and here are some messages attendees had for the world.
Among them: "We're here. We're queer. We will not live in fear," and, "When gay + trans lives are under attacks, stand up + fight back."
Gun store owner: "An evil person came in here"
The gun store owner who sold Omar Mateen the two weapons he used to kill 49 people told reporters Monday his business followed the law.
Ed Henson, the owner of the St. Lucie Shooting Center in Port St. Lucie, said Mateen's Sig Sauer AR-15-style assault rifle and Glock handgun were purchased in compliance with federal law.
"An evil person came in here and legally purchased two firearms from us," Henson said, "and if he hadn't purchased them from us I'm sure he would have got them from another gun store in the area."
The two weapons were purchased by Mateen approximately one week apart, with the second weapon bought about 7–10 days before Sunday's massacre, Henson said.
Mateen had a professional security guard license, as well as licenses to carry weapons, and passed a full background check, Henson said.
He refuted reports Mateen had sought to purchase body armor from his store, saying he didn't sell such equipment to begin with.
"Unfortunately, he's evil," Henson said. "We happen to be the gun store he picked. There's nothing else I can say. It's horrible."
Stories of heroic acts emerge in the aftermath of Orlando massacre
Amid the carnage of the Orlando shooting, stories of heroism have emerged as survivors rushed to help save others during the chaos.
Among them were Joshua McGill, Christopher Hansen, and Ray Rivera, who described their harrowing ordeals on social media.
Gunman once worked at Florida prison
Omar Mateen worked for the Florida Department of Corrections for about six months, officials told BuzzFeed News.
He worked at Martin Correctional Institution, a men's prison in Indiantown, Florida, from October 2006 to April 2007, officials said. More information about his employment was not immediately available.
WFTV reported that Mateen was training to be a corrections officer, but he was removed from the program after bringing a weapon to a correctional facility.
St. Lucie County Circuit Court releases Omar Mateen's mortgage documents.
According to the document, Mateen borrowed $76,000 in 2013.
BuzzFeed News’ U.K. LGBT Editor Patrick Strudwick is on Facebook Live in London talking to people at a crowded vigil about their thoughts on the Orlando attack:
Hillary Clinton: Someone being watched by the FBI "shouldn’t be able to go buy a gun with no questions asked."
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee called for stricter gun control measures — including a ban on assault rifles — during a campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio, Monday afternoon.
"We have our disagreements about gun safety regulations," Clinton said, "but we should all be able to agree...If the FBI is watching you for suspected terrorist links, you shouldn't be able to go buy a gun with no questions asked."
"If you're too dangerous to get on a plane, you are too dangerous to buy a gun in America."
Clinton went on to call for the closing of "loopholes" that enable people to buy guns online or at gun shows without getting the same criminal background checks required at retailers. She also reissued her call for a ban on assault rifles, such as the one used by Mateen to kill 49 people on Sunday.
"Weapons of war have no place on our streets."
Clinton also addressed anti-Muslim comments made by her presumed Republican presidential rival, Donald Trump, and other Republican politicians, saying that calling for bans on Muslim's ability to travel or surveillance of their neighborhoods "aids terrorists" in encouraging a climate of rage and hatred.
Actions such as these hurt "the majority of [American] Muslims who love freedom and hate terror," she said.
Watch Clinton's full speech here:
Apple CEO Tim Cook, speaking at a developer conference, discussed the "senseless, unconscionable act of terrorism and hate" in Orlando.
Orlando victim was snapchatting as gunshots rang out
Amanda Alvear, 25, was at Orlando's Pulse nightclub with friends early on Sunday morning when a gunman stormed the gay bar and opened fire.
The 25-year-old was among the 49 people killed in the hail of gunfire.
On Sunday, her friend Mykol Marte posted video to Facebook of the Snapchat Story Alvear uploaded before her death. (Warning: some may find the video disturbing)
A glimpse inside the backdoor of Mateen's apartment.
According to reporters at the scene, the FBI has concluded its search of Mateen's Port St. Lucie apartment and the backdoor has been left ajar.
A glimpse inside shows what appears to be an exercise weight laying on an otherwise tidy floor.
FBI Director James Comey says "there are strong indications of radicalization" in Orlando shooter.
Comey reiterated what president Obama said earlier today that there is no evidence 29-year-old Omar Mir Seddique Mateen was directed by ISIS or was part of a larger plot.
At a news conference, Comey laid out a timeline of Sunday morning's attack and detailed previous FBI investigations into Mateen.
Comey said Mateen made three phone calls to 911 from Pulse during the attack, around 2:30 a.m.
He first called and then hung up. Soon after he called back and spoke briefly with the 911 dispatcher, and then hung up. The dispatcher then called Mateen back and they spoke again.
"He said he was doing this for the leader of ISIL who he named and pledged loyalty to," Comey said, using an alternate name for ISIS. He added that he is refusing to use the shooter's name so he doesn't reward him with fame or glory.
Comey said Mateen also vowed loyalty to the Boston Marathon bombers — who were not inspired by ISIS — and that the FBI is looking into these contradictory statements.
"We're working hard to understand the killer, his motives, and his sources of information," Comey said.
The FBI director also provided additional information in the past FBI investigations into Mateen.
The first was launched in May 2013 after Mateen made inflammatory statements about terrorism to his coworkers.
He allegedly claimed he had family connections to both al-Qaeda and Hezbollah. He also told his coworkers that he hopes law enforcement raid his apartment and assault his wife and child so that he could "martyr himself."
Comey said FBI officials launched an investigation to determine any ties with terrorists.
Investigators recorded conversations, followed him and searched all government databases for any connections. They also interviewed Mateen twice, who admitted to making the statements but said he did it in anger because he thought his coworkers were teasing him for being Muslim.
After 10 months, the investigation was closed.
Then, in July 2014, Mateen again "surfaced in an indirect way," Comey said, when the FBI was investigating Moner Mohammad Abusalha an American terrorist and suicide bomber who died in 2014, because the two men attended the same mosque.
Ultimately, the investigation concluded that they knew each other casually and that there were no ties between the two.
Comey said that the investigation will look forward and backward, to determine if investigators missed anything in the previous investigations — though he said he thought the FBI did a thorough job.
"We will leave no stone unturned," he said. "We are looking for needles in a nationwide haystack...but also looking for pieces of hay that will one day become needles."
President Obama says Orlando shooter was inspired by extremist information on the internet.
There was also no clear evidence that the shooter, 29-year-old Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, was directed or part of a larger plot, the president told reporters Monday, adding that the incident is being treated as a terrorist investigation.
Obama spoke at the White House after getting briefed by FBI Director James Comey, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, and other officials, the Associated Press reported.
Obama said the attack appears to be similar to the shooting spree in San Bernardino, California, in which husband and wife Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik fatally shot 14 people and seriously injured scores more. Authorities believe they too were radicalized online.
Obama said the investigation into the shooter's motivations are still in the preliminary phase and that it appears he was "inspired by various extremist information that was disseminated over the internet."
The president said that this incident is an example of homegrown extremism that must be addressed.
"One of the biggest challenges we're going to have," Obama said, "is this type of propaganda and perversion of Islam that you see generated on the internet and the capacity for that to seep into the minds of troubled individuals … and seeing them, then, motivated to take actions against people here in the United States and elsewhere in the world that are tragic."
Obama also addressed the issue of purchasing guns, saying "we have to make sure it's not easy for someone who decides they want to harm people in this country to obtain weapons."
The president added that the fact that the shooting occurred at a club frequented by the LGBT community is relevant.
"It is a reminder that regardless of race, religion, faith, or sexual orientation, we're all Americans and we need to be looking after each other and protecting each other at all times," he said.
Six patients have been discharged and 29 remain hospitalized
Six trauma surgeons arrived at the hospital and were operating within one hour of the arrival of the first patient, Orlando Health tweeted.
Of the nine patients who succumbed to their injuries at the hospital, most "arrived with no vital sings or profoundly ill."
The number of operating rooms normally used were double Sunday and a pediatric surgeon was also called within 90 minutes of the incident. Several of the patients had multiple high-velocity gunshot wounds and were immediately transported to operating rooms.
"One thing that has struck me about this is the impact this has had on the families." Dr. Michael Cheatham, chief surgical quality officer tweeted.
A number of patients remain hospitalized while five are in grave condition.
The hospital tweeted that it was well-prepared because they simulate trauma situations weekly.
Orlando shooter's divorce papers detailing his finances are released
Divorce papers released by St. Lucie County Circuit Court show that Omar Mateen's 2009 marriage to Sitora Yusufiy was "irretrievably broken" in 2011.
The documents don't show what went wrong with the marriage, but a financial affidavit attached to the documents show Mateen earned $1,600 a month. He listed $980 in monthly expenses — including medical insurance and house bills.
The divorce was finalized in July 2011.
Part of the documents released by the court also includes Mateen's marriage license and a petition for a name change.
In 2006, he added "Mateen" to his name.
Orlando shooter Omar Mateen was investigated in 2014 for ties to Moner Mohammad Abusalha, the first suicide bomber from the U.S.
Mohammad Abusalha was the son of a Palestinian father and American mother who grew up in Florida. But in 2014, at the age of 22, Abusalha died in Syria after driving a truck packed with explosives into a government outpost and detonating the charge.
He had been fighting with a rebel group called Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda.
Shooter's father: "I don't know why he did what he did."
The Orlando shooter's father, Seddique Mir Mateen, spoke to reporters Monday, calling it a sad day for all Americans.
"I've been throughout my whole life against terrorism, against injustice," he said.
He also did not know why his son carried out the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, adding that had he known of his son's intentions, he would have called law enforcement himself.
"I'm very upset he did what he did," Seddique Mir Mateen said. "This is against the principles of me and my whole family."
Florida Gov. Rick Scott requested an emergency declaration from Obama "so that the full resources of the federal government can be made available for all those impacted by this horrific massacre."
Donald Trump to CNN: "If you had some guns in that club the night this took place...if you had guns on the other side, you wouldn't have had the same tragedy."
"I've been a pretty good prognosticator," Trump said, renewing his calls to stop Syrian refugees from the entering the country.
He also said that people born in the U.S. were being radicalized, saying, "We have thousands of people living in the U.S, who have the same kind of hate as [the shooter] had."
Trump also called for more surveillance and intelligence-gathering on mosques and Muslim communities in the U.S.
"Many people who knew [the shooter] felt he was a whack job...but they didn't report him," Trump said. "The Muslim people do not report such people."
In a video posted to Facebook, Mateen's father said "only God can punish homosexuality."
Seddique Mir Mateen posted a video to his Facebook page early Monday, expressing sadness and confusion over the actions of his son.
The video was translated by the New York Times.
"My son, Omar Mateen, was a very good boy, an educated boy, who had a child and a wife, very respectful of his parents," he said, according to the Times' translation.
Seddique Mir Mateen went on to say that he didn't know what prompted his son to take 49 lives and injure dozens of others early Sunday. "I did not know and did not understand that he has anger in his heart," he said.
"Only God can punish homosexuality," he said, adding that, "this is not an issue for humans to punish."
Hillary Clinton to CNN: "If we remember how we came together as one nation after 9/11, we should recapture that spirit as we face this challenge."
Clinton also called for the assault weapons ban to be reinstated, saying, "I believe strongly that common sense gun safety reform across our country would make a difference."
Clinton said that ISIS appeared to have "inspired" the terrorist attack. "We have to defend our country from the so-called lone wolves," she said.
"This is moment for Democrats, Republicans, Independents, all Americans to work together as one team. This is a time for statesmanship not partisanship. The American people deserve nothing else," Clinton said.
Responding to Donald Trump's comments that the war on terror was failing, Clinton said his "rhetoric is quite dangerous to our country."
The FBI is investigating other people who may be connected to the shooting, U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley said Monday. The people do not post a threat to the public.
Police Chief John Mina also went into great detail about how police responded to the attack, describing how officers decided to make a move.
"It became a crisis when we knew there was an imminent loss of life," he said.
The shooter was barricaded with about four or five hostages in a bathroom that was adjacent to another bathroom where 15 to 20 people were hiding.
Mina described him as "cool and calm" with authorities on the phone.
Orlando police officers and SWAT team members punctured a hole on the side of a wall to allow the hostages to escape. The shooter followed the stream of people coming through the wall.
As the shooter escaped, he engaged in another three gun fire battles with law enforcement, said Mina.
"I wasn't alone in making that decision," he said. "We all knew it was the right thing to do. I believe we prevented future loss of life and saved many lives."
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives traced two weapons found at the scene to the shooter. Authorities are still investigating the source of a third weapon found in his vehicle.
United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida Lee Bentley said other people are under investigation. But there are no known other threats.
"We don't know if anyone else will be charged in connection with this crime," he said, adding that "if anyone else was involved in this crime, they will be prosecuted."
Authorities have identified 48 out of 49 victims of the shooting. Officials are not including the shooter in the final count of victims. Twenty-four next of kin have been identified.
From France to Canada, vigils for the victims of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub were held across the world Sunday.
"We will never lose our trust in love, respect, and pride," one woman told BuzzFeed News at a vigil in Paris.
L.A. Pride parade marches on in solidarity after Orlando massacre
Rainbows, music, and cheers filled Santa Monica Boulevard on Sunday as Los Angeles turned out to celebrate pride — and stand defiantly with the victims of the attack on gay clubgoers in Orlando.
Event organizers had expected 400,000 people to attend the L.A. Pride festivities in West Hollywood over the weekend. But on Sunday morning, some attendees of the annual parade said they weren't sure what the mood of the event would be following the Orlando massacre.
On the parade route, though, the spirit of community proved to be infectious.
Hundreds gathered at Stonewall, the birthplace of LGBT rights, to mourn Orlando’s dead
Hundreds of New Yorkers gathered outside Manhattan's historic Stonewall Inn on Sunday evening for a vigil honoring the 50 people killed and 53 injured in the massacre that occurred at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, early Sunday morning — the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history.
"Pulse was not just a gay club, it was a place of solidarity," a man yelled from the top of a stoop next to the Stonewall Inn. Hundreds repeated his words back to him in unison.
Footage emerges of drag show inside Pulse nightclub before shooting
Spokeswoman: Rangel didn’t meet with father of the Orlando shooter
Seddique Mateen, the shooter's father, posted photos with a few congressmen on Facebook, among other political statements. A spokeswoman for Rep. Charles Rangel told BuzzFeed News the congressman stopped in a hallway after Mateen asked for a photo, but the two did not formally meet.
Former co-worker says shooter was angry, spoke of killing
A former co-worker of Omar Mateen described him as unstable and angry, adding he was not surprised that Mateen became violent.
"He talked about killing people all the time," Daniel Gilroy told the New York Times.
Gilroy and Mateen worked together as security guards, but Gilroy said he quit because of frequent harassing text messages from Mateen. Mateen was "unhinged and unstable," Gilroy told Florida Today, and made homophobic and racist comments.
Shooter would get "mad out of nowhere," ex-wife says
The shooter's ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, spoke at a press conference Sunday night in Boulder, Colorado, about the shooting, saying, "It shook me off the ground and it's going to take a while to process."
Yusufiy said her parents woke her Sunday morning to tell her the news and that she was "devastated" and "shocked" and "started crying."
She said she met Mateen online and that in the beginning he was a normal person, but after a few months "I saw he was bipolar" and he "would get mad out of nowhere." She also called Mateen "mentally ill" and said he had a history with steroids.
"When he would get in his tempers, he would express hate towards things, towards everything," she said.
Yusufiy said he would not allow her to talk with her family, but it was her family who eventually realized she was not OK and helped her escape.
"My family literally rescued me," Yusufiy said. "I left all my belongings."
The divorce took a year and a half because she lived in New Jersey while Mateen was in Florida, she said.
At the time they were together, Mateen had been pursuing a career as a police officer, Yusufiy said.
She said he believed he worked at a juvenile detention center in Fort Pierce, Florida, while he was trying to become a cop.
Yusufiy added that after she left Mateen, she "cut him off" and "blocked everything."
Host James Corden opened the Tony Awards on Sunday with a message from the theater community to those affected by the tragedy.
Earlier in the day, the cast of Hamilton announced they would not be using prop muskets in their performance in light of the shooting.
Sunday night's Tony Awards are dedicated to the victims of the Orlando shooting.
Guns in Orlando shooting were purchased legally
After conducting an urgent trace, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said on Sunday that the two guns used in the Orlando shooting had been purchased legally.
Officials added that Mateen bought the .223-caliber AR-style rifle and 9 mm semiautomatic handgun within the last several days.
The handgun and rifle were purchased from a gun dealership, and Mateen had nothing in his record that would have prevented a legal purchase.
Associated Press news footage shows aftermath of shooting
Orlando mayor: "We are dealing with a tragedy we never could have imagined"
Statement from Vice President Biden on mass shooting in Orlando
Last night, at least fifty innocent people gathering to celebrate love and life were brutally killed in an act of pure hate and unspeakable terror. Scores of others were injured in the attack. They were our brothers and our sisters; our friends, neighbors, and loved ones. In the coming days, we will learn more about these fifty souls and the lives they lived and the world they made better.
As the President made clear, we are closely monitoring and fully involved in the investigation of the country's worst mass shooting. We are grateful for the heroic actions of the Orlando Police, first responders—and many bystanders—who charged into danger and saved lives; who rushed the wounded to hospitals in ambulances, in police cars, in the backs of pickup trucks, and carried others to safety. As in the midst of so much evil, their acts are a reminder of the best in our common humanity.
Jill and I offer our prayers and deepest condolences for all those affected by today's horrific events. But our prayers are not enough to end these kinds of senseless mass shootings. The violence is not normal, and the targeting of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans is evil and abhorrent.
Our law enforcement and intelligence professionals are still gathering the facts, and we do not yet know what, if any, connection or inspiration there may be with terrorist organizations. But we do know this—we will never rest in our relentless campaign to bring to justice all who would do America harm. And even as we grieve and pursue justice, no act of terror—no despicable act of hate—can tear us asunder. Times of unspeakable tragedy and evil like this are the moments to remind the killers, and the world, of what is best in us, and what unites us.
May God give strength to the families, friends, and all those who grieve today, with broken hearts, but unbound resolve. And may God continue to watch over our great nation.
City officials are asking Orlando residents to hold off on vigils
Here are the victims that have been identified in the Orlando nightclub shooting
On Sunday afternoon, the city of Orlando began to release the names of the victims on its website. Here is what we know about them so far.
The first four people identified by authorities are: Edward Sotomayor Jr. (left), Stanley Almodovar III (right), Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, and Juan Ramon Guerrero. This post will be updated as we receive more information.
Here's everything we know about Omar Mir Seddique Mateen
The FBI investigated Mateen twice before Sunday's attack — once in 2013 and again in 2014 — for possible terrorist motivations and connections.
The FBI first became aware of Mateen in 2013 after he made "inflammatory" comments to co-workers, FBI Special Agent in Charge Ron Hopper said.
"The FBI thoroughly investigated the matter including interviews with witnesses, physical surveillance, and records checks. In the course of the investigation, Mateen was interviewed twice," Hopper said. "Ultimately we were unable to verify his comments and the investigation was closed."
Muslim community condemns shooting
Muslim communities across the country released statements Sunday condemning the tragic shooting.
"The LGBTQ community has stood side by side with the American Muslim community during challenging and difficult times," Executive Director of Muslim Advocates Farhana Khera said in a statement. "We stand together against hatred, violence, and demonization of entire communities.
"Today, we stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community. Your grief is our grief. Your outrage is our outrage. We are all one family."
Members of America's oldest Muslim Youth association released a statement applauding the "heroic efforts" of law enforcement officials who saved several lives.
"Such acts can never be justified in any shape and for any reason," Dr. Bilal Rana, national president of Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, said in a statement. "We urge all Americans to hold fast together against such violence and hate that seeks to divide and antagonize all of us."
The Council on American-Islamic Relations plans on holding a press conference with national and local leaders of the Muslim community Sunday to condemn the shooting.
"The Muslim community joins our fellow Americans in repudiating anyone or any group that would claim to justify or excuse such an appalling act of violence," CAIR Florida's Orlando Regional Coordinator Rasha Mubarak said in a statement.
Hillary Clinton's first event with the president has been postponed
City begins releasing names of victims
Orlando city officials have begun releasing the names of the victims.
The first four people identified by authorities are Edward Sotomayor Jr., Stanley Almodovar III (pictured), Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, and Juan Ramon Guerrero.
The names will become available at www.cityoforlando.net/blog/victims/ once the next of kin are contacted.
BuzzFeed News will continue to update with the list of victims as they are released.
World leaders react with shock to Orlando shooting
Queen Elizabeth II, French President François Hollande, and the NATO secretary general are among those who have offered their condolences.
FBI officially confirms Omar Mateen, 29, was nightclub shooter
The FBI special agent in charge of the investigation, Ron Hopper, confirmed Sunday afternoon that the shooter was Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, a 29-year-old Florida resident and American citizen who was born in New York.
Mateen was killed at the scene of the shooting in the gay Orlando nightclub, he added.
Hopper said they were first made aware of Mateen in 2013 when he made "inflammatory" comments to co-workers.
"The FBI thoroughly investigated the matter including interviews with witnesses, physical surveillance, and records checks. In the course of the investigation, Mateen was interviewed twice," Hopper said. "Ultimately we were unable to verify his comments and the investigation was closed."
The FBI opened a second investigation into the former security guard in 2014 when they suspected he had connections to Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, a known American terrorist and suicide bomber. They determined that that contact between them was minimal and "did not constitute a relationship."
Hopper added that Mateen legally purchased a handgun and a long gun in Florida in the past week.
The special agent also confirmed reports that Mateen called 911 and expressed allegiance to ISIS shortly before the shooting.
ISIS claims responsibility for Orlando shooting
ISIS has claimed responsibility for Sunday morning's Orlando gay nightclub shooting.
In a statement through Amaq, a news agency tied to the militant group, ISIS said the attack, which left more than 100 "homosexuals" dead and wounded, was carried out by one of its fighters.
Despite the claim of responsibility, the statement does not mean ISIS was expressly involved in the planning of the attack.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch addresses the shooting in a statement
President Obama offers condolences to LGBT community
President Barack Obama spoke Sunday from the White House, hours after the Orlando shooting.
He called the event a "brutal murder," a "horrific massacre," and an "act of terror and of hate." All federal resources have been made available to assist in the investigation into the attack, though he and the FBI have not yet reached any "definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer."
"What is clear is that he was a person filled with hatred," he added.
Obama gave his prayers and said the prayers of the American people were with those injured and the families of the victims, as well as the city of Orlando as a whole.
"This could have been any one of our communities," he said, adding that he spoke with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer earlier Sunday.
The president spent a significant portion of his statement giving his condolences to the U.S. LGBT community:
This is an especially heartbreaking day for all our friends — our fellow Americans — who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends to dance and to sing and to live. The place where they were attacked was more than a nightclub, it was a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness to speak their minds and advocate for their civil rights. So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American — regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation — is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country. And no act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that make us Americans.
The president said it was up to the U.S. to decide whether a country where men like the shooter are easily able to attain and use a firearm is "the kind of country we want to be."
"To actively do nothing is a decision as well," he said.
Obama mentioned a few of the most horrific mass shootings that have occurred during his presidency, including the shooting in Sandy Hook, the Aurora theater shooting, and last year's Charleston church shooting.
"We will not give in to fear or turn against each other," he concluded. "Instead, we will stand united, as Americans, to protect our people, and defend our nation, and to take action against those who threaten us."
Man with cache of weapons arrested en route to L.A. Pride parade
A man arrested in Santa Monica, California, with an assault rifle and ammunition, as well as possible explosives, told police he was in the area for the L.A. Pride festival.
Santa Monica police arrested the man after responding to a report of a suspected prowler. When officers spoke with the man, he told them he was waiting for a friend.
The officers then inspected his car and found several weapons, ammunition, as well as tannerite, which can be used to create a pipe bomb.
Politicians react to Orlando shooting
Donald Trump said he appreciates "the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism."
Mateen reportedly called 911 to pledge his allegiance to the leader of ISIS
Law enforcement officials told NBC that Mateen called 911 shortly before entering Pulse Nightclub and pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS.
CNN reported that Mateen also brought up the Tsarnaev brothers, responsible for the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
LGBT community reacts to Orlando slaughter
In the wake of the deadly shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, members of the LGBT community took to social media to express feelings of hope, anxiety, anger, and love.
As June is recognized as Pride Month, many people shared reasons why they are proud to be openly who they are, while others stressed how crucial pride still is to the community.
Texas lieutenant governor criticized for insensitive tweet
The lieutenant governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, sparked an outcry on Sunday by tweeting a Bible verse that some saw as contentious shortly after the nightclub shooting in Florida.
The tweet — which a spokesman for Patrick told local media was scheduled before the shooting — went out around 8 a.m. ET and cited Galatians 6:7.
A spokesman for Patrick told the Dallas Morning News that the offending tweet was scheduled and had nothing to do with the attack.
Shooter's ex-wife says he was abusive, violent
Suspected shooter Omar Mateen's ex wife told the Washington Post that Mateen beat her while they were married. "He was not a stable person," she said.
The unnamed ex-wife said she met Mateen online around eight years ago. She moved to Fort Pierce, Florida, in 2009 to marry him.
She left him after a few months later due to domestic violence, she said, but they were not divorced by law until 2011, court documents confirm.
She said his family was from Afghanistan and confirmed that Mateen was born in New York and later moved to Florida with his family.
Shortly after they were married, he became abusive, she said.
"He beat me," she said. "He would just come home and start beating me up because the laundry wasn't finished or something like that."
Her parents intervened when they learned Mateen had abused her, her father confirmed to the Washington Post.
Mateen's ex-wife said that, to her knowledge, he was not very religious while they were married. He worked out often, was a security guard at a nearby facility for juvenile delinquents, and had a small-caliber handgun.
The ex-wife identified him as the man in Myspace photos under his name.
"He was a very private person," she said.
Florida governor: "This is clearly an act of terrorism"
Florida Governor Rick Scott told reporters Sunday the Orlando gay nightclub shooting was "clearly an act of terrorism."
"You just can't imagine this would happen to our community or our state or anywhere in our country," he said. "For somebody to go in there and be an active shooter and take that number of lives is clearly an act of terror."
President Obama to speak from White House briefing room
Florida senator: Intelligence community believes shooter had ISIS links
Sen. Bill Nelson said he had been told by members of the intelligence community that "they believe there is some connection to ISIS" with the shooter.
Nelson cautioned, however, the information was not official. "This appears to be an act of terrorism," he said.
"We are going to have to dig down deep and ask ourselves who we are as a people," Nelson said, noting the Pulse club massacre came a night after singer Christina Grimmie was killed in the city.
Orlando cop wounded by shooter saved by helmet
One police officer involved in storming the nightclub was wounded in the assault, but was saved because he was wearing a Kevlar helmet.
"He was hit in the Kevlar helmet with a round from the suspect," Police Chief John Mina told reporters. "The Kevlar helmet did stop that round but the officer does have some injuries to his face from that gunshot."
Florida blood banks overwhelmed by people seeking to donate
People in Orlando were lining up outside blood banks to donate in the wake of the shooting at a gay nightclub on Sunday.
In the wake of the incident, the Orlando Regional Medical Center urged people on social media to donate blood at a local blood bank.
Many people answered the call, arriving in droves to prominent local blood bank One Blood.
However, the call for blood donations leaves out one group who desperately wants to help: gay men. Although the FDA ended an outright ban on gay men donating blood last year, gay men must be celibate for at least a year to donate.
Statement from Vice President Biden’s spokesperson:
The Vice President was briefed this morning by his national security advisor on the heinous attack that took place overnight at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Vice President Biden offered his prayers for all those killed and injured in the shooting and sends his condolences to all the families and loved ones of the victims. He is closely monitoring the situation and will continue to receive regular updates as we know more.
Shooter's father speaks of son's homophobia to NBC
The shooter's father, Mir Seddique, spoke by phone with NBC to "apologize for the whole incident."
"We are in shock like the whole country," he said. "This had nothing to do with religion."
The father told NBC his son became angry when he saw two men kissing in Miami a few months ago. He said he believed that might have spurred his son to attack the gay nightclub.
Death toll raised to 50, officials say
The death toll from the nightclub shooting was raised from 20 to 50, officials announced on Sunday morning.
The shooter was among the dead, police said. A further 53 people were taken to hospital.
"Today we're dealing with something we never imagined and is unimaginable," Orlando Mayor Buddy Deyer told reporters shortly after 10:15 a.m. ET. "Since the last update we have gotten better access to the building, we have cleared the building, and it is with great sadness that I share that we have not 20 but 50 casualties."
"Because of the scale of the crime I've asked the governor to declare a state of emergency," Deyer said.
"Our focus is going to be on identifying the victims and notifying the families," he said. "The identification may take some time."
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said the shooting had affected a large segment of the community. "We have a very close-knit LGBT community who have been dramatically affected by this," she said.
"When evil like this comes to our community we respond in force," she said.
Police Chief John Mina said the nightclub had been cleared and deemed safe. The suspect's van, parked outside Pulse, was still being searched.
FBI Agent Ron Hopper said the suspect had been identified and his family were being notified.
Hopper urged anyone who had attended the nightclub, including before the shooting occurred, to contact authorities.
Dr. Michael Cheatham, Chief Surgical Quality Officer for Orlando Regional Medical Center, said hospital staff had performed surgery on many "critically ill" people.
About 20 people were killed early Sunday in a shooting at Pulse nightclub, one of the largest gay clubs in Orlando, Florida. The shooter, armed with an assault rifle and handgun, took hostages before being killed by police.
Sheriff Jerry Demings said officers were “absolutely investigating this from all parties' perspectives as an act of terrorism.”
The gunman was identified by law enforcement sources as 29-year-old Omar Mateen from Port St. Lucie, Florida, according to multiple news outlets.
A relative told the Washington Post Mateen's family was in shock and "very sorry about what had happened."
Police remain at the club, where a robot is being used to survey the scene within the building. Police are also investigating a car parked near the club at a car wash.
Police first responded to the shooting just after 2 a.m. There were approximately 320 people in the club when the shooting began. At about 3 a.m., Pulse nightclub posted this message on their Facebook page:
At about 6 a.m. Orlando Police tweeted the shooter was dead inside the nightclub.
Witnesses were taken by bus to Orlando Police headquarters to be questioned.
Earlier, at about 5 a.m. an explosion was heard in the area but Orlando Police confirmed it was a controlled detonation by law enforcement.
Orlando Regional Medical Center confirmed they were on lockdown following the shooting. Arnold Palmer Hospital and Winnie Palmer Hospital were also initially placed on lockdown before that was lifted.
Speaking to WESH 2 News at the scene, this woman, Christine, told reporters her son was missing.
"I happened to get up at 3 a.m. in the morning and I looked at my phone and saw that my son's friend had posted on Facebook that there was a shooter and he couldn't find his friends," she said.
"So I called him and he said he couldn't find my son. My son is unaccounted for. I know his boyfriend was taken to hospital with multiple gunshots.
"My son went there with two other friends, and those friends happened to be in the bathroom when the shooting happened and they ran out, but my son's boyfriend is in hospital but I don't know if my son is shot or dead or in hospital."
Witness Javer Antonetti, 53, told the Sentinel he was at the club with his brother when the shooting began. “There were so many, at least 40,” he said. “I saw two guys and it was constant, like ‘pow, pow, pow,’” he said. He said he ran out of the club.
Mina Justice said she received a text message from her son, who was being held hostage in the club's bathrooms.
"The shooter has them in the women's bathroom, hostage, and he's going to die," she said.
"He said...people are hurt then he said, 'He has us and he's going to kill us.'"
Pulse calls itself as "not just another gay club." The club is a staunch supporter of the area's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.
Barbara Poma opened Pulse on Orange Avenue in Orlando with her friend and co-founder Ron Legler in 2004, USA Today reported.
The club hosts nightly themed performances as well as a monthly program of LGBT-related educational events. Saturday night was Latin night.
The White House issued the following statement on Sunday morning:
The President was briefed this morning by Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, on the tragic shooting in Orlando, Florida. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of the victims. The President asked to receive regular updates as the FBI, and other federal officials, work with the Orlando Police to gather more information, and directed that the federal government provide any assistance necessary to pursue the investigation and support the community.
"I've got 20 of our community members laying on the floor of a nightclub," Terry DeCarlo, executive director of the GLBT Community Center of Orlando said.
County fire officials said blood donations were urgently needed.
This is a developing news story. Check back for updates or follow BuzzFeed News on Twitter.