At least 20 people are reportedly dead and 42 transported to the hospital after a gunman opened fire Saturday night at a gay club in Orlando called Pulse. Just before 6 a.m. the police reported the shooter was dead inside the club after a gunfight with police. The gunman has not been identified. He was carrying an assault rifle, a handgun and what police have called a "device." A hazardous device team is now on site and searching the area. According to officials, the shooter was not from the Orlando area.
"Everybody was just running out through the back (of the club)," a witness told a local news affiliate in Orlando. Witnesses said they heard anywhere between 40 and 100 shots being fired inside the club. Orlando Police Chief John Mina said that there were 320 people in the club at the time of the shooting. An Orlando police officer was injured in the altercation and a total of nine officers were involved in the shooting. An FBI spokesman said that the shooting is being investigated as an act of terrorism.
"This is an incident, as I see it, that we certainly classify as domestic terror incident," said Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings in an earlier press conference.
As soon as the shooting broke out, someone posted a message to Pulse's Facebook page saying "Everyone get out of pulse and keep running." Orlando police confirmed the mass casualty event on Twitter shortly after that and conducted a controlled explosion near the club around 5 a.m. Three hospitals in the area have been placed on lockdown after receiving victims from the shooting.
Special Agent in Charge Danny Banks of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said “We have no indication of other activities similar to last night’s activity," according to a report from the Orlando Sentinel. According to a reporter from the publication, an Orlando officer initally traded gunfire with the suspect before the gunman barricaded himself inside the club. The suspect at that point began shooting and taking hostages inside the location. The officer who was injured in the incident was shot in the eye and his Kevlar helmet deflected the bullet.
Pulse has a history of hosting nightly themed performances and a monthly program devoted to LGBT-related education events. Barbara Poma opened the club with her friend and co-founder Ron Legler in 2004 after her brother died from AIDS. She wanted to help promote awareness about the LGBT community. Pulse refers to itself as "not just another gay club."
"As soon as we have any information we will update everyone," a Facebook staus on the club's page read two hours ago. "Please keep everyone in your prayers as we work through this tragic event. Thank you for your thoughts and love."