Today marks another violent milestone in American history. A gunman tied to radical Islamic extremism opened fire at the Pulse night club in the city of Orlando, Florida. The club has advertised itself as the most popular gay club in the city. In the early hours of Sunday morning, Omar Saddiqi Mateen walked into the club and began shooting. After a 2-hour stand-off with at least 30 hostages, he was killed by a police swat team. When the carnage was done, 53 people were injured and another 50 people were dead. Media and the FBI are now calling Mateen’s actions the “deadliest mass shooting in American history,” surpassing the 27 adults and children killed in Newtown, Connecticut on December 12, 2012.
Mateen was armed with a handgun and an AR-15 type assault rifle, as well as what police thought was a suicide vest. Law enforcement officials have stated that the shooting was well planned and there might be more suspects involved. It is unknown if other attacks are planned, but City of Orlando officials are calling for Florida Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency. Sen. Bill Nelson (D) of Florida stated during a press conference that the shooter may have links to the radical terrorist group ISIS. Nelson further stated with the strings of mass shooting we have to discover what’s going on in the country: “We are going to have to look at ourselves as who we are as a people. We are not a hyphenated people … We have to dig deep at these issues.”
Law enforcement officials have stated that Mateen was “on the radar of U.S. officials for some time, but was not the target of a specific investigation.” Mateen was employed as a security guard and was attending Indian River State College. According Mateen’s father, his son had displayed homophobic behavior in the past. His father stated, “We were in Downtown Miami, Bayside, people were playing music. And he saw two men kissing each other in front of his wife and kid and he got very angry. They were kissing each other and touching each other and he said, ‘Look at that. In front of my son they are doing that.’ And then we were in the men’s bathroom and men were kissing each other.”
The month of June was declared Gay Pride Month by President Obama and Pride parades are scheduled throughout the country. This month is also the Islamic month of Ramadan, a time to show devotion through action, prayer and fasting. The fact that Ramadan and Pride Month are occurring at the same time may be a factor some law enforcement officials are stating. It is unknown if Mateen was self radicalized or if he received training and teaching from a radical Islamic group. Law enforcement sources are stating that Mateen had pledged allegiance to ISIS. Pro ISIS and other radical Islamic websites are praising Mateen’s actions. Because Mateen was also anti-gay, his actions may also be the deadliest hate crime in modern US history.