The worst terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11 took place overnight in Orlando, Florida, where 29-year-old Omar Mateen attacked a crowded gay nightclub with an assault rifle and a handgun, killing at least 50 people and wounding 53 others in a multi-hour attack.
The shooting began at 2:02 am, after last-call at the nightclub, Pulse, getting into a gunfight with an off-duty police officer working at the club. A hostage situation quickly developed, and it wasn’t until around 5:00 am that the police finally smashed down a door, freeing dozens of hostages and killing Mateen.
In the morning following the attack, a call went out for blood donations, and in short order, the blood banks were swamped with donors. By evening, the blood banks reported being “at capacity,” and urged others to wait a few days before coming to donate.
The gunman, Omar Mateen, was identified as a New York City-born son of Afghan immigrants, who had worked for UK-based security contractor G4S since 2007. He had been working as a security guard in the Port St. Lucie, Florida courthouse.
The FBI reported Mateen was “on the radar” for them. He had been interviewed by them twice in 2013 over “inflammatory comments to coworker alleging possible terrorist ties,” and was contacted again in 2014 regarding claims he had ties with an American suicide bomber. Co-workers described him as unstable, with one saying he “talked about killing people all the time.”
Mateen is further described by other coworkers as prone to using racial, ethnic, and sexual slurs, and seemed to be in “constant anger.” One co-worker, identified as Daniel Gilroy, said he wasn’t surprised by the shooting and that “I saw it coming.”
The FBI didn’t see it coming, said they determined at after his contacts that he was not a threat, and he reportedly was on the terror watchlist, though he had been removed from the list at some point. His work as a security guard gave him easier access to legally buying weapons.
Reports following the shooting suggest Mateen called 911 amid his attack, and officials say that during the call he indicated his allegiance to ISIS. ISIS has since claimed responsibility for the attack, though this is seen as unlikely, and the going theory is that Mateen was simply ISIS-inspired as opposed to an active member.
Mateen’s father, Seddique Mateen, says he believes the attack “has nothing to do with religion,” and said his son had recently expressing anti-gay sentiments. Seddique runs a non-profit called Durand Jirga, and on Facebook claims to be the president of the “Provisional Government of Afghanistan.”
Though the current focus appears to center heavily around the “ISIS-inspired” theory, officials say they are investigating all possible motives for the attack, and that they intend to get to the bottom of the matter.