The shooter, identified as 29-year-old Omar Saddiqui Mateen, made a call to 911 while holed up in the club’s bathroom with several hostages after his initial attack. During that call with police negotiators he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
“There was an allegiance to the Islamic State,” Orlando Police Chief John Mina confirmed during a press conference on Monday morning.
“Based on the calls, he was cool and calm,” he said. “He really wasn’t asking for a lot. We were doing most of the asking.”
Contrary to earlier reports that Mateen was laughing during the phone call, the police chief said “there was no laughing as far as we are aware”.
After Mateen opened fire on some 300 patrons in the gay nightclub in the early hours of Sunday morning, a uniformed off-duty officer engaged in a shootout with the gunman near the club’s entrance until more officers arrived, Mr Mina said.
Additional police officers arrived at the scene and also began shooting at the suspect, which “forced him to stop shooting and retreat to the bathroom whe-re he had some hostages.” Between 15 to 20 people were trapped in an adjacent bathroom, police said.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina describes the details of the fatal shooting at the Pulse nightclub during a media briefing in Orlando, Florida.Source:AP
Authorities attempted to negotiate with Mateen, but as the negotiations unravelled, and with hostages still trapped inside, a decision was made to breach the wall of the club with an armoured vehicle.
“There was a timeline given and we believed that there was imminent loss of life that we needed to prevent,” Mr Mina said. “It’s a tough decision to make knowing that people’s lives will be placed in danger by that, our officers’ lives would be placed in danger.”
He explained the three-hour delay in the SWAT team entering the club (at around 5am, local time) was due to ongoing hostage negotiations and talk of “bombs and explosives”.
When police were able to penetrate the wall, Mr Mina said “dozens and dozens” of hostages escaped. Mateen then emerged f-rom the hole in the wall and was shot dead by police.
“We were able to rescue dozens and dozens who came out of that hole,” the police chief said.
Officers said the operation “saved many many lives” in the nightclub.
The 11 Orlando police officers and three sheriff’s deputies who exchanged gunfire with Mateen are all safe. One officer suffered an eye injury when a bullet struck his Kevlar helmet. The helmet saved his life, special agent Danny Banks said.
Mateen was armed with an assault-style weapon and a pistol. A third weapon was found in his car, authorities said. The US citizen of Afghan descent f-rom Port St Lucie, Florida, had security and firearm licenses and his guns were legally purchased within the past week, even though he had been known to law enforcement for years and interviewed by the FBI three times, federal officials confirmed.
According to Florida law, there is a mandatory three-day waiting period for handgun purchases, but no permit, registration or licensing is needed to buy or own rifles, shotguns or handguns. A permit is needed to carry a handgun.
Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Floriday on Sunday.Source:Supplied
FBI Special Agent Ron Hopper said police do not believe anyone connected to the shooter poses imminent danger to the public. “We have no reason to believe that anyone connected to this crime is placing the public in imminent danger,” he said.
Sunday morning’s terror attack on Pulse nightclub in Orlando that left 50 dead — including the gunman — and 53 injured is the deadliest shooting in US history.
While IS took credit for the attack, investigators are yet to uncover any clear links between the shooter and its Syria-based terrorist administrators.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer spoke of the city’s resilience in the face of horror. “We will not be defined by the actions of a cowardly hater,” Mr Dyer said. “We will be defined by how we respond and treat each other.”
Around 100 leads have emerged in the ongoing investigation. “No stone will be left unturned and we’ll follow the leads whe-rever they take us,” FBI special agent Paul Wyposal told Monday’s press conference.
President Obama and Vice President Biden are also expected to meet with officials to discuss the ongoing situation in Orlando.
Sunday’s tragic events have prompted an outpouring of love and support for the victims and gay community, with people turning up in droves to donate blood and major cities lighting up landmarks in red, white and blue or colours of the rainbow flag.
Flowers and an American flag are seen on the ground near the Pulse Nightclub whe-re Omar Mateen killed 49 people on June 13, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.Source:AFP
People gather to mourn, honour, and remember the victims of the Orlando nightclub mass shooting during a vigil in Newtown, in Sydney.Source:AAP