Inside the Orlando Nightclub Massacre, Breaking Down the Three Horrific Hours Inside

Gio Benitez, et al., ABC News, June 12, 2016

Eyewitnesses described a scene of complete chaos, with blood everywhere, in the three horrific hours from the time an armed gunman opened fire inside an Orlando, Florida, gay nightclub to the time a SWAT team entered the building, rescued the hostages the gunman had taken and then killed him.

One eyewitness who was released from the hospital tonight told ABC News he played dead for three hours as the gunman, whom authorities have identified as Omar Mateen, 29, walked around, talking to club patrons still inside. Then, the witness said, he heard the shooter on the phone saying, “Stop killing ISIS” and “I’ve got plenty of bullets.”

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People continued to try to escape, but dozens were stuck and became hostages, law enforcement officials said at a news conference earlier today. After the shooting began, Mateen, a U.S.-born citizen with Afghan parents who lived in St. Lucie County, Florida, called 911 to pledge his allegiance to the terrorist group ISIS, officials said.

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At approximately 5 a.m., the SWAT team made the decision to rescue the hostages, officials said. Police set off controlled explosions inside the club to distract the gunman. An armored vehicle smashed through a wall of the club, and officers swarmed in behind. Eleven Orlando Police officers exchanged gunfire with the shooter, according to Mina.

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[Editor’s Note: In the interview here, an eyewitness claims at one point Mateen asked club-goers, “Who’s in here? Are you guys black?” When some responded affirmatively, Mateen said, “I don’t have an issue with the blacks.”]

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