In the early morning hours of June 12th 2016, a mass shooting occurred at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL that was hosting its weekly Latin Night.  The attack is the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in United States history.  Twenty-nine year-old Omar Mateen, an American born to parents of Afghan background has been identified as the shooter.  Armed with a Sig Sauer MCX .223-caliber rifle and a Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol, Mateen engaged in fire with a uniformed Orlando Police Department officer working extra duty, at 2:02am.

Mateen was able to enter the building and opened fire on unsuspecting patrons.  People ran for safety, hiding in bathrooms, under the bar or in dressing rooms.  The officer who engaged Mateen outside the nightclub was soon joined by two additional officers who also began firing at Mateen.  He then retreated farther into the nightclub and began to take patrons hostage.

There were an estimated 320 people inside the club that night and fifty people died, including the gunman, who was killed by Orlando police after a three-hour standoff.  An additional 53 people were injured.

At 2:09 a.m., several minutes after the gunfire started, the club posted on its Facebook page, “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running.” About 10 minutes later, Mateen placed a 9-1-1 call in which he mentioned the Boston Marathon bombers and made a reference to Moner Mohammad Abu Salha, who died in a suicide bombing in Syria in 2014.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Mateen made two other 9-1-1 calls during the shooting.  He also called News 13 of Orlando and texted his wife during the standoff.  Police hostage negotiators spoke with Mateen by telephone three times between 2:48 a.m. and 3:27 a.m.   At 4:21 a.m., eight of the hostages with police assistance removed an air conditioning unit from an exterior wall and escaped.

After a nearly 3 hour stand-off, Orlando police breached a wall of the building just 2 minutes after Mateen fired at hostages, killing one.  Mateen was killed and the remaining survivors were evacuated.

Officials have characterized the attack as an act of terrorism and a hate crime. FBI special agent Ron Hopper has called the attack both terrorism and a hate crime.   Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings classified the incident as domestic terrorism and authorities have said Mateen was organized and well-prepared for the attack.

Police and FBI are still trying to determine a motive to the shooting because Mateen’s calls to 911 record him pledging alliance with ISIS but there is no evidence that he is attack was influenced by anyone outside the country.  The shooting has been described as an example of soft target terrorism, which targets civilian locations that have minimal security.

 

Advertisements