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Multiple Deaths; Shooter Dead After Orlando Nightclub Shooting


Police in Orlando, Fla., say some 20 bargain people are dead after a gunman opened fire in a popular nightclub. The gunman was eventually killed by police. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer addressed the media early this morning.


BUDDY DYER: Tonight, our community witnessed or experienced a very horrific crime. Many lives were lost and many more individuals were impacted by witnessing the crime.

WERTHEIMER: Here is Danny Banks. He is the special agent in charge at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.


DANNY BANKS: Anytime that we have potentially dozens of victims on any of our communities, that I think we can qualify that as a terrorist activity. Whether that's a domestic terrorist activity or an international one, it's certainly something we will get to the bottom of. We're glad to have...

WERTHEIMER: Catherine Welch of station WMFE was at that press conference. And she joins us on the line. Catherine, could you just take us through what we know about the shooting so far?

CATHERINE WELCH, BYLINE: Sure, Linda. It happened at a popular gay dance club just outside of downtown Orlando at about 2 o'clock this morning. Shots were fired. There was an off-duty police officer who was working security. He went after the suspect. There was a gunbattle. A few more officers joined in. After the gunbattle, at that point, the suspect went back inside the nightclub That's when it turned into a hostage situation.

Orlando police received calls from the bathroom of people trapped inside. Once they got a sense of the scope of the situation, at about 5 o'clock in the morning, they decided they were going to break down the doors. They went inside. They rescued about 30 people inside and say there were about 20 people inside who were dead.

WERTHEIMER: The shooter has not been named yet. Do we know anything about him?

WELCH: What we do know is what police tell us, which is they say he was organized. He was well prepared, not from the area. What they don't know is if he acted alone. They said he had an assault rifle, a handgun. And they would only say he had what they called a suspicious device on him. We're not sure what that means at this point. They are looking for a tie to terrorism. They say that this is not at all related to the shooting death of the voice star Christina Grimmie. That happened yesterday at a completely different nightclub. There's no relation to that. And at this point - now they're just looking to see if there's any kind of a tie to terrorism.

WERTHEIMER: But so far, not even a name?

WELCH: No, not that I'm aware of.

WERTHEIMER: Now, there are 42 people in area hospitals. We have seen television footage of people being loaded into pickups and other kinds of vehicles and rushing off. Do you know what sort of condition those people are in?

WELCH: We don't know yet. We - they're at the local hospitals. We're working to hear from the local hospitals. Police did not feel comfortable talking about the 42 suspects. What they will tell you is that they all suffered from gunshot wounds.

WERTHEIMER: Thank you very much, Catherine. We appreciate your talking with us. And we will be back in touch...

WELCH: Thank you, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: ...As the morning goes on. Thank you. Catherine Welch, station WMFE, will continue to update this story, as I said. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.