Photos: Omar Mateen, Alleged Terrorist Who Attacked Orlando Club, Was Investigated by FBI
UPDATE as of 3 p.m. ET: Omar Mateen had pledged allegiance to ISIS, the terrorist group. ISIS’s official news agency also released a statement about the shooting.
Meanwhile, officials say that 53 people have been confirmed dead in the Orlando nightclub attack.
Police have identified the man who killed at least 50 people and wounded another 50 at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday morning. The incident has been described now as a “domestic terror incident” by authorities.
Omar Mateen, 29, was identified by officials, including U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, as the alleged gunman. He was born in New York, but his parents are originally from Afghanistan, ABC News reported.
CBS News reported that FBI Agent Ron Hopper told reporters that Mateen might have leanings towards Islamic extremism.
Mateen—who was “on the radar” of U.S. officials for some time—was killed in a shootout with police and other armed forces at around 5 a.m. Sunday morning, local time. He was armed with an assault rifle, a handgun, and a “suspicious device,” said police.
CBS News initially identified Mateen, of Fort Pierce, Florida, who had no apparent criminal record.
Photos of Mateen wearing NYPD shirts were also published online. An NYPD official told TMZ that he has no association with the department, saying the shirts are unofficial and can be purchased at stores.
Mateen’s father, Mir Seddique, told NBC News that the incident “has nothing to do with religion.”
“We are saying we are apologizing for the whole incident. We weren’t aware of any action he is taking. We are in shock like the whole country,” Seddique told the broadcaster.
— slone (@slone) June 12, 2016
Law enforcement sources told the Daily Beast there is no immediate indication Mateen had direct connection with the Islamic State, or ISIS, terrorist group. This month, ISIS said online that followers should carry out attacks to mark the approach of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month.
Rep. Alan Grayson noted the attack was “more likely than not ideologically motivated,” NBC reported.
“It’s no coincidence that the attack took place where it did and when it did,” he added. “It might be that we’ve seen the commission of an awful hate crime.”
Police said that while Mateen is a U.S. citizen, some of his family members are not. They haven’t confirmed if Mateen was Muslim, but several Muslim groups condemned the attack.
“We condemn this monstrous attack and offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed or injured. The Muslim community joins our fellow Americans in repudiating anyone or any group that would claim to justify or excuse such an appalling act of violence,” stated Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Orlando Regional Coordinator Rasha Mubarak.
According to NBC, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said the incident “could definitely be classified as domestic terrorism.”
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent in Charge Danny Banks told the broadcaster that authorities are investigating whether international terror groups were involved—or if the shooter was a “lone wolf” attacker.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina said Mateen allegedly exchanged gunfire with a cop working in the Pulse club at around 2 a.m. before he went inside and took hostages. There were more than 300 people at the club.
The nightclub went on Facebook when the shooting took place, calling on clubgoers to “get out and keep running.”
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
“This is an incident, as I see it, that we certainly classify as domestic terror incident,” Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said.
“It’s just shocking,” clubgoer Christopher Hansen told CNN, and he said that gunshots were heard “just one after another after another. It could have lasted a whole song.”
The White House issued a statement about the matter: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of the victims. 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.”
Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump also responded to the matter on Twitter, saying, “Horrific incident in FL. Praying for all the victims & their families. When will this stop? When will we get tough, smart & vigilant?”
“Really bad shooting in Orlando. Police investigating possible terrorism. Many people dead and wounded,” he also wrote.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton did the same, “Woke up to hear the devastating news from FL. As we wait for more information, my thoughts are with those affected by this horrific act.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, meanwhile, released a statement:
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, families and all those affected by this horrific tragedy. We are a strong and resilient state and we will devote every resource available to assist with the shooting in Orlando. Our state emergency operations center is also monitoring this tragic incident. I have been in constant communication with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and state and local law enforcement this morning. I would like to also thank all the first responders who quickly came to assist and help those in need.”
The incident is the deadliest mass shooting in American history. The second-worst mass murder took place in Bath, Michigan, in 1927 when a man bombed a school, killing 44 people.