Vigils held around the US, world to honor 50 killed in Orlando s - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Vigils held around the US, world to honor 50 killed in Orlando shooting

Vigils are held across the U.S. for Orlando shooting victims. (Source:CNN) Vigils are held across the U.S. for Orlando shooting victims. (Source:CNN)
The helmet worn by an Orlando police officer who was shot. (Source: Orlando Police Department/CNN) The helmet worn by an Orlando police officer who was shot. (Source: Orlando Police Department/CNN)
The mother of one of the hostages shows text messages she received during the shooting. (Source: WFTV/CNN) The mother of one of the hostages shows text messages she received during the shooting. (Source: WFTV/CNN)
A shooting victim is carried away from the night club. (Source: WKMG/CNN) A shooting victim is carried away from the night club. (Source: WKMG/CNN)
Authorities identified the shooter as Omar Mateen, of Port St. Lucie, FL. (Source: Orlando Police Department) Authorities identified the shooter as Omar Mateen, of Port St. Lucie, FL. (Source: Orlando Police Department)
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ORLANDO, FL (RNN) - A gunman who professed allegiance to the Islamic State carried out the worst shooting in U.S. history, killing 50 and wounding 53 more at a gay night club in Orlando, FL.

Vigils are being held around the world to honor the victims of the horrific mass shooting.

The shooter was identified as Omar Mateen, a U.S. citizen living in Port St. Lucie, FL. He was killed in a shootout with police after holding hostages in the club's bathroom in the early morning hours Sunday.

Speaking from the White House briefing room, President Barack Obama said the shooter was "filled with hatred" but said the FBI had not reached any definitive conclusion about a motive.

"It is still early, but we know enough to say it was an act of terror and an act of hate," Obama said. "This is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation is an attack on all of us. No act of hate or terror will change who we are or the values that make us Americans."

Shortly after Obama spoke, the White House released a proclamation ordering all flags on federal property be lowered to half-staff. Florida Gov. Rick Scott called for a nationwide moment of silence at 6 p.m. Eastern on Sunday in honor of the victims.

The City of Orlando set up a website identifying the victims. The site says once each victim is identified and their next of kin has been notified, their name will be added to the list.

The attack surpassed the shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007, where 32 people were killed, as the deadliest in the country's history. 

Dr. Michael Cheatham, chief surgical quality officer at Orlando Heath Regional Medical Center, said 44 victims were transported to his hospital, which is only a few blocks from where the shooting occurred and the hospital has performed 26 surgeries.

"We're seeing wounds consistent with high-velocity rounds - chest, abdomen and extremities," Cheatham said. "We see gunshot wounds on a regular basis, but this was quite an escalation to what we normally see."

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said he was briefed by the Department of Homeland Security that Mateen had professed an allegiance to the Islamic State. FBI officials indicated he called 911 and referenced the bombing at the Boston Marathon in 2013 and that Mateen had been previously investigated for alleged ties to terror groups.

"The FBI first became aware of shooter in 2013 when he made remarks to coworkers, alleging terrorist ties," Ronald Hopper, FBI assistant special agent in charge, said. "Ultimately we were unable to verify the substance of his comments and the investigation was closed."

Mateen was investigated again in 2014 for suspected ties to an American suicide bomber. Hopper said the investigation showed their contact was minimal and investigators concluded he did not pose a threat. Hopper said Mateen was not under an active investigation at the time of the shooting.

Rukmini Callimachi, the New York Times reporter covering terror organizations tweeted the Islamic State had claimed responsibility for the attack.

CBS News confirmed Mateen worked as a security guard for 10 years with a company that has federal contracts. However, police officials said his family members are from Afghanistan are not U.S. citizens.

In a news conference, his ex-wife called him "mentally unstable and mentally ill and he was obviously disturbed, deeply." 

She said his "instability" after a few months of marriage. 

"That's when I started worrying about my safety and he was abusing me physically very often and not allowing me to speak to my family and he kept me hostage from them. And I tried to see good in him even then but my family was very tuned into what I was going through and decided to visit me and rescue me out of that situation."  

Police are searching the gunman's home as well as his family's home and social media for evidence. Mateen is suspected of carrying out a hostage situation in what officials are calling "domestic terrorism" and police and FBI are investigating if he had ties to any terrorist groups. The suspected gunman's father told several media outlets he suspected an anti-gay motivation rather than a religious one.

The Associated Press is reporting Mateen's father, Seddique Mateen, has appeared on a show known for its pro-Taliban views and anti-U.S. rhetoric that aired in California.

Speaking with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai condemned the attack and said there is no justification for it in the Islamic faith.

"Whatever his beliefs were, whatever his thoughts were, he had no right to kill innocent people with whom he had nothing to do. And Islam does not allow it," Karzai said. "This is a crime we condemn in the strongest possible terms because we in Afghanistan suffer from it daily, for a long time. so we are with the American people on this. What this man, in whatever name he did it for whatever cause he had in his mind he did it, whatever his motivations, he was wrong. We never accept in any manner the killing of civilians."

Muhammad Musri, with the Islamic Society of Central Florida appeared at a police press conference and urged caution in passing judgment without knowing the facts surrounding the suspect and his motivation.

"I caution media in rushing to judgment and sensationalizing the story," Musri said. "Don't want the story to be shifted from where it is. We are mourning, we are sad and it's not really time for sensational news and rushing to judgment. We should all wait until information, facts come out from investigators."

Two guns were found with Mateen, an assault-style rifle and a handgun. ATF spokesman Trevor Velinor said Mateen was not prohibited from purchasing firearms and had bought both a hand gun and long gun a few days prior to the attack.

CNN reported Mateen was licensed to carry in Florida, and the guns were purchased at a store in Port St. Lucie.

Los Angeles police arrested a man with weapons and explosives who said he was headed to the gay pride parade. Officials do not believe that incident was connected to the Orlando shooting.

Police responded to calls of a shooting at 2 a.m. Eastern and exchanged gunfire with a shooter inside Pulse, a gay night club. The gunman then took hostages and police entered the club about three hours later, exchanging more gunfire and killing the suspect.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina confirmed the shooter was carrying an assault-style rifle, a handgun and a "suspicious device" with him. He said officers decided to rescue the hostages at 5 a.m. using an explosive device to enter through a wall in the club. At 5:45 a.m., police tweeted the suspect was dead.

Mina said about 30 people were rescued after police entered the building. One officer was injured in the crossfire, but was wearing a protective helmet that Mina said likely saved his life.

"Just to look into the eyes of our officers told the whole story," Mina said. "Some of those officers had 20-plus years on the force. You could tell they were shaken by this incident, by what they saw. They did an unbelievable job rescuing hostages this kind of tragedy takes a toll, even on law enforcement officers."

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said the influx of patients to the hospitals created problems due to confidentiality regulations, which he worked to have waived for victims' families.

"The CEO of the hospital came to me and said they had an issue related to the families who came to the emergency room. Because of HIPAA regulations, they could not give them any information," Dyer said. "So I reached out to the White House to see if we could get the HIPAA regulations waived. The White House went through the appropriate channels to waive those so the hospital could communicate with the families who were there."

Long lines have formed outside blood banks in the Orlando area.

Police said the shooter was "organized and well-prepared" and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings called it a "domestic terrorism incident."

"We are a strong, resilient community," Dyer said. "We need to stand strong and we need to be supportive of the victims and their families."

Musri also urged people to feel compassion for the victims.

"I stand as a faith leader with the law enforcement community in this hour of horror that was brought upon our city," Musri said. "I call on fellow faith leaders, please pray for the victims and their families in this hour - this Sunday morning - it was supposed to be a beautiful morning, but it already a heart-breaking morning."

Dozens of vehicles including the Orlando Fire Department's bomb squad and hazardous material team arrived at the scene of the shooting, which occurred around 2 a.m. 

Near the time of the shooting, the club posted on its Facebook page, "Everyone get out of Pulse and keep running."

After news of the shooting, family members and friends of people who were known to be in the club awaited word about injuries or possible deaths.

Chris Hansen managed to escape the club after shots rang out.

"It was just one after another, after another, after another. It could've lasted a whole song, because after everybody was out, shootings were still going and the cops were yelling, 'Go, go, clear the area, clear the area!'" Hansen said. 

As day broke Sunday morning, buses arrived to transport those who had not been injured but were inside the club at the time. On Twitter, the police called calling for witnesses to go to police HQ. 

Ricardo J. Negron Almodovar, commenting on Facebook, said he witnessed the incident.

"I was there. Shooter opened fire @ around 2:00 a.m. People on the dance floor and bar got down on the floor and some of use who were near the bar and back exit managed to go out through the outdoor area and just ran," Almodovar wrote.

The hashtag #prayfororlando, which emerged on Twitter after the fatal shooting of singer Christina Grimmie Friday night at the city's Plaza Live Theater, is once again trending on Twitter. Grimmie was killed after her concert at the venue by a 27-year-old man who later killed himself.

Mina said there was no indication the Pulse shooting was connected to Grimmie's murder.

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