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Florida Nightclub Mass Shooting Victims Bodies Slowly Removed

Image: Florida Nightclub Mass Shooting Victims Bodies Slowly Removed

Friends and family members embrace outside the Orlando Police Headquarters. (Steve Nesius/Reuters)

Monday, 13 Jun 2016 06:42 AM

Dozens of bodies were slowly removed Sunday night from a popular Orlando gay club where a gunman who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State sprayed an early morning crowd of 300 with bullets, killing 50 people and wounding dozens.

Thirty-nine of the dead were killed at the club, and 11 people died at hospitals. At least 53 people were hospitalized, most in critical condition, and a surgeon at Orlando Regional Medical Center said the death toll was likely to climb, The Associated Press reported. 

Authorities say suspect Omar Mateen opened fired in Pulse Orlando with an AR-15 and in such tight quarters, the bullets could hardly miss. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Mateen, who authorities said had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a 911 call made from the club, died in a gun battle with SWAT team members.

The 29-year-old American citizen from Fort Pierce worked as a security guard. His family was from Afghanistan, and he was born in New York. His family later moved to Florida, authorities said.

The gunman's father recalled that his son recently got angry when he saw two men kissing in Miami and said that might be related to the assault.

Sunday night, workers were removing bodies four at a time on stretchers out of the club and loaded them into white vans. The covered bodies were taken to the County Medical Examiner's office.

Jon Alamo had been dancing at the Pulse for hours when he wandered into the club's main room just in time to see the gunman. "You ever seen how Marine guys hold big weapons, shooting from left to right? That's how he was shooting at people," he said.

A law enforcement official said the gunman made a 911 call from the club in which he professed allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The official was familiar with the investigation, but was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Mateen was known to the FBI. In 2013, he made inflammatory comments to co-workers and was interviewed twice, according to FBI agent Ronald Hopper, who called the interviews inconclusive. In 2014, Hopper said, officials found that Mateen had ties to an American suicide bomber, but the agent described the contact as minimal, saying it did not constitute a threat at the time.

Asked if the gunman had a connection to radical Islamic terrorism, Hopper said authorities had "suggestions that individual has leanings towards that."

Mateen purchased at least two firearms legally within the last week or so, according to Trevor Velinor of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Mateen exchanged gunfire with 14 police officers at the club, and took hostages at one point. In addition to the assault rifle, he also had a handgun and some sort of "suspicious device," said Police Chief John Mina. About 5 a.m., authorities sent in a SWAT team to rescue the remaining club-goers, Mina said.

At first, officers mistakenly thought the gunman had strapped explosives to the dead after a bomb robot sent back images of a battery part next to a body. The robot was sent in after SWAT team members put explosive charges on a wall and an armored vehicle knocked it down in an effort to rescue hostages.

Authorities were looking into whether the shooter acted alone, according to Danny Banks, an agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Mateen was a security guard with a company called G4S. In a 2012 newsletter, the firm identified him as working in West Palm Beach. In a statement sent Sunday to the Palm Beach Post, the company confirmed that he had been an employee since September 2007. State records show that Mateen had held a firearms license since at least 2011.

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Dozens of bodies were slowly removed Sunday night from a popular Orlando gay club where a gunman who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State sprayed an early morning crowd of 300 with bullets, killing 50 people and wounding dozens.
florida, nightclub, mass, shooting, victims, bodies, removed
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2016-42-13
Monday, 13 Jun 2016 06:42 AM
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