Mayor Buddy Dyer of Orlando has confirmed that 50 people died in Saturday’s assault on Pulse nightclub, a popular gay destination in the Florida city.
Approximately 53 others were wounded and taken to area hospitals.
“Tonight our community witnessed a horrific crime… that will have a lasting effect on our community,” said Mayor Dyer.
Initial reports had put the death toll at 20, but it’s now looking like the massacre is one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.
Police and FBI are investigating the attack as a possible case of domestic terrorism, and there have been reports the shooter, Omar Mateen, had links to Islamic fundamentalism.
“We do have suggestions that the individual may have leanings toward that particular ideology,” said FBI special agent Ronald Hopper said.
Sateen, who lived in Port St. Lucie, Florida, was found with an assault rifle, a handgun and an unidentified device.
After he ran inside, a SWAT team was called in and, at about 5am, authorities stormed the club.
“Our biggest concern was further loss of life,” explained Police Chief John Mina said. “We exchanged gunfire with the suspect, and he was dead at the scene.”
RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Kenya Michaels, who was scheduled to perform at the club Saturday night, escaped unharmed. “I want everyone to know I am ok,” she posted on Facebook. “Please pray for my friends and family at Pulse nightclub.”
Sadly, Orlando just wrapped its weeklong Gay Days celebration, an annual event featuring LGBT gatherings at Disney World and other theme parks that is one of largest Pride celebrations in the world. (It was also just one day after The Voice contestant Christina Grimmie was gunned down in Orlando after a concert.)
President Obama is getting updates on from Homeland Security and is expected to address the tragedy soon.