Vigils are being held across the country following what has been described as the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. At least 50 people died in Orlando, Florida, early Sunday morning after a gunman identified as 29-year-old Omar Mateen opened fire at a packed gay dance club on Latin night. More than 50 others were injured. Three hours after the shooting began, authorities say the gunman was shot dead when police raided the club. The shooting was the deadliest attack on the LGBT community in American history, and it came in the middle of Pride month. President Obama addressed the nation on Sunday.
President Barack Obama: “This is an especially heartbreaking day for all of our friends, our fellow Americans, who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub, it is a place of solidarity and empowerment, where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds and to advocate for their civil rights.”
Since 2007, the suspected gunman, Omar Mateen, had worked as a security guard at G4S, the largest private security firm in the world. He was born in New York to Afghan parents in 1986. The FBI interviewed Mateen in 2013 and 2014 for possible terrorist ties. According to The New York Times, he was placed under FBI surveillance for a time, but the agency eventually closed its inquiry. There are reports Mateen called 911 around the time of the assault and declared his allegiance to ISIS, but no audio of the call has been released to the public. Mateen’s father told NBC that his son had been angered after seeing two men kissing in Miami. Mateen’s former wife told reporters that he was mentally unstable and used to beat her.