Officials brief the media
Update: The death toll has now risen to 50 people. Read our latest report here.
Officials say that around 20 people were killed inside Pulse, the Orlando, Florida gay nightclub, by a lone gunman, in what they’ve described as an “act of terrorism”.
In a briefing by police and FBI officers, it was revealed that the horrific incident began at around 2 a.m. on Sunday.
The gunman first started shooting at revellers outside the nightclub. A police officer working as a security guard at the venue exchanged fire and reported the attack.
The suspect entered the busy nightclub and then began shooting at the around 350 partygoers inside. As panicked people fled from the scene, the gunman took dozens hostage and a stand-off ensued with the police.
Officers, who were in touch with people inside the venue, then decided to go in and “save the hostages”.
At around 5 a.m. they made an “explosive entry”, used an armoured vehicle to break down a wall and exchanged gunfire with the gunman, killing him.
Officials said that around 20 people had been killed inside the club, while about 30 hostages were rescued.
Approximately 42 people have been transported to hospital and are being treated for gunshot wounds.
An officer was injured in the eye, but not seriously; saved by his Kevlar helmet.
Speaking to the media, County Sheriff Jerry Demings confirmed that the authorities are classifying the attack as “a domestic terror incident”.
Following reports of the killer having a bomb, police said they had found some “devices” but were still assessing if these were real.
The gunman was described as not being from the area and being “organised”. Police said they are still investigating his motives.
They also confirmed that there was no connection to the nearby murder of singer Christina Grimmie by an apparently crazed fan on Friday night.
US based activist Melanie Nathan told Mambaonline that she was watching mothers on TV “waiting outside, crying, ‘I don’t know where my son is’.”
She added: “Hospitals are on lock-down so family can’t find loved ones. The bodies are still in the club.”