Orlando Police officers direct family members away from a multiple shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. A gunman opened fire at a nightclub in central Florida, and multiple people have been wounded, police said Sunday. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Orlando Police officers direct family members away from a multiple shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. A gunman opened fire at a nightclub in central Florida, and multiple people have been wounded, police said Sunday. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

ORLANDO, Fla. (Diya TV) — Fifty people were killed and dozens more were hospitalized after a gunman opened fire on an Orlando gay nightclub early Sunday morning, transforming the lively and jubilant crowd into the site of the worst mass shooting in American history.

The attack has been labeled as the nation’s worst terrorist attack since 911, authorities said, and added the shooter had called 9-1-1 before the shooting began, and declared his allegiance to ISIS.

The gunman, identified as 29-year-old Omar Mateen, had previously been investigated by the FBI. He was interviewed by agents in 2013 and 2014 after he expressed sympathy for a suicide bomber, FBI Assistant Special Agent Ronald Hopper said Sunday.

“Those interviews turned out to be inconclusive, so there was nothing to keep the investigation going,” Hopper said, adding that Mateen was no longer under investigation when the attack took place.

He was shot and killed by Orlando police. Mateen carried an assault rifle and a pistol into the packed nightclub at about 2 a.m., authorities said, and started shooting. In the past two weeks, Mateen legally purchased a Glock pistol and a long gun, ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge Trevor Velinor said.

“He is not a prohibited person. They can legally walk into a gun dealership and acquire and purchase firearms. He did so. And he did so within the last week or so,” Velinor said.

G4S, a global security firm, has confirmed that Mateen has worked for the company since 2007. He was a licensed security guard in the state and was also licensed to carry a firearm.

“We are shocked and saddened by the tragic event that occurred at the Orlando nightclub. We can confirm that Omar Mateen had been employed with G4S since September 10, 2007,” the company which has offices in Jupiter, Fla. said in a statement. “We are cooperating fully with all law enforcement authorities, including the FBI, as they conduct their investigation. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the friends, families and people affected by this unspeakable tragedy.”

After a three-hour standoff, while people were still desperately trapped inside, police crashed into the building with an armored vehicle and killed Mateen. “It appears he was organized and well-prepared,” Orlando Police Chief John Mina said early Sunday. Authorities say they haven’t found any accomplices.

Eleven Orlando police officers and three sheriff’s deputies exchanged gunfire with Mateen during the incident. One officer suffered an eye injury when a bullet struck his Kevlar helmet. The helmet saved the officer’s life, said Danny Banks, special agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Orlando bureau.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack on jihadi forums, but ISIS sympathizers have reacted by praising the attack on pro-Islamic State forums.

“We know enough to say this was an act of terror and act of hate,” President Obama said in an address to the nation from the White House.

Mateen, a U.S.-born citizen, also made reference to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombers during his 9-1-1 call, authorities said. His parents are from Afghanistan, and Mateen was born in New York. Public records have revealed he divorced his wife in 2011, his ex-wife said Sunday that Mateen was often a violent person, mentally unstable and beat her repeatedly when they were married.

“He was not a stable person,” the ex-wife said, according to the Post. “He beat me. He would just come home and start beating me up because the laundry wasn’t finished or something like that.”

Omar Mateen’s father, Seddique Mateen, announced his candidacy for president of Afghanistan in 2015. The Washington Post has reported that in one of the elder Mateen’s campaign videos, he can be seen praising the Taliban.

“Our brothers in Waziristan, our warrior brothers in [the] Taliban movement and national Afghan Taliban are rising up,” he said.

Two years ago, the elder Mateen also created a Florida corporation named The Durand Jirga Inc. The name refers to a long-disputed Afghanistan/Pakistan border dispute dating to the late 1800s.

A fellow Afghanistan expatriate said Omar’s father was not a radical.

“He’s obviously against Taliban and ISIS and all that,” said Qasim Tarin, who appeared on Seddique Mateen’s show and followed him on Facebook.

“I’ve known him for a long time,” said Tarin, who lives in California. “To his Facebook and all, he is absolutely against ISIS and Pakistanis and, of course, ISI intelligence.”

Mateen remarried in 2013, according to public records, and appears to have a son with his new wife.

Orlando shooting suspect Omar Mateen is pictured with his wife, Noor Zahi Salman, and their son in an undated Facebook photo.
Orlando shooting suspect Omar Mateen is pictured with his wife, Noor Zahi Salman, and their son in an undated Facebook photo.

County records show no history of criminal activity, but Mateen was given a traffic ticket in Palm Beach County in 2008 for an improper right turn, records show.

Pulse, the nightclub where the shooting took place, describes itself as “the hottest gay bar” in the heart of Orlando. Hours before the shooting occurred, the club had encouraged locals to attend its “Latin Flavor” event that was taking place Saturday night. Set in a large space, the club was hosting more than 300 partygoers for the event.

When the chaos broke out, patrons described a scene of panic that was made more confusing by the loud music and darkness of the venue. Christopher Hansen said he was getting a drink at the bar at about 2 a.m. when he “just saw bodies going down.” He heard gunshots soon after, “just one after another,” he said.

The shooting last so long it “could have lasted a whole song,” Hansen said.

He hit the ground and began crawling on his hands and knees when he spotted a man who had been shot.

“I took my bandana off and shoved it in the hole in his back,” Hansen said.

Luis Burbano was at the club with his best friend. The two heard the sound of popping, and realized it wasn’t the music they were listening to. It was getting, “closer and louder and louder,” Burbano said. When he and his friend noticed a 10-second break from the shooting, they took off for the door.

“We tried to save ourselves and as many people as we could to make it out of there,” he said.

Thirty-nine individuals, including Mateen, were pronounced dead at the scene, two bodies were found in the parking lot. Eleven others were taken to the hospital and pronounced dead there.

At Orlando Regional Medical Center, forty-three wounded patients remained to receive treatment on Sunday afternoon. Twenty-six operations are being performed on the victims, a hospitals spokesperson said.

Before Sunday, the deadliest shootings in the history of the nation were at Virginia Tech in 2007 and Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, with 32 and 27 killed.

The national media spotlight was already focused on Orlando for a different matter stemming from gun violence — Christina Grimmie, an up-and-coming singer who had appeared on NBC’s “The Voice,” was fatally shot while signing autographs after a concert. Her shooter killed himself. The Pulse nightclub is only a few miles away from the Plaza Live Theater, where Grimmie was killed.

Additionally on Sunday, authorities in California took a suspect into custody after discovering an arsenal of assault weapons, explosive powder and a camouflage outfit in his car. The suspect told authorities he was there for the Los Angeles Gay Pride festival, which is underway this weekend.

There has been no indication his appearance or motives are in any way related to the Orlando attack.