The suspect in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Florida is dead, Orlando Police said. Authorities described the shooting as a “mass casualty situation.”
[Previous story, posted at 5:56 a.m. ET Sunday]
Gunfire erupted at a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday, with multiple injuries reported, Florida authorities said.
“Everyone get out of Pulse and keep running,” the club posted on its Facebook page about 2 a.m. ET.
Orlando police warned residents to stay away from the area, and urged people not to call their offices. They declined to provide the number of casualties, saying details will be available later.
‘Just bang, bang, bang!’
Pulse describes itself as “the hottest gay bar” in the heart of Orlando.
Hours before the shooting, the club urged partygoers to attend its “Latin flavor” event Saturday night.
Jovial, well-dressed crowds heeded the call in an event that turned into a nightmare.
“It was just, bang, bang, bang!” partygoer Christopher Hansen said of the gunfire.
Ricardo Negron Almodovar said he was in the club when the shooting started about 2 a.m. He barely escaped.
“People on the dance floor and bar got down on the floor and some of us who were near the bar and back exit managed to go out through the outdoor area and just ran,” he posted on the club’s Facebook page.
“I am safely home and hoping everyone gets home safely as well.”
Anthony Torres, who was at the club with friends, said he heard shots as he hurriedly drove off.
“The shots did not sound like a regular handgun, it sounded like it was shooting repetitively and it wouldn’t stop,” he said.
“So we knew what it was and we left there pretty quick. It was over 70 cop cars that were arriving there … It happened so quick that people got separated from each other.”
Tearful relatives waited outside the club as police cars blinked in the background. Some implored the media to help them get word on their loved ones.
‘ I saw just a lot of people screaming’
The gunshots echoed beyond the club.
Jose Torres was clocking in to work at the Dunkin’ Donuts across the street when he heard them.
“It was something that I never heard before,” Torres said. “I had to run inside the store, and I saw just a lot of people screaming, crying. Just screaming and coming out running like crazy.”
Torres said he ducked into the Dunkin’ Donuts and called 911 as several people dashed out of the club, bleeding. Police and SWAT teams rushed to the scene.
“They don’t let nobody in or out,” he said. “The SWAT team is inside there.”
FBI agents were also assisting at the scene, agency spokeswoman Amy Pittman said.
Authorities have conducted a controlled explosion near the nightclub, according to Orlando Police.
Tom Fuentes,a law enforcement analyst, said controlled explosions are used to breach a door or when a subject is barricaded in a room and police want to use a stun grenade to temporarily freeze their central nervous system.
Hospitals on lockdown
Authorities urged caution as police officers hovered nearby with weapons and dogs.
A few miles away, the Orlando Regional Medical Center was placed on lockdown, the hospital said in a statement. Only essential workers are being allowed access into the building.
Arnold Palmer Hospital and Winnie Palmer Hospital are also on lockdown out of an abundance of caution, officials said.