President briefed after mass shooting at Orlando nightclub

President Barack Obama was briefed early June 12 by Lisa Monaco, assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, on the shooting in Orlando, Florida.

The White House issued this statement: “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.”

The Associated Press reported early June 12 that a gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun took hostages and opened fire inside the crowded Pulse nightclub, killing as many as 50 of people and wounding dozens of others.

The gunman died in a gunfight with SWAT officers, police said.

Police Chief John Mina also said the shooter had some sort of “suspicious device.” He said the suspect exchanged gunfire with an officer working at the gay dance club around 2 a.m. June 12, then went back inside and took hostages.

Around 5 a.m., authorities sent in a SWAT team to rescue the hostages, and the suspect then died in a gunfight with those officers. Mina said police have not determined an exact number of casualties.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent in Charge Danny Banks said during a news conference that the mass shooting is being investigated as an act of terrorism. He says authorities are looking into whether this was an act of domestic or international terror and if the shooter acted alone.

Later in the morning, authorities identified the killer as 29-year-old Omar Mateen of Fort Pierce, Florida.

At about 10 a.m. on June 12, Equality Florida, the statewide LGBT civil rights group, issued this statement, “We are reeling from the tragic news that a gunman opened fire on the 2am capacity crowd at Pulse….

“We are heartbroken and angry that senseless violence has once again destroyed lives in our state and in our country.

“Gay clubs hold a significant place in LGBTQ history. They were often the only safe gathering place and this horrific act strikes directly at our sense of safety. June commemorates our community standing up to anti-LGBTQ violence at the Stonewall Inn, the nightclub that has become the first LGBTQ site recognized as a national monument.

“We have received a steady stream of emails and messages from those seeking to help or to make sense of the senseless. We make no assumptions on motive. We will await the details in tears of sadness and anger. We stand in solidarity and keep our thoughts on all whose lives have been lost or altered forever in this tragedy.”