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Investigators Call Deadly Orlando Nightclub Shooting 'Domestic Terrorism'

Orlando police, investigators brief reporters on early morning shooting at the Pulse nightclub.
Catherine Welch

Fifty people are dead after a gunman opened fire and took hostages at an Orlando nightclub early Sunday morning. Orlando Police Chief John Mina has described the massacre as one of the  worst mass shootings in U.S. history.

Investigators are calling the shooting a domestic act of terrorism.

According to NPR member station WMFE, "The gunman took club patrons hostage between 2:00 a.m and 5:00 a.m early Sunday morning. Orlando Police say calls from the bathroom of the club help coordinate the rescue effort."

The shooting occurred at Pulse, a gay nightclub, though authorities say it's not clear on whether that made the club a target.

"We are heartbroken and angry that senseless violence has once again destroyed lives in our state and in our country," said Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith in a statement. "Gay clubs hold a significant place in LGBTQ history. They were often the only safe gathering place and this horrific act strikes directly at our sense of safety."

Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in Orange County and has labeled the shooting an act of terror.

“It sickens me and makes me angry," the governor said in a statement, "Of course, this is a time of great tragedy, and in every tragedy, there is a flood of sadness, confusion and despair. But, this is an attack on our people.  An attack on Orlando.  An attack on Florida.  An attack on America.  An attack on all of us."

The gunman has been identified. He is a U.S. citizen from Port St. Lucie. Law enforcement is working to learn more about what may have motivated the attack. U.S. Senator Bill Nelson says the FBI is looking into links to ISIS.

“I have spoken with the FBI and there appears to be a link to Islamic radicalism. I have conferred with additional sources and they think there is likely a connection with ISIS. So as we all mourn the senseless loss of life and investigators continue to learn more, we must remain vigilant and remember that if you see something, say something.”

The Florida Police Chiefs Association along with others are calling for blood donations. Another 53 people were injured in the shooting and were taken to Orlando-area hospitals for treatment.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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