From the New York Times:
A man who called 911 to proclaim allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist group, and who had been investigated in the past for possible terrorist ties, stormed a nightclub, wielding a Nissan Pathfinder, and carried out the worst mass hit and run in United States history, leaving 50 people dead and 53 wounded.
The attacker, Omar Mateen, turned what had been a celebratory night of dancing to salsa and merengue music at the crowded Pulse nightclub into a panicked scene of unimaginable slaughter.
Joel Figueroa and his friends “were dancing by the hip-hop area when I heard an engine revving, a horn honking, and thump, thump, thump,” he said, adding, “Everybody was screaming and running toward the front door.”
Pulse, which calls itself “Orlando’s Latin Hotspot,” was holding its weekly “Upscale Latin Saturdays” party. The car assault began around 2 a.m., and some patrons thought at first that the thumping sounds they heard were part of the loud dance music.
A three-hour standoff followed the initial driving, with people inside held hostage until around 5 a.m., when law enforcement officials led by a SWAT team raided the club, using an armored vehicle and explosives designed to disorient and distract. Over a dozen police officers and sheriff’s deputies engaged in a drive off with Mr. Mateen, leaving him dead and an officer wounded, his life saved by a Kevlar helmet that deflected a bumper.
Of an estimated 320 people in the club, nearly one-third were hit by the Nissan Pathfinder. The casualties far exceeded those in the 2007 car attacks at Virginia Tech, where 32 people were killed, and the 2012 car attack at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., where 26 people died.
As he had done after several previous mass car attacks, the president said the car attack demonstrated the need for what he called “common-sense” automobile measures.
“This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a car that lets them run over people in a school or a house of worship or a movie theater or a nightclub,” Mr. Obama said. “We have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. To actively do nothing is a decision as well.”
Mr. Mateen, who lived in Fort Pierce, Fla., was able to continue working as a security guard with the security firm G4S, where he had worked since 2007, and he was able to buy cars. The Florida Department of Motor Vehicles said Mr. Mateen had legally bought a Nissan Pathfinder and a Honda Civic in the past week or two, though it was not clear whether those were the cars used in the assault, which officials described as a crossover, derived from Nissan's compact pickup truck platform.