Harrowing Snapchat footage has emerged capturing the horrific sounds of the massacre that unfolded between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. on Sunday morning at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, after a gunman entered the nightclub and opened fire. Latest reports indicate at least 50 people were killed and more than 50 have taken to the hospital following the mass shooting.
At least 22 gunshots in rapid succession can be heard in the video, which offers a glimpse into the terror unleashed early on Sunday by the gunman, identified as Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, 29, a U.S. citizen born in New York to Muslim parents of Afghan origin. Mateen lived in Fort Pierce, Florida, and was a licensed security officer with Statewide Firearms License, according to Fox News.
The footage, obtained by WESH 2 News, was reportedly taken by a witness standing in the street outside the Pulse club, off Orange Avenue and Kaley Street, on Sunday. It captures the sounds of at least 22 gunshots fired in seconds as the massacre, which is being described as the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, unfolded in the downtown LGBT bar.
A few more shots can be heard after a pause and a woman screams. More shots can be heard towards the end of the video.
“Oh… my god… People are getting shot dude…,” the person filming can be heard saying in shock.
“We need to get out of here,” his companion says.
But the two did not leave.
“This guy is firing out shots,” the companion of the person shooting the video speaks again.
The gunman, Omar Mateen, entered the Pulse nightclub at about 2:00 a.m. local time, armed with an assault rifle, a handgun, and a device believed to be an explosive.
He exchanged shots with an officer working at the club, who immediately called for back-up.
The incident became a hostage situation after officers arrived and tried to engage the assailant.
According to Orlando Police Chief John Mina, a decision was taken at about 5 a.m. to rescue the hostages.
Explosives experts set up a “controlled explosion” inside the club to distract the gunman as SWAT team members forced their way into the nightclub and exchange fire with the gunman.
Police confirmed at about 7:00 a.m. local time that the gunman was shot dead after the SWAT team entered the nightclub to rescue the hostages. The officers were able to rescue more than 30 people. But it was not clear how many of the hostages were killed in the midst of the rescue effort.
Pulse Shooting: The shooter inside the club is dead.— Orlando Police (@OrlandoPolice) June 12, 2016
That sound was a controlled explosion by law enforcement. Please avoid reporting inaccuracies at this time.— Orlando Police (@OrlandoPolice) June 12, 2016
An officer was shot during the exchange of fire, but his helmet took the impact of the bullet.
Pulse shooting: In hail of gunfire in which suspect was killed, OPD officer was hit. Kevlar helmet saved his life. pic.twitter.com/MAb0jGi7r4— Orlando Police (@OrlandoPolice) June 12, 2016
Witnesses have described the horror of the incident.
The gunman entered the club at about 2 a.m. and began firing. A witness, Rob Rick, said it was near closing time and there were about 100 people inside the club when the gunman entered.
Many escaped through a backdoor after a club bouncer tore down the partition between the club and staff area.
Witnesses also confirmed police statement that the gunman was “carrying a suicide vest.” He had a bomb strapped to his body at the time he entered the club, according to witnesses.
Police said they were investigating the shooting as an act of “domestic terrorism.” Police also said the gunman had “leanings to radical Islamic terrorism.”
Investigators will also try to determine whether the shooter acted as a lone wolf.
The shooting comes after the The Voice singer, 22-year-old Christina Grimmie, was shot dead on Friday at The Plaza in Orlando, only a few miles from the Pulse club.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has been briefed about the incident by Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of the victims,” the White House said in a statement released earlier today.
“The President asked to receive regular updates as the FBI, and other federal officials, work with the Orlando Police to gather more information, and directed that the federal government provide any assistance necessary to pursue the investigation and support the community,” the statement added.
Governor Rick Scott has also pledged assistance to the victims of the shooting.
“We are a strong and resilient state and we will devote every resource available to assist with the shooting in Orlando,” he said. “Our state emergency operations center is also monitoring this tragic incident.”
[Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP]