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CNN TONIGHT

Continued Coverage of Worst Mass Shooting in American History. Aired 10-11p ET.

Aired June 12, 2016 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[22:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Our breaking news here on CNN, the worst mass shooting in American history.

This is CNN tonight. And I'm Don Lemon live in Orlando.

Here's what we know right now. Fifty people are dead, 53 others injured at the Pulse Gay Nightclub. The gunman identified is Omar Mateen of Fort Pierce, Florida.

He was shot and killed by police. They say Mateen was armed with assault-type weapon and a handgun. Now, according to a neighbor, Mateen works as a security guard at the Port St. Lucie courthouse. His ex-wife says he wanted to be a police officer and apply to the Academy. She also says he had a violent temper, and her family rescued her from the marriage after only four months. Mateen had been investigated by the FBI for possibly ties to Islamic extremism, but no evidence was found to charge him. No, claim of responsibility on Jihadi forms, but the ISIS sympathizes. ISIS sympathisers are prizing the attack.

Nobody could have guess that a deadly terror attack would happen right here at the Pulse, a gay nightclub in the central Florida City.

CNN's Jessica Schneider has the story of how this horror unfolded.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Numerous cop cars out here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

The worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, since 9/11, begins here at the Pulse, a gay nightclub in the heart of Orlando.

2:00 a.m., closing time, some 350 people crowded inside the cavernous club for Latin night, the most popular night of the week. Two minutes later, shots ring out in the darkness. Witnesses think the shots are part of the music. A man armed with an assault riffle and GLOCK pistol shooting patrons in two areas of the club. Some are able to escape the chaos by running out the back. Others sent urging text begging for help, "Mommy, I love you in the club they shooting." "You okay." "Trapped in the bathroom." "What club?" "Pulse. Downtown. Call Police. I'm going to die." "Calling them now." Moments later, "You're still in there? Answer your phone. Call me. Call me." "Call them mommy, now. I'm still in the bathroom. He's coming. I'm going to die."

A uniformed officer working security at Pulse and two other officers nearby at the time all fire on the shooter, later identified as 29- year-old Omar Mateen. Mateen takes hostages at 2:09, almost 10 minutes after the shooting began.

Club management posts an urgent message to Facebook, "Everyone, get out of Pulse and keep running. At 2:22, Mateen calls 911 pledging allegiance to ISIS and mentioning the Boston Marathon bombers. A tense standoff follows, almost three excruciating hours with some 100 officers outside the club.

One person hiding in the bathroom covers herself with dead bodies to protect herself, she survived. Some entertainers hide in the dressing room when the shooting started. They escape when police remove an air conditioning unit and crawl out the window.

Finally, at 5:00 a.m. a SWAT team uses an armored vehicle to smash down a door at the club allowing some 30 hostages to escape. Officers confront Mateen in the doorway shooting and killing him.

One of the bar tenders says she hid under the glass bar. Police arrives calling out, "If you are alive, raise your hand, raise your hand." Initial estimates of 20 dead proved to be just far too low.

BUDDY DYER, MAYOR OF ORLANDO, FLORIDA: And it is with great sadness that I share. We have not 20, but 50 casualties, in addition to the shooter there are another 53 that are hospitalized.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: And the Pulse nightclub owner is releasing a statement tonight saying that the people who have worked there for the past 15 years have been like family to her. She says this was a place of love and acceptance, but of course, tonight, a grim reality as this nightclub is now surrounded by police cars and coroners' vans. Don?

[22:05:04] LEMON: Yes. This is terrible. Thank you, Jessica, we appreciate that.

I want to bring in CNN's Nick Valencia now outside Orlando Regional Medical Center. He has an update on what is going on there and the victims.

Nick, more than 50 wounded, what can you tell us about them? How critical are the injuries?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's start with their family members, those who are still waiting on word for those that are unaccounted for. We were at the Hampton Inn, what was effectively the staging area for those friends and family still awaiting word. The remaining family members that have love ones unaccounted for had been moved here, Don, to the Delaney school.

And just a short time ago, we saw just how emotional it is for these family members, an unidentified family walking down those steps behind me seemingly inconsolable. We don't know what they are going through, whether they heard bad news or whether it's just the fact that they haven't heard any news at all that is shaking them to their core. But we were there at the Hampton Inn, at that staging area when the doctors walked across the street from the medical center to deliver the official word, the official names of those who were killed in this attack. And it was just a short time after that that we heard the subs, so there's heart wrenching screams from the family members who found out that their loved ones were decease. One of those that we spoke to was a man named Baron Serrano, who's waiting for the word of whether or not his brother is still alive.

He spoke to me about what it was like when those doctors walked in to the hotel to give them the grim news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARON SERRANO, BROTHER OF MISSING VICTIM: Here's the thing, people misunderstood what happened inside there. They thought that if they didn't mentioned their family members' names that they are already dead or something like that, and it's not like that, you know, there are still people at the hospital, it's just that they don't have their names.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VALENCIA: So it's the lack of news that is really still as haunting for some family members, and really, a chilling detail that we heard a short time ago from somebody who has a friend in the hospital, they relayed the story to me saying that while they were working on the wounded and while some of the dead were in the hospital, they can hear the phones ringing of some of those in the hospital beds knowing that family was trying to check up, knowing that they were only going to be given bad news. Don.

LEMON: And Nick, the original question, "How are the injuries? How critical are the people who are injured?" Can you give us some conditions?

VALENCIA: Fifty-three injured, some range from critical condition and others are listed in stable condition. There are some family members that we spoke to saying that their family members weren't on the list that were given out to those in the staging area. So there are a number of people saying that their family members are not on these lists -- hospital officials, we should say, have been limited in the details that they have given out, and that is part of the frustration here with family members. We mentioned last hour, things have not changed. Some of these people are going to have to wait until 10:00 a.m. Eastern, tomorrow morning to find out the fate of those love ones that are still hospitalized. Don?

LEMON: I can only imagine the chaos of dealing with this so unexpected and so much manpower needed. Than you very much, Nick Valencia, I appreciate that.

CNN's Pamela Brown is here with me.

Pamela, the gunman was American-born, he's born in America. What do we know about him?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN NWS CORRESPONDENT: We know he was born in 1986, he's 29 years old, born in New York, and then at some point he moved to Florida. He was married to a woman for four months, a short-lived marriage. She has spoken to the press as well as to investigators and said that he was abusive during that time that he had a temper and that essentially her parents had to rescue her from him. He then moved here and he was living here in Florida in Saint -- I'm sorry -- Port St. Lucie and remarried, has a son.

And at one point, he was on the FBI's radar back in 2013, the FBI opened up an investigation into him, because his co-workers at the security company that he works for complained that he was makings inflammatory remarks that made them believe that he had ties to terrorism. The FBI looked into it and interviewed the gunman twice, interviewed others, did surveillance and determined that there was no wrongdoing, that the FBI could not corroborate what the co-workers had been saying and could substantiated and then he was interviewed in a separate investigation, the next year. He was not the subject of it but the FBI wanted to see if he had close ties to an American suicide bomber, and ultimately the FBI decided that he did not, and essentially, the FBI moved on. He was not considered a high priority target.

Of course, Don, the question now is whether anything was missed along the way. We know that he called 911, pledged allegiance to ISIS, talked about the Boston Marathon bombers. And clearly, this is someone who wad -- was influenced to some degree by international terrorism, and then also had anti-gay views as well.

LEMON: Yeah. And when I spoke to them, you know, our Law Enforcement Analyst, our Security Analyst, the New York Police Commissioner, Bill Bratton. I said, how, you know, if he was investigating about the FBI 2013 and 2014, how was he able to by guns legally? That is a curse.

BROWN: That is the question I can tell you, though. You know, the FBI opens up these investigations looks into what other people come to them and say the issue is.

[22:10:04] And then if they don't find wrong doing or not yet, they just can't keep case open in perpetuity if you don't find anything, I can tell you if they close the investigation, that means they didn't have it in claim that this person had connections to terrorist, and the FBI would not close the case unless, you know, they really feel confident that it was prudent to do so.

And so, if the case closed then what's prohibiting him for buying a gun? He had a firearms license. He was a security guard at the courthouse and Port St. Lucie. I mean, he had a firearms license. There was nothing from walking into that store, within the last two weeks, buying the handgun and buying the riffle that was ultimately used in the shooting here.

LEMON: This is frightening, because you never know. So let's talk more about that 911 call that he made about 20 minutes before -- right into the shooting. BROWN: Into the shooting, right.

LEMON: But why was the Boston bombers brought up?

BROWN: That's the sort of what investigators are trying to figure out right now, what his connection was to them. Obviously, the M.O. was different. The Boston bombers used explosives. And he, as we know, used firearms, but he was clearly influenced to a degree by the Boston bombers and they shared obviously an interest in international terrorism, and the Boston bomber, of course, it was Al Qaeda connected. This appears to be ISIS-related. But at the end of the day, it's still international terrorism, and so that's what investigators are trying to figure out right now.

LEMON: And he pledged allegiance to ISIS in that call, in that 911 call.

BROWN: In that 911 call.

LEMON: His former classmates are speaking out -- what are they saying?

BROWN: Yes, his former classmates, well, some of them are saying, "Look this was, you know, this was a normal guy who, you know, we didn't think there is anything out of the ordinary. There was nothing alarming." Then others are saying, "Look, this is someone who, you know, I could see why he would raise a red flag." So, we're getting some mixed reviews. But it's on the ex-wife, Don, you know, I think investigators are getting a glimpse into who this person was. Of course, he has a current wife. But the ex-wife said she noticed a change of him over those four months, that at first he seemed normal and then she said he started acting, you know, like he had a mental health issue that he was being abusive to her and had a really bad temper, and so clearly this is someone who is unstable and had some other factors to play, influencing him to act out here.

LEMON: And her family is saying that her family, you know, she said that her family had to rescue her from him?

BROWN: Essentially, yes. He told her basically that she could not have contact with her family, according to her, and he wanted her to cut off contact, and so essentially her family had to help rescue her according to these interviews, according to what she has said to the media. So that gives some insight and this is several years ago and then of course, he remarried, so a lot to learn.

LEMON: Yes, same, right. I want to say just what's happening behind panel because people are coming gathering. This is really become a gathering point here for the people in Orlando. And all around, they come to the media here. I mean, they're here because they need to feel like there is some presence, right, they want their voices heard. There are people doing interviews behind us. There are people coming here saying hello to us, they're happy that we're here to tell the story, and then, you know, they don't want us to tell, you know, it's an awful story.

BROWN: Yes.

LEMON: But they said this is an aberration because this community -- and even the Muslim community are --.

BROWN: So tight knit.

LEMON: Yes, tight knit, and they work together.

BROWN: And people are just looking for an outlet, you know, that the lines are around the block in the blood drive. People just wanting to donate their blood, people like you said, coming to come out and share their stories and more. And I mean, really, this is to think in your community having the worst, the deadliest mass shoot in American history. You just can't wrap your head around it, and you can really feel that around us right here, Don.

LEMON: Yes. And lots of, of course, sadness and griefs.

Thank you very much, Pamela Brown, we appreciate your reporting.

BROWN: You're welcome.

LEMON: We will be right back with much more on our Breaking News tonight, the worst terror attack in this country since 9/11. The deadly attack in the Pulse nightclub here in Orlando, Florida as we look at live pictures.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:17:23] LEMON: We are back now with our Break News live pictures of the crime scene, which is of course the Pulse club here in Orlando. CNN has obtained some video that I need to tell you about. Video of what a witness, who is on the scene, says is a moment that police stormed the Pulse nightclub and dozens of gunshots that ensued. That witnesses David Ward lives next to the Pulse nightclub, took the dark video from his balcony. Look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(GUNSHOTS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And again, CNN obtained that video of what a witness says the moment that police stormed the Pulse nightclub. You could hear in that video dozens of gunshots ensuing. Again, the witness was David Ward, he lives next door the Pulse nightclub, and he took that dark video from his balcony. And we'll play that for you in just moments. But I want to bring in CNN's Drew Griffin first. Outside of the shooter's home, he is in Fort Pierce, Florida. That video is haunting, Drew, but I understand again, you're outside the gunman's apartment. What are you seeing there? What's going on there?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Just a few minutes ago, almost at the top of the 10:00 hour, about -- I would say two dozen or so FBI, well, looks to be an evidence response team, rolled up. They congregated in the parking lot and met a fellow with a computer, and had a briefing and then began to move back towards the apartment, where this suspect live, Don. That makes me believe that this can be a very, very long night of evidence gathering here. Some 20 hours or so after this event unfolded and it's only beginning for them in terms of what kind of information they are going to cull out of this man's apartment. But again, it was -- it looks like this team will work through the night as they arrived here just a few minutes ago, Don.

LEMON: And, Drew, we've heard about the gunman's behavior. The father has also behaved strangely. What can you tell us about that?

GRIFFIN: This is what we can tell you, the father, of course, Afghan immigrant who moved here and he attended the local mosque.

[22:20:01] But he also has been a prolific poster on Youtube. And we're going to show you some of those Youtube posts, which some of the translation is somewhat incoherent, but in one he announces his candidacy for the President of Afghanistan. And just within the last 24 hours or so, posted a Youtube video where he appears to be posing as a Military Commander of Afghanistan and says that he wants to arrest the five traitors of his homeland country.

We don't have precise translation yet on all of this, but it seems to be in some cases, according to the translator, incoherent. We did hear it from the imam who knows this man, says he's basically has been an insurance broker here in Florida. Seems to be a nice guy, but now, we are looking at this Youtube videos and other indications that there're maybe trouble here with the father as well. That's still developing at this point, Don, but that's all we can tell you.

LEMON: All right. Drew, thank you very much. Standby. We have some breaking news here that I want to tell you about.

This is a video, again, I'm going to play it again. And the guy who shot this video, his name is David Ward, he's here, right here.

David Ward just shot this video, just moments ago, that police -- or the moment that the police stormed Pulse nightclub. And then we're going to talk to David right after this. Look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(GUNSHOTS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Okay. David Ward is joining us now. So, this all happened just shortly when the club is closing, close to 2:00 a.m. But then what you captured was -- because there was a hostage standoff for while, he was in there for a while. You captured the police going in and then taking him down, correct?

DAVID WARD, PULSE ORLANDO WITNESS: Right. It was about 5:08 after the detonation. Shortly after the detonation, I stepped out on the balcony and heard a lot of commands from, I guess, the SWAT units that were staging in that area across the street from Pulse, which is directly below me. At that point I heard "Go, go, go." And then what you heard there, which is a volley for 10 or 12 seconds of hundreds of rounds. I think they were reaching in where the machine rammed through the backside of the building. And then I think that is where they went in from.

LEMON: How long had you been standing out? Did you leave there or you just happened to be?

WARD: I live there on the corner unit across the street.

LEMON: OK. So, you live there. So, did you hear the original commotion?

WARD: Yes. I was asleep, I heard two shots. I thought originally, were backfires from a car or something, usually a lot of commotion any ways every night there. I stepped outside and I saw some people -- initial people fleeing out. So I stepped further down and then that's what I heard, the volley of shots coming from the inside, probably 50 or 60 rounds, It was definitely automatic fire. At that moment, I had my two daughters, you know, in the home with me, so I rushed back in. Before doing that, I noticed that people were running away, they're running through any yard, but then -- and everyone seemed to run back once they realize their friends or people they had come with we're not with them. They started running back shouting for their names and so forth. At that point, I got inside to make sure my daughters were there.

LEMON: Did you hear any of the negotiations between?

WARD: No.

LEMON: So you don't know if they were not talking to him on a bull horn from inside?

WARD: No. That was happening as usual further down, probably right in front of the parking lot, across with Dunkin' Donuts.

LEMON: Could you see any of the chaos, any of injured from your vantage point?

WARD: Yes, absolutely. I mean, in initial stages just before law enforcement arrived, there was one guy shirt's off, shoes were off. He's clutching his arm. And then a few minutes after that or just before the detonation, they were actually pulling -- it looked like makeshift blankets or tarps where they are pulling people on, pulling them across the street into the parking lot on the other side, where swat and other law enforcement had set up kind of triage, a staging area is what it appeared to me any ways.

LEMON: David Ward shot that critical video. Thank you very much. We have police going in. I appreciate and we're glad that you are safe and your daughters are safe as well.

WARD: Thank you.

LEMON: We're going to be right back with more of our breaking news here in Orlando, the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:28:23] LEMON: Live scene of the attack on the Pulse nightclub, there are some pictures right there, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. I want to bring in Attorney Mark Nejame, a Community Leader here in Orlando.

Thank you. This is where you are born and raised, and you say this is not reflective of your community.

Not at all. In fact, it we got a lot (inaudible) how this community has grown, where I was born. It was a small orange grove with a lot almost bigoted people, in fact, not almost, it was that way. And over the years, it's been amazing. The transformation is such a multicultural, such a diverse community that really accepts everybody, and it's just heart breaking. It's really tearing the heart of the community.

LEMON: It's amazing story about why the owner opened this club. It was honor to honor her brother, right?

MARK NEJAME, ATTORNEY: Yes, wonderful people around the club. It will be up to them to make their own comments, but it's pretty common to know that her brother died, and she opened up this club in his memory about 15 years ago, wonderful people and wonderful operators.

LEMON: How are they doing?

NEJAME: As we understand, they're heartbroken and crushed. But really, the statement should come from them, but, yes, they have been impacted profoundly in many friends. You know, this is a business and they have friends and relationships and everything else. So, all of our hearts should go on after them but we're allowing them to take their time to come out and state as they need to.

LEMON: Do you think this will change things here, change the community?

NEJAME: I'm watching the community grow and get together so great --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I want to know, Mark, the relationship between the Muslim community and the gay community, you said there is a strong bond between these cases. This is so shocking.

NEJAME: It's amazing. You're seeing the Muslim community come out and embracing their brothers and their sisters. And then on the other hand, you're seeing, you know, the goods getting together and supporting each other, realizing this is an act of terrorist in individual, not of the community at large.

[22:30:06] And that's the -- if there is any good that can be found out of this horrendous nightmare that we are going through, is that the community is continuing to grow together, to be together. And that's representative of the Central Florida community which we are all so proud of.

And not just some cheerleader going out, this is what's really happening, after the 9/11, Jewish community, Muslim, Christian community, Buddhist community, everybody got together -- Hindu community, everybody got together. And they do business with each other. We socialize with each other. And, you know, a large part of Central Florida is the gay community. And so it's -- we're all coming together, we're not going to let this stop us, we're not going to let this divide us. There will be a few people out there, a few (inaudible) out there. We're not going to let them stop us from the great progress we made over the years.

LEMON: You were so helpful, Mark, during our coverage with the Trayvon Martin and the George Zimmerman trial, and now with this. And we appreciate joining us. Thank you. Please come back. And thank you for helping us out.

NEJAME: Don, always.

LEMON: Mark knows everyone here and you have been just so kind and so gracious.

NEJAME: Blessings to you all. Thank you for the good work you're doing.

LEMON: Thank you very much. Thank you.

You know, officials said the gunman called 911 to pledge his allegiance to ISIS, also mentioning a Boston marathon bomber. I want to talk now about that with Ambassador R. James Woolsey. He's a former director of Central Intelligence. Also with me is Jim Maxwell, a retired special agent at the FBI. Gentleman, thank you for joining us. We appreciate your expertise.

Ambassador Woolsey, you're first. Another terror attack on U.S. soil, this time a man who had been investigated by the FBI. Did he slip through the cracks or is there a deeper problem here that we need to deal with?

R. JAMES WOOLSEY, CHAIRMAN OF FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE DEMOCRACIES: Well, it's hard to vet people successfully. This is particularly a difficult one because the FBI had two occasions to interview him. They are very professional and I think if there had been anything there to be found in the sense of behavior that could have been legally objectionable, they would have found it. I think this is a serious problem because an individual like this one or small group can become radicalized through various ways, social media and the rest, and undertake something of this sort that's absolutely horrific. And we are not going to succeed in dealing with ISIS, in dealing with this kind of the terrorist attack by just operating the way that we have been. It's not going to work.

LEMON: And we -- I was speaking to the police commissioner, William Bratton, of New York City and he said that there are a number of things that need to be changed, and he believes that Congress really is hamstrung that people are tying their hands, and Congress should act on better legislation. Do you agree?

WOOLSEY: Well, essentially, yes. I mean, we have a tradeoff, any society does, between liberty and security, and we're lucky in the United States with the oceans around us, and more or less friendly neighbors on the north and the south. We have, on the whole, we have had both security and there haven't been a challenge to our liberty.

But now, we are in a situation in which liberty really may have to see some compromises in order for us to have adequate security. And hopefully, they would not be compromises that would fundamentally damage the way we operate. But, you know, during the Civil War, and I'm not advocating this, Lincoln suspended habeas corpus. We have had some very decisive changes in our security situation over the decades, over the centuries. In order to have security, and we have had changes to our freedoms, and we are going to have to be careful about how we do this, but what we're doing now is not working.

LEMON: Hey, Jim Maxwell, I have to ask you, I mind the mind-boggling question to a lot of people that I have been speaking to today, and if, you know, if you go online and look at social media, how did someone who was questioned by the FBI three times, was under investigation, at least, 2013 and 2014, maybe not the target of the investigation or the main person, but how does that person end up being able to legally buy guns?

JIM MAXWELL, RETIRED FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Well, the criteria for buying guns, first of all, if you look at the paperwork when you apply for a weapons permit, it's -- you have to submit yourself to a criminal check. Now, if you have no convictions for any felonies, that's part of the process to qualify for having a weapon, also, if you have no history or the documented history of mental illness. So if he is clear on those two points, and he's a U.S. citizen, he has every right to buy a weapon.

But, I'd like to talk to the bureau's posture on preliminary investigations. You know, we can't arrest people based on rhetoric and comments.

[22:35:00] The First Amendment still exists here. And I think if we start changing that, we are on a slippery slope. I've dealt with many of these investigations and I've seen them go short term because there was nothing else to hang our hat on. We couldn't go further. And I have seen them go long term where all of the resources of the FBI have been applied against individuals who are suspected of being involved in a terrorism plot. The FBI can't cover everybody 24/7, 24 hours a day, it's impossible task, and the director will tell you that.

WOOLSEY: That's, you know, that's exactly right.

MAXWELL: But we have to be ...

LEMON: Listen, hey, Jim Maxwell, before I go, I want to get this question. I know that you can't -- there is just simply not enough manpower, but I want to ask you about this 911 call and get your opinion on it when he -- 20 minutes into this, he apparently called -- made a call to 911 and pledged allegiance to ISIS. Talk to us about that.

MAXWELL: Well, he made it very easy. We can at least say that he was inspired by ISIS to carry out this heinous act. Whether or not investigation down the road will show that he received any guidance, funding or direction from any group overseas, that's a long term investigation. And believe me, I'm sure that all the resources of the FBI and the federal government are being applied here to try to ferret that information out. Right now, we can easily say that he was inspired to conduct this type of operation. But, that is the only thing that we can confirm.

LEMON: Jim Maxwell and Ambassador James Woolsey. Thank you very much. And I want to appreciate you joining us. Thank you very much.

When we come back, we will have more on our breaking news here in Orlando, Florida, the massacre of the gay nightclub leaves 50 dead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:40:30] LEMON: This is our breaking news tonight here on CNN, the deadliest terror attack in this country since 9/11, 50 people killed at a gay nightclub here in Orlando.

Let's discuss with Imam Daayiee Abdullah, executive director of the MECCA Institute, Mubin Shaikh who is an ex-extremist, now a counterterrorism expert, and Rasha Mubarak, CAIR-Florida Orlando Regional Director. Thank you so much all of you for joining us this evening.

Daayiee, I want to start with you, Imam. You are known as America's first and only openly gay Imam. Is this a title that you embrace and how did it come about?

DAAYIEE ABDULLAH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF MECCA INSTITUTE: Well, part of it. Yes, I do embrace it. And number two, I was a gay activist many year before I became Muslim. And through the process, I was able to see how I could meld both of them and appreciate both of them as a full human being.

LEMON: So, many Muslims consider homosexuality to be a sin, same thing as in the Christianity. So how do you navigate these beliefs in your religious community?

ABDULLAH: Well, mainly, that what people believe generally come from a cultural manifestation of what they understand Islam to be and those particular texts that they have alluded to. But in many ways, they fail to realize that there have been multiple Islams throughout the Islamic history and throughout the latest time period. Even in the Ottoman Empire, they decriminalize homosexuality from a sharia criminal place.

So frequently, people do not know their history well enough to understand and to place these particular contexts. These are texts within a particular context. So very often they are going by what others have told them and not something that they have done scholarly research on. LEMON: So, Mubin, you had -- I mean you have insight into this because you used to be an extremist, and you hated gay people. Now, you no longer do. So take us inside of this extremist culture. Why does it happen and what changed your mind?

MUBIN SHAIKH, EX-EXTREMIST NOW COUNTERTERRORISM EXPERT: Yeah. I mean, look, you are dealing with a fascist ideology, a fascist ideology which just won't accept anything not like them, especially other Muslim, I mean whether they're gay or not. You know, you could be Sufi, Shia, or whatever. They're just fashistic in the outlook. They want everyone to be like them, and nobody wants to be like them, because frankly, their lives are not happy lives, that's why they take out their anger on people.

And for me, I remember one time I was sitting across from a young man and I was discussing with him how it's not okay to be gay and, you know, there's something wrong and this and that. And at the end of it, he just said to me, "You know, I'm gay, right?" And I couldn't believe myself. I couldn't believe it that, I mean, I liked this guy. He's intelligent. You know, he matched me in my debate. And that's really the solution, just to get to know people. They're just -- they're normal like everyone else.

LEMON: So let's talk about deprogramming people because you worked to help deprogram people who have become radicalized. The shooter's family said that they never saw signs, you know, but authorities are looking into the possibility that he was self-radicalized. What should people be looking for and what are -- what things are -- who are we missing here?

SHAIKH: Yeah, you know, in this individual's case, he didn't show any religiosity. And like a lot of times, we see a guy as a criminal first, and then he latches on to the ideology to sanction his violence. But at the end of the day, you know, when you are dealing with people who are just by themselves, they're not telling people what they are going to do, I mean, his co-workers reported him, I believe. He was always going off about gays, about blacks. He was very racist. He used to beat his wife. The guy was angry all of the time. It's very difficult. I mean he did show the signs of -- I mean when his co-worker was interviewed, he said, "I'm not surprised."

So, some of the signs to look for is, you know, glorifying death rhetoric, making your own Jihadi videos or making like posting videos, you know, the kind of the exclusivity of your behavior, how secretive people are. They don't want to show what kind of videos they're looking at. That sort of stuffs are some of the indicators.

LEMON: Yeah. I want to get Rasha in here. Rasha is a member of CAIR and the regional director here.

[22:45:04] CAIR has denounced the violence and the shooting here. So let's talk about, the father said that his son was disgusted by seeing two men kiss. What do you make of that explanation?

RASHA MUBARAK, CAIR-FLORIDA ORLANDO REGIONAL COORDINATOR: It's inexcusable what he's disgusted by. You don't go and shatter the dreams and lives of so many innocent victims because of something that you don't agree with. It's unacceptable, and it goes against everything Islam teaches.

LEMON: And how -- and the reaction from the people in the community, I was speaking with Mark NeJame, an attorney here, and he said, as a matter of fact, the Muslim, gay community work together in this community. What's their reaction?

MUBARAK: Absolutely. These are part of my movement family. We have been working together on the grounds from roaming the legislative halls together, fighting anything of antiphobic for both of our communities. These are our neighbors. These are our friends. These are my colleagues. I was up 5:00 in the morning talking with them, and the first thing that my friends from the LGBTQ community said to me was, "We're not going to let this divide us." The hugs were tighter. You know, there's such a camaraderie there with the LGBT community and the Muslim community.

LEMON: Yeah. And you know, you said the LGBT community and Muslim community, there are gay Muslims, right?

MUBARAK: Absolutely, yes. Right.

LEMON: So the two communities are combined at some point, right when they're gay Muslims, right?

MUBARAK: Right.

LEMON: What do you make of this idea that, you know, about homosexuality being a sin, that Muslims are not gay. There are gay Muslims. And some of the people who are radicalized could be radicalized because they have homosexual tendencies and they're upset by it.

MUBARAK: Absolutely. There's homosexuality no matter what religion or race you come from, and I think that the world needs to open their eyes to understand that Muslim or not Muslim, I mean, planned parenthood happened because of the extremist. This -- a lot of -- I was reading the comments in the local media. They were saying that this is a wrath of Jesus Christ before that they knew it was a Muslim. So I mean it exists in all of the religions unfortunately.

LEMON: Yeah, which is the stupidest thing that I -- you could ever say or think.

MUBARA: Absolutely.

LEMON: All right, standby everyone. Please stay with me. When we come back, more on our breaking news. Don't go anywhere.

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[22:50:54] LEMON: So here we are back now live in Orlando with our breaking news, the worst terror attack in this country since 9/11. Let's discuss now with Tom Fuentes, a former FBI assistant director, Juliette Kayyem, CNN national security analyst, and Michael Weiss who is a senior editor at "The Daily Beast". Also with us is a former NYPD detective, Tom Verni.

So let's -- I'm not sure if you guys -- Michael, I want you to talk about this. I'm not sure if you heard the panel before. We were discussing how, you know, ideology plays into the hatred of gay people. And you spoke about that earlier. And Mubin Shaikh, he had to be deprogrammed about hating gay people and now he has changed. What is going on with that? It's no different than -- you know, there are a number of religions that say being gay is a sin, but it doesn't force you or inspire you to go out and shoot 50 people or more.

MICHAEL WEISS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No. But, you know, there are examples, for instance, with Christian fundamentalists in this country, the Westboro Baptist Mosque -- excuse, the Westboro Baptist Church which pickets and protests the funerals of American soldiers because they consider homosexuality to be a sin and they think that this is God's wrath.

I mentioned, in Raqqa, homosexuals are being thrown off rooftops. Now, this is an advent of ISIS's grim ideology and such, Don, that even Salafi Jihadis who consider homosexuality to be a grave sin, punishable by death, can find no reference to throwing men off of rooftops because it was invented by ISIS. This has not been done before as a form of execution. So it is absolutely embedded in Jihadist ideology. And, you know, unfortunately, the fact that this person may have had, you know, some innate homophobia prior to being radicalized, frankly, Don, I mean nobody has asked this question yet so I'll post it myself. Maybe this guy had doubts about his own sexuality. I mean, this wouldn't be the first time.

LEMON: I just said that in the last segment with the panel that usually people who were that homophobic usually have tendencies themselves.

WEISS: Forgive me, I don't accept it. But, yeah, no exactly.

LEMON: Yeah.

WEISS: It -- and it wouldn't be the first time that a radical Islamist or Jihadist who had a secret doubt about himself lashed out in this manner. I mean, look, we're still trying to figure out this guy was emotionally unstable. He was a wife beater. He was mentally ill. And it is absolutely the case that ISIS has co-opted him. I mean they have owned him as one of their fighters as they want to do because this renounce very well to their international brand.

But the point -- the fact of the matter is, I mean, there have been instances of Al-Qaeda in Iraq using mentally disabled young girls, I mean ages, I think, 12 and under strapping suicide bombs to them and sending them into military or police checkpoints in Iraq to detonate and kill loads of Iraqi security forces and civilians. There are instances of mentally ill or ideologically confused or emotionally unstable people going off to join all kinds of cults, death cults, Islamic terror groups, non-Islamic terror groups, and so on.

So I think, you know, we shouldn't really split hairs here about the motive. I mean this guy was very clear about what he wanted -- which ideology he wanted to espouse and what banner, you know, he proclaimed for himself to carry out this grim atrocity. As you say, we're calling it the worst terror attack since 9/11. I mean that carries some weight, doesn't it, and some measure of enormity?

LEMON: Yeah. And we keep talking about his -- what motivated him. But clearly, Tom Fuentes, he was motivated by -- he went to a club that was known as a gay club, one of the biggest, if not the biggest gay club, here in Orlando. That was his motivation to go in their and to harm gay people.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You know, many times, Don, in a case like this, you don't know or even can guess that motive until later when you find the person's social media postings or what websites they were looking at on their computers and who they were calling on their cellphones. When a terrorist stops the attack to call in to make sure he gets credit and that you know he's doing this in support of ISIS, why would we doubt that? I mean, it's exactly out of their playbook. And I think it's pretty clear -- this is about as clear cut as we're ever going to have in one of these attacks.

LEMON: Yeah. And Tom Verni, you're shaking your head in agreement?

TOM VERNI, RETIRED NYPD DETECTIVE: Yeah. I can't really go against anything that's been said to this point, especially with my esteemed colleagues here that -- I mean they're making very valid points. This guy clearly has some serious issues going on. The fact that he was -- seems very early he was inspired. It seems very early on to know whether or not he was directed by ISIS. I find that a little hard to believe but we don't know as of yet. I mean he's clearly inspired by them. He chose this specific location to make a stand. He could have chosen any number of locations within the journey that he took from where we started.

LEMON: On a Saturday night.

VERNI: On a Saturday night.

LEMON: It's a club that is filled with people on a Saturday night.

VERNI: Yeah.

LEMON: And I just spoke to the police commissioner, Bill Bratton. He says he believed that he was inspired and not directed by ISIS. But we'll check on that.

Juliette, forgive me. I'll get to you in the next hour, OK? We appreciate it. We'll be right back with much more of our breaking news, a massacre that killed 50 people and wounded 53 more at a gay night club here in Orlando, Florida.

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[23:00:04] LEMON: Our breaking news, the worst mass shooting in American history. This is "CNN Tonight". I'm Don Lemon live in Orlando. Here's what we know right now, 50 dead, 53 injured at the Pulse gay nightclub.