Orlando Sees Worst Mass Shooting On U.S. Soil: What We Know Monday
(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
One day after a depraved attack on an Orlando, Fla., nightclub left 50 people dead and 53 more wounded, investigators are working to learn more about the man they say was the lone gunman in the case, Omar Mateen, who was killed at the scene.
Families and friends of people who were in the club have spent the past 24 hours trying to learn whether their loved ones survived, gathering in the street near the scene of the shooting. As of Monday morning, investigators said that 48 of the 49 victims have been identified, and that 24 families have been notified.
"All victims have now been removed from the scene, and the process of reconstructing the events with forensics techniques is now beginning, FBI special agent Paul Wysopal said at a morning news conference in Orlando.
Police say Mateen, who had come under FBI scrutiny at least twice over potential terrorist links, carried out the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history with guns he had legally purchased in recent days. Mateen also pledged his allegiance to ISIS in a 911 call, but officials say they haven't seen a direct link between the gunman and the terrorist group.
The attacks struck Pulse Orlando, a gay nightclub that had been throwing a Latin Night dance party. In a report for NPR, Eileen Holliday depicts it as a "a longtime staple in the gay community" that drew a wide-ranging audience.
We'll update this post as news emerges; here's a look at where things stand:
Timeline Of The Attack
The violence began in the early hours of Sunday, June 12. Drawing from the police summary given Monday morning:
Just after 2 a.m., an Orlando police officer who was in uniform and working at Pulse responded to shots fired. The officer exchanged fire with the attacker. More officers then came; a second gun battle ensued and the gunman retreated into a bathroom, according to Police Chief John Mina.
"Everyone get out of pulse and keep running," reads a message posted to the club's Facebook account at 2:09 a.m. But not everyone got out, and the attack became a hostage situation.
Circumstances then became relatively stable, Mina says, adding later that negotiators spoke to the gunman and that no gunfire was heard. Mateen was "cool and calm when he was making those phone calls to us," Mina says. But he adds the police were concerned the attacker may have had an explosive vest or another bomb.
At 5 a.m., police opted to force entry into the club by using an explosive to breach the exterior cinder-block wall of the bathroom where Mateen had holed up. The decision was made out of concern that a "further loss of life was imminent," Mina says.
At the time, Mateen was in a bathroom with 4-5 hostages, Mina says. He adds that another 12-15 people are believed to have been in an adjacent bathroom. But the explosive breach didn't penetrate completely, so an armored vehicle was also used to put a hole in the wall, and hostages began to emerge.
"The suspect came out of that hole himself," Mina said, and began firing at police. He was then killed.
Orlando police say 11 officers were involved in that part of the operation, which they say rescued 30 hostages.
The Investigation, and the Weapons
Police identified the gunman as Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, 29, of Fort Pierce, Florida. An American citizen, Mateen used an AR-15-style rifle and a handgun to carry out the attack, officials say.
An agent with the field office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says Mateen legally purchased the firearms, acquiring them in the past week.
The FBI's Wysopal said Monday that some 100 leads have been generated.
The ongoing criminal investigation is in the early stages, says U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley. He adds that other potential charges are possible, but officials don't currently believe there's an ongoing threat.
ATF agent Regina Lombardo says her agency traced the weapons and confirmed that their last purchaser was Mateen. She added that a third weapon, which was found in Mateen's vehicle, is still being traced.
Mateen was born in New York and worked as a security guard. He was married and had a son, 3, according to his father, who spoke to the media Sunday.
According to Tampa FBI Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Ronald Hopper, the FBI had investigated Mateen twice: In 2013, after he "made inflammatory comments to coworkers alleging possible terrorist ties" and in 2014 when the agency evaluated his possible ties to U.S. suicide bomber Moner Mohammad Abusalha.
As the Two-Way reported yesterday, FBI agents "determined the contact was 'minimal' and did not constitute a threat."
Federal officials who've been briefed on the attack have told NPR's Carrie Johnson that Mateen pledged his allegiance to ISIS in a 911 call before the attack.
Mateen's father has spoken publicly about the attack.
"We are saying we are apologizing for the whole incident," Seddique Mir Mateen told NBC News Sunday. "We weren't aware of any action he is taking. We are in shock like the whole country."
"This had nothing to do with religion," The elder Mateen added. But he also described recent incidents in which his son had been angered by seeing men kissing each other in Miami.
Mateen's ex-wife, Sitora Yusifiy, addressed the media in Boulder, Colorado, saying her former husband was mentally unstable and "would get mad out of nowhere." She says she left him with the help of her family, after he became physically abusive and controlling. Yusifiy also said Mateen had a history with steroids.
The city of Orlando is updating its public list of those killed in the attack, pending notification of next of kin. Most of the 49 clubgoers who lost their lives have not been named; of those who have, their ages run from 20-50 years old.
Orlando is operating a hotline for anyone who believes their friend of loved one was struck by the violence; the number is 407-246-4357.
NPR is working to provide information about those who lost their lives, on a page devoted to the victims.
Orlando residents and others lined up to donate blood Sunday. Dozens of vigils were planned for Sunday in Florida and beyond. Gay pride events in Washington D.C., included a remembrance. And in New York, the legendary Stonewall Inn held a vigil last night.
The shocking loss of life in Orlando was also mentioned several times during last night's Tony Awards ceremony, including one instance in which Lin-Manuel Miranda, the man behind the record-setting musical Hamilton, recited a sonnet in response to the attack.
Internationally, people in Belgium and Paris – two places that recently saw brutal attacks on civilians – paid their respects and showed their solidarity with Orlando. The Eiffel Tower will be lit in rainbow colors tonight.
Online, the WeAreOrlando site was set up to provide information about other events, as well as to promote a GoFundMe donation page that was set up by Equality Florida to help the victims and their families.
Both Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer have declared states of emergency over the attack.
On Sunday, President Obama said that "although it's still early in the investigation, we know enough to say this was an act of terror and an act of hate. As Americans, we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to defend our people."