Sunday, June 12, 2016

Orlando Nightclub Shooting: Police Say Up to 20 Dead in Terrorist Incident
Police carry out controlled explosion at Pulse LGBT nightclub and confirm gunman killed after hostage situation

Kate Lyons
Sunday 12 June 2016 07.36 EDT

A suspected terrorist shooting at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando has left as many as 20 people dead, police have confirmed, adding that the attacker had been killed following a hostage situation at the club..

Shots were fired at the Pulse Club, in the early hours of Sunday. Staff at the venue posted on Facebook: “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running” and there were quickly reports on social media of an ongoing attack.

Orlando police said the shooting was being treated as “terrorist activity” and had resulted in mass casualties, urging people to stay away from the area. Local unconfirmed reports suggested as many as 20 people could have been injured in the attack, and video footage shared on social media showed a high police presence around the club.

Police confirmed that a number of people had been killed in the attack - in the “vicinity of 20” - but refused to give a toll. They added that 42 people had been taken to hospital and confirmed the gunman was armed with an assault rifle, handgun and “some kind of device”.

In a press conference on Sunday morning, an FBI spokesman said investigators believed the attacker may have had extremist beliefs, and would consider possible links to Isis, but cautioned they were pursuing multiple leads.

Authorities earlier said a controlled explosion had taken place inside the club, and urged media to avoid reporting inaccuracies.

One man who claimed he was inside the club said people were “screaming that people are dead”. “They are just pulling people out in stretchers loading them up,” he said. “Please god let everyone make it – tonight was supposed to be a fun night! One more minute and we would of been shot or worse.”

One witness told Sky News there had been more than 100 people inside the venue for the club’s Latin night when the gunman entered the building and began firing into the ceiling and into the crowd.

Richard Negroni said: “We just heard shots, it was less than a minute, it felt longer. There was a brief pause and we just ran. Everybody was just faces to the floor. I had someone over me, I really didn’t see [how many gunmen there were]. All I can tell you was the club was packed, there were over 100 people there, if the gunman came in through the front door people were injured or worse.”

Anthony Torres told Sky News he was outside the club when the shooting began and said he thought more than one person was involved in the attack. He believed the shooting lasted between 15 and 20 minutes.

In a Facebook post, Negroni wrote that the shooter opened fire at about 2am and “people on the dancefloor and bar got down on the floor”. He said some people near the bar and back exit managed to escape quickly.

There were reports on social media of people hiding in the club bathrooms and of being held hostage. Mina Justice told the Associated Press that her 30-year-old son Eddie, who was in the club when the attack took place, texted her asking her to call the police. Justice said Eddie had run into a bathroom to hide. He then texted her: “He’s coming.”

The next text said: ‘He has us, and he’s in here with us,’” she said. “That was the last conversation.”

Local news organisation Wesh reported that multiple a number of ambulances had been taken to the nearby hospital and people with injuries were being removed from the club. Many family members were still waiting to hear about the safety of their family members. Staff at the club posted a message on Facebook thanking people for their concern during the night’s “tragic event”.

“As soon as we have any information we will update everyone,” read the Facebook statement. “Please keep everyone in your prayers as we work through this tragic event. Thank you for your thoughts and love.”

The police are yet to issue a full statement, though a briefing will take place at 7am local time (12pm BST) with John Mina, chief of police, mayor Buddy Dyer, Orange County sheriff Jerry Demings and the FBI.

The attack comes just days after the fatal shooting of Voice contestant Christina Grimmie in Orlando, while she was signing autographs for fans after a show.

Kevin James Loibl has been named by police as the shooter in that incident and said the 26-year-old travelled to Orlando from his home in St Petersburg, Florida, about two hours’ drive away, with the intention of carrying out the crime. There is no known connection between Grimmie and Loibl.

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