Early this morning [Sunday, June 12] gunfire erupted inside an Orlando nightclub, leaving approximately 20 people dead, according to police.
Police Chief John Mina says the shooting began at 2:00a.m. Soon after, a police officer was caught in a gun battle with the suspect outside of the Pulse nightclub, a gay club situated south of Downtown Orlando.
According to Mina, a hostage situation then took place as the shooter holed himself up in the club with various patrons. The shooter was carrying a handgun, a rifle and a “suspicious device” with him, says police and at 5 a.m., a decision was made to rescue the hostages.
SWAT used an explosive device to enter through a wall in the club, officers then exchanged gunfire with the shooter, and at 5:45 a.m the suspect was confirmed as deceased. About 30 people were rescued. In addition to the 20 lost lives in this tragic occurrence, police also report that 42 additional people were wounded and transported to local hospitals.
FBI spokesman Danny Banks confirmed the mass shooting is being investigated as an act of terrorism, looking into whether it was domestic or international, and if whether or not the shooter was acting alone.
Mina Justice was outside the club early Sunday in an attempt to contact her 30-year-old son, Eddie. Eddie texted her while the shooting occurred, asking her to call the police. He told her he ran into a bathroom with other club patrons to hide. She then received a text: “He’s coming.”
“The next text said: ‘He has us, and he’s in here with us,’” Justice told the Washington Post. “That was the last conversation.”
Pulse Orlando took to its Facebook page as soon as things unfolded, posting at 2:00 a.m.: “Everyone get out of Pulse and keep running.” Before 6 a.m., following the suspect’s death, they posted an update that read: “As soon as we have any information we will update everyone. Please keep everyone in your prayers as we work through this tragic event. Thank you for your thoughts and love.”
This incident follows the fatal shooting death of 22-year-old singer and former The Voice contestant Christina Grimmie. Grimmie was killed late Friday night while she was singing autographs following a show she played at Orlando’s Plaza Live, approximately three to four miles north of Pulse.