Father of Orlando gay club shooter Omar Mateen apologises as death toll rises to 50

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The father of the shooter in a terrorist mass shooting which took place this morning in Orlando, Florida, has apologised, said the incident had nothing to do with religion, and said he did not know it was going to happen.

UPDATE: The most up-to-date version of this breaking story is here

Various news sources cited law enforcement officials in naming Omar Mateen as the shooter in the incident which killed as many as 20 people and injured 42, including a police officer.

The US citizen’s parents are from Afghanistan, and FBI agent Ron Hopper spoke to reporters to say that he may have leanings towards Islamic extremism.

The shooter, a resident of Port St Lucie, Florida, was killed after a “gun battle” with police officers in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Now Mateen’s father has apologised for the incident, saying he did not think his son was religiously motivated.

He also said that his son, 29, got angry a few months ago after he saw two men kiss in Orlando.

The Mayor confirmed that the death toll was expected to pass 50 following the incident, having previously said around 20 were dead. He declared a state of emergency in the city.

Watch a report from NBC below:

The shooter, a resident of Port St Lucie, Florida, was killed after a “gun battle” with police officers in the early hours of Sunday morning.

His identity was revealed by CBS News, the Washington Post, and NBC News. The BBC suggests that although he was not on a terrorist watch-list, he may have been being investigated for a previous crime.

As well as a  White House statement condemning the attack, which authorities described as a “terrorist incident”,  an appeal was put out for O Negative, O Positive and AB Plasma blood donors.

The White House statement read: “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.”

Those able to donate blood should visit https://www.oneblood.org or call 1.888.9Donate.

The city, best known for the Disney theme parks is home to gay venue, the Pulse Club, where around 20 people were killed, and 42 were injured in a shooting which took place in the early hours of Sunday morning (12 June).

Police detonated a controlled explosion at the scene, which they described as a “distractionary device”. It was later confirmed that the gunman had died.

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Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer described the crime as “horrific” at a press conference this morning.

An Orange County Sherriff described the incident as a “domestic terrorist incident”, which was confirmed by the FBI, a spokesman said: “Domestic or international, it’s terrorism”.

Authorities urged any witnesses to call ‘1-800-CALL FBI’ with any information.

It was confirmed that an officer attended the Pulse club and engaged with a “gun battle” with a shooter who was using an assault rifle and a pistol.

“This turned into a hostage situation. Multiple officers from various agencies responded. ” said police.

“We will take them to the ultimate end” said police of any possible accomplices in the shooting.

Police also said: “The shooter was organised and well prepared. He is not from this area”.

Multiple officers from local, state and federal agencies responded to the incident at the club, where approximately 320 people were in attendance.

At approx 05:00 this morning the decision was made to rescue hostages after people phoned police from the toilets in the nightclub. The police drove a truck through the wall in order to distract the gunman.

One officer’s life was saved by his kevlar helmet during the gun battle, authorities said.

The bomb squad did find a device at the scene, and a controlled detonation took place.

While the police said the man was not from Orlando, they said they were “still trying to positively identify” him.

“In the range of 20” people were shot and killed in the club, and police said they saved approximately 30 people over the course of the incident.

The nightclub posted on its Facebook page as the shooting unfolded: “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running”.

An eyewitness told WESH that he was in the hospital when they brought people in and that there was “blood everywhere”. The friend of someone in the club at the time of the shooting said that there were “bodies everywhere”.

Dozens of family members and friends were out in the street and at the hospital attempting to find out information on their loved ones.

The Orlando Police Department called for witnesses to come to speak with them, tweeting: “Anyone who was at Pulse nightclub and was a witness Please come to the Orlando Police HQ, 100 S. Hughey Ave.”

Adding: “Any information you have could aid investigators in this case.”

Despite no information being readily available on a motive of the shooter, a witness at the #Pulse #Orlando shooting said: “Wake up – we are just like you – why kill us?” … “just let us live”

“This happens every day – not only trans, not only LGBT – we all get killed every day – WHY? Because you’re afraid of what you don’t understand and you reject the unfamiliar.”

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Police had previously tweeted that the situation is a “mass casualty” incident, and later confirmed that it was a “terrorist incident”.

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Bomb squad and hazardous material team were on the scene. A controlled explosion was heard on the scene at around 05:08, local time, EDT.

Ricardo Negron Almodovar who was there posted: “Shooter opened fire @ around 2:00am. People on the dance floor and bar got down on the floor and some of us who were near the bar and back exit managed to go out through the outdoor area and just ran. I am safely home and hoping everyone gets home safely as well.”

He told Sky News: “People have definitely been injured – or worse.”

A second man, Anthony Torres, was heard shouting that others had died in the club.

(Photo: Brett Moots)

Video footage on social media has shown police and ambulance crews on the scene.

More footage showed dozens of shots being fired.

At 06:07, victims of the shooting were still being evacuated from the scene.

Homophobes have already praised the shooting.

Another Twitter user, @Jared17Smith, wrote: “I wonder how much of the splattered blood in #Pulse is HIV+”.

Father of Orlando gay club shooter Omar Mateen apologises as death toll rises to 50

On Friday, The Voice star Christina Grimmie was shot dead by a fan at her concert. She was 22.

This is a breaking news story. More will follow on PinkNews.