ORLANDO, FL (RNN) -
A hostage situation left approximately 20 dead and 42 injured at a night club in Orlando in what officials are calling "domestic terrorism."
Police responded to calls of a shooting at 2 a.m. Eastern and exchanged gunfire with a shooter inside Pulse, a night club catering to homosexuals. The gunman then took hostages and police entered the club about three hours later, exchanging more gunfire and killing the suspect.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina confirmed at 7 a.m. that there are approximately 20 dead inside the club and at least 42 people were taken to three area hospitals.
Mina said the shooter was carrying a handgun, a rifle and a "suspicious device" with him. He said officers decided to rescue the hostages at 5 a.m. using an explosive device to enter through a wall in the club. At 5:45 a.m., police tweeted that the suspect was dead.
Mina said about 30 people were rescued after police entered the building.
Police said the shooter was "organized and well-prepared" and is not from the Orlando area. Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings called it a "domestic terrorism incident" and an FBI spokesman said officials were looking into any connections the shooter may have had to terrorist groups.
Police said the gunman was carrying an assault style rifle and a handgun.
"We are a strong, resilient community," Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said. "We need to stand strong and we need to be supportive of the victims and their families."
Dozens of vehicles including the Orlando Fire Department's bomb squad and hazardous material team arrived at the scene of the shooting, which occurred around 2 a.m.
Near the time of the shooting, the club posted on its Facebook page, "Everyone get out of pulse and keep running."
After news of the shooting, family members and friends of people who were known to be in the club awaited word about injuries or possible deaths.
Chris Hansen managed to escape the club after shots rang out.
"It was just one after another, after another, after another. It could've lasted a whole song, because after everybody was out, shootings were still going and the cops were yelling, 'Go, go, clear the area, clear the area!'" Hansen said.
CNN reports three Orlando area hospitals have been placed on lockdown because of the mass shooting. There were reports of additional shots fired at a nearby hospital, but Mina said that claim was unfounded.
As day broke Sunday morning, buses arrived to transport those who had not been injured but were inside the club at the time. On Twitter, the police called calling for witnesses to go to police HQ.
Ricardo J. Negron Almodovar, commenting on Facebook, said he witnessed the incident.
"I was there. Shooter opened fire @ around 2:00 a.m. People on the dance floor and bar got down on the floor and some of use who were near the bar and back exit managed to go out through the outdoor area and just ran," Almodovar wrote.
The hashtag #prayfororlando, which emerged on Twitter after the fatal shooting of singer Christina Grimmie Friday night at the city's Plaza Live Theater, is once again trending on Twitter. Grimmie was killed after her concert at the venue by a 27-year-old man who later killed himself.
Mina said there was no indication the Pulse shooting was connected to Grimmie's murder.
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