ORLANDO, FLORIDA – The gunman reportedly opened fire at the Pulse nightclub around 2 a.m. Sunday and took several hostages, local news outlets report, adding a crisis negotiator is on the scene.
A shooting inside a downtown Orlando, Florida, nightclub led to mass casualties, according to the police, who said that at least one gunman had been found dead inside.
The shooting was reported at about 3 a.m., after last call at Pulse, one of the largest gay nightspots in the Central Florida city.
On its Twitter feed, the Police Department asked residents to “stay away from area” and said that it was seeking support from local state and federal agencies.
The club itself posted a message on its Facebook page about 3 a.m.: “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running.”
Customers streamed out of the club into a chaotic situation with little idea of where to go. “Cops were saying, ‘Go, go, clear the area,’ ” Christopher Hansen told an Orlando television station. “You don’t know who’s what and who’s where.”
Police swept inside the club and about 5 a.m. set off a “controlled explosion” in an effort to clear the club, the department said in its Twitter feed. A news conference scheduled for 4:30 a.m. was canceled.
Phone camera videos shot at the scene show police cars, ambulances and other emergency vehicles outside the club on South Orange Avenue in downtown Orlando. Streets around the the club were shut down for several blocks.
Many of the wounded were taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center, about three blocks from the club, which was placed on lockdown after receiving several gunshot victims. “Only essential workers are being allowed access into the building,” the hospital said in a statement.
“Out of an abundance of caution, Arnold Palmer Hospital and Winnie Palmer Hospital have also been placed on lockdown.” the statement added.
Local television stations broadcast interviews with people outside the club and the Orlando Regional Medical Center, about three blocks away from the club, anxiously waiting to hear from people who they said were still inside.
WKMG and WESH broadcast interviews with the crowds milling outside the hospital. One woman said she rushed to the area after she got a call from her daughter, who said, “Please come get us and come get us now.”
The club, which calls itself “Orlando’s Latin Hotspot,” hosts an “Upscale Latin Saturdays” party on Saturday night with three DJs and a midnight show.