A state of emergency has been declared in Florida’s Orange County after a shooting at Pulse, a gay Orlando nightclub, has reportedly left 50 people dead and at least as many wounded, making this the deadliest mass shooting in US history.
The gunman began the attach at just after 2am eastern-time, as hundreds of people were inside the popular Orlando dance club. The shooting turned into a standoff with police, as well as a hostage situation, with approximately 30 people trapped inside the club until 5am making frantic calls for help.
Initial casual estimates were far below what the death toll has been listed as now, according to Orlando Police Chief John Mina.
“At approximately [2am],” said Mina in a statement to the press, “we had an officer working at Pulse nightclub, who responded to shots fired. Our officer engaged in a gun battle with that suspect. That suspect at some point went back inside the club, where more shots were fired. This did turn into a hostage situation. Obviously multiple officers from various agencies responded, SWAT team responded. At approximately [5am], the decision was made to rescue hostages that were in there.”
“There were at least 30 people who were saved during that rescue,” Mina adds.
The alleged gunman, who reportedly was armed with a handgun and an assault type weapon, was reportedly found dead on the scene. No motives for the attack have yet been officially discovered, but some officials are openly speculating that the attacker was deliberately targeting the LGBTQ community.
“We can’t confirm, and I’ve talked extensively with the police department, that it was a direct hate crime against the LGBT community,” GLBT Center Of Central Florida’s Terry DeCarlo told reporters. “it could have just been a person looking for a packed nightclub to go in and start shooting. We can’t confirm that yet.” His main concern, he adds, is to support community members and their families right now.
The high numbers of those injured in the shooting has brought out many people to donate blood, underscoring the difficulties imposed by the FDA’s limits on sexually-active gay men making blood donations, an essential ban for them. At least one Orlando blood center, OneBlood, has reportedly lifted the ban to help overcome the extraordinary need for donors.
In addition, Orlando Mayer Buddy Dwyer has said that the White House has waived HIPAA restrictions on the sharing of medical information to help families receive information about their loved ones.
A vigil in support of the family, friends, and loved ones of the victims of this attack is being planned by Seattle community members for 8pm on Sunday, June 12 at Seattle’s Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill.