At least 50 people have been killed and 53others were injured when a gun man opened fire inside a popular gay club in Orlando, Florida early on Sunday.
Police said the gunman who was carrying some sort of “a suspicious device” was killed by the elite team.
The gun fire started around 2 am local time. Police said the unidentified gunman exchanged fire with an officer who is said to be working at the club. He then went inside and took hostages.
More than 100 people were reported to have been enjoying a Latin-themed night in the club, which calls itself the hottest gay bar in the city, when the attack began.
A man who was inside the club earlier described a situation of chaos outside as the number of casualties became apparent.
“We heard rapid fire go off. In the room I was in, people went down to the floor. I wasn’t able to see the shooter or people get hurt, at some point, there was a brief pause, and a group of us got up and went to the exit that leads to the patio area outside. We found an exit and after that… I just ran,” Anthony Torres, an eyewitness said.
He also heard people screaming that others in the nightclub were dead.
“There were just bodies everywhere… in the parking lot, they were tagging them – red, yellow – so they knew who to help first and who not to. Pants down, shirts cut off, they had to find the bullets. Just blood everywhere,” another eyewitness said.
The suspect was carrying an assault type rifle and a hand gun, local media reports said.
Police and Fire Department vehicles surrounded the area soon after the first call was made around 2.02 am.
The bomb disposal squad and the hazardous material team were also on the scene. Locals tweeted that they could hear helicopters flying in the area.
A large number of people, whose friends and relatives who had gone to the club had flocked to the crime scene. But they were turned away by the police.
The SWAT team which specializes in high risk and hostage rescue were sent into the club around 5 am. The gun man died in the firefight with the elite marksmen.
Orlando police chief John Mina said the exact number of casualties could not be determined but “approximately 20 people” could be dead in the club.
The FBI said its investigating the shooting spree as an act of terrorism. A spokesperson said officials are probing whether its an act of domestic or international terror or if the killer was a lone wolf.
Orlando is still reeling from the Friday night shooting of 22-year-old singer Christina Grimmie following a concert in the city.
She was signing autographs when she was shot by 26-year-old Kevin James Loibl, who then killed himself. It is not clear what Loibl’s motive was.
According to the Mass Shooting Tracker, there were 372 mass shootings — defined as a single incident that kills or injures four or more people — in the US in 2015. Some 475 people were killed and 1,870 wounded.