Deadliest Shooting In U.S. History: Suspect Purchased Guns Legally, ATF Says

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A gunman opened fire on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., early Sunday morning, killing at least 50 people in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history before being shot dead by police.

The suspected shooter has been identified by authorities as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old U.S. citizen who had previously been interviewed by the FBI over possible ties to a terrorist. Officials told NPR that Mateen pledged allegiance to ISIS in a 911 call before the attack.

Over the past several days, Mateen legally purchased a long gun and a handgun, the ATF said during a news conderence. During the attack, the shooter was armed with an AR-15-style rifle and a handgun.

The shooter began firing on clubgoers at Pulse Orlando shortly after 2 a.m. ET. He exchanged shots with police before taking dozens of people hostage. After a nearly three-hour standoff, police stormed the building and killed the shooter.

Authorities had initially said about 20 people died in the attack, but when they entered the building they found far more victims than they expected, Orlando Police Chief John Mina said. At least 50 people died, and at least 53 were injured.

Police said they have not confirmed if Pulse was targeted specifically because it is a gay nightclub.

Tampa FBI Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Ronald Hopper identified the suspect as Omar Mateen — a 29-year-old U.S. citizen born in New York.

Hopper said the FBI had previously carried out two separate investigations of Mateen. They interviewed him twice in 2013 “when he made inflammatory comments to coworkers alleging possible terrorist ties” — but were “unable to verify the substance of his comments.” He was interviewed again in 2014 over possible ties to U.S. suicide bomber Moner Mohammad Abusalha — but they determined the contact was “minimal” and did not constitute a threat.

According to a search of public records, Mateen is listed as living in Florida’s St. Lucie County. The search shows that Mateen had a firearm license and he received a security officer license in both 2011 and 2013. The search did not turn up any criminal record.

Two federal officials briefed on the Orlando shooting told NPR’s Carrie Johnson that Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a 911 call prior to the attack. They added that there is no current imminent threat to Orlando.

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