Was The Pulse Shooting A Hate Crime? Orlando Police Are Describing The Incident As Terrorism

Early Sunday morning at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, a gunman opened fire on the crowd of roughly one hundred people, and went on to take hostages — an act that Orlando police said later Sunday morning killed "approximately" 20 people and injured more than 40. If these numbers are confirmed, the Pulse nightclub shooting may be one of the deadliest in American history. Pulse is a well-known gay bar in Orlando, and the Orlando police department was quick to clarify that the shooting was being investigated as an act of terrorism, suggesting to some that the Pulse shooting may have potentially been a hate crime. However, this designation is unconfirmed by the police department and the FBI, and the shooter's motives are currently unknown, according to officials.

Update: Orlando’s mayor has updated the death toll to 50 deceased and more than 50 people have been hospitalized.

“This is an incident, as I see it, that we can definitely classify as a domestic terrorism incident,” said the Orange County sheriff in a statement. However, when asked whether Islamic fundamentalism may have been involved, a member of the FBI said, "“We do have suspicions that the individual may have leanings toward that ideology," according to The Guardian. However, that FBI member later clarified that this was one of several hypotheses being considered.

Although little is known about the individual's specific motives for opening fire in a nightclub in the early hours of the morning, the immediate designation of the shooting as terrorism is telling. The police department specifically noted that it was unclear whether this was domestic or international terrorism, meaning that it's as yet unconfirmed whether Pulse was deliberately targeted because it was a gay club and likely had LGBTQ patrons, or whether it was targeted simply because it contained a large number of people.

The shooting also involved a hostage situation, Orlando police said in a statement, although few details are known. A "controlled explosion" also took place in the club during the early hours of morning, apparently to distract the suspect, according to reports.