Update 11:15 a.m.: The shooter's father tells NBC News that his son wasn't religiously motivated but that the shooting was an anti-gay hate crime, perhaps sparked when his son recently saw two gay men kissing at Bayside Marketplace in Miami.
At least 50 people are dead, authorities have now confirmed, in an overnight mass shooting inside a packed gay nightclub in Orlando. At least 53 others were wounded and are in local hospitals. Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency, and leaders are asking for blood donors to step forward to help.
Police have not yet announced what motivated the attack, though they deemed it an act of "domestic terrorism." They also haven't confirmed the identity of the single gunman, who was reportedly armed with an assault-style rifle, but multiple news agencies, as well as Rep. Alan Grayson, have confirmed the man's identity as 29-year-old Omar
The attack began around 2 a.m. Sunday morning, when more than 230 people were packed into Pulse nightclub, police say. Mateen was armed with the assault rifle, a handgun, and possibly an explosive device. He began shooting, took hostages, and was later killed by police, who called him a "lone wolf."
President Obama issued a statement this morning:
"The President was briefed this morning by Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, on the tragic shooting in Orlando, Florida. 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."Governor Scott declared a state of emergency today and announced early this morning that he was on his way to Orlando to confer with first responders and police officials. His office issued this statement about the shooting:
"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."Orlando blood banks have asked for donors to step forward this morning to help with the demand while dozens of wounded, some critically, are being treated.
Across Florida, friends and family have scrambled to find out if loved ones are safe as Facebook activated a feature that allows locals to check in.
We'll update this post when more information is available.
Update: NBC News has spoken to Mateen's father, who told the network that the attack "had nothing to do with religion." Rather, he says it was an anti-gay hate crime that was motivated by his son seeing two men kissing in Bayside Marketplace in downtown Miami.
"We are apologizing for the whole incident. We weren't aware of any action he was taking," the father, whose name wasn't included in the report, told NBC. "We are in shock like the whole country. This has nothing to do with religion."
But he added, according to an NBC editor's transcript of the call, "We were in downtown Miami, Bayside, people were playing music. And he saw two men kissing each other in front of his wife and kid, and he got very angry. They were kissing each other and touching each other, and he said, 'Look at that. In front of my son they are doing that.' And they we were in the men’s bathroom, and men were kissing each other."
Here's NBC's report:
WATCH: Father of shooter in Orlando club tells NBC News: “We are apologizing for the whole incident”https://t.co/SJiy3pFAYJ— TODAY (@TODAYshow) June 12, 2016