June 12, 2016 at 7:40 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Gunman kills 50 people at gay Fla. nightclub

Penny Proud, gay news, Washington Blade

A gunman killed ‘multiple people’ at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., early on June 12, 2016.

A gunman killed 50 people inside a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., early Sunday morning.

Orlando Police Department Chief John Mina told reporters during a press conference that the gunman entered the Pulse Nightclub shortly after 2 a.m. and opened fire.

He said the gunman had an assault rifle, handgun and a device “on him.” Mina told reporters that the gunman also took hostages.

A SWAT team entered the club shortly after 5 a.m. to rescue up to 30 people who were inside. Officers killed the suspect after they exchanged gunfire with him.

“There are multiple people that are dead inside,” Mina told reporters.

Police described the shooting as a domestic act of terrorism.

“Tonight our community witnessed…a horrible crime,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer told reporters. “Many lives were lost.”

“We are [a] strong, resilient community,” he said. “Tonight we had a crime that will have a lasting effect on our community. We need to remain strong.”

Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith expressed her organization’s condolences in a message she posted to the Pulse Nightclub’s Facebook page.

“The Equality Florida family is here in tears of sadness and anger that this has happened,” wrote Smith. “If we can help, let us know. We are monitoring the news and stand ready to assist.”

The White House said in a statement that President Obama has asked law enforcement to provide him with “regular updates.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of the victims,” it said.

Jonathan Lovitz, vice president of external affairs at the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, grew up in Orlando and wrote on his Facebook page that he had danced at the Pulse Nightclub “more than times than I can count.”

“Our community will not be terrified into silence,” he wrote. “We’ve come too far.”

The Washington Blade will provide further updates as they become available.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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