“He’s coming. He has us, and he’s in here with us.”
Those were the last words sent by a man who was inside a Florida nightclub amid the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
As the shooter stormed a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, a mother, identified as Mina Justice, said she received text messages from her son who was trapped inside.
Heartbreaking final text messages sent by victims of Orlando massacre https://t.co/IiAMEFugig
— Evening Standard (@standardnews) June 12, 2016
“The next text said: ‘He has us, and he’s in here with us,'” the text messages read, according to WFTV9. “That was the last conversation,” Justice told The Associated Press.
The gunman was wielding an assault-type rifle, a handgun, and also may have had an explosive device strapped to his person. He took hostages and opened fire in the nightclub, killing at least 50 people and wounding more than 50 others, according to officials.
Another woman said her son was in the bathroom with several other men.
“When they went to the bathroom they heard about 20 shots and then they recognized it as being a shooter,” another woman, who was not identified, told 6ABC about her son. “They took off running and while they were waiting outside the club, they saw one who was my son’s boyfriend, they saw him being transported into an ambulance with multiple gunshots. But my son hasn’t been heard from.”
Authorities are now investigating the attack on the Florida dance hall as an act of terrorism. At least 53 people were sent to the hospital, and most are in critical condition, officials said. A surgeon at Orlando Regional Medical Center said the death toll will likely increase.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said the gunman used an assault rifle to kill all the victims. “There’s blood everywhere,” Dyer said.
The shooter was identified as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old man from Port St. Lucie, Florida, according to officials, including Florida U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson. Born in New York, Mateen’s parents are both from Afghanistan.
“We are saying we are apologizing for the whole incident,” Mateen’s dad, Mir Seddique, told NBC News. “We are in shock like the whole country.” He added that religion was not a motive for the shooting.
FBI agent Ron Hopper, meanwhile, said that Mateen may have had a connection to radical Islamic terrorist organizations. Officials, he added, had “suggestions that individual has leanings towards that.”
Citing U.S. law enforcement officials, The Washington Post reported that Mateen had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, or ISIS, before the attack. They said he apparently made a 911 call before the attack, pledging himself to the leader of ISIS, also known as ISIL. He also made a reference to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing during the call.
“It appears he was organized and well-prepared,” Orlando Police Chief John Mina said at a press conference.
“This is an incident … that we certainly classify as a domestic terror incident,” Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings told reporters.