Remembering The Pulse Nightclub Shooting

Remembering The Pulse Nightclub Shooting

Barbara Poma originally opened Pulse in 2004 to honor her brother, John, whom she lost to HIV/AIDS in 1991. She wanted to create a space that would embody the loving and accepting spirit her brother had found in underground gay nightclubs.

At 2:02 a.m. on June 12, 2016 the lives of 49 revelers were tragically cut short, with countless others injured, in a violent hate crime committed by one man with a semi-automatic rifle. The club has been shuttered since the mass shooting, but now Poma is working to turn it into a memorial and museum to honor the victims and families of the shooting.

Poma has traveled around the country visiting other memorials to mass deaths on American soil. She met with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City, as well as the memorial that commemorates the Oklahoma City Bombing. “They were very helpful, warning her about the positive and negatives in the experience of creating a memorial, explaining how many emotions come up,” Sara Brady, the spokeswoman for onePULSE, the non-profit organization created for this project, told HISTORY.

An interim memorial was revealed in May 2018. The site includes an interactive wall exhibit, lighted benches and a place to write and leave messages. The official memorial is still in progress. “It is community driven and will take part in three phases,” explained Brady. First, the board will construct a survey to send out to survivors and the families of the victims. Secondly, the same survey will go out to first responders, law enforcement and health care professionals directly involved. Lastly, the survey will be posted on the onePULSE Foundation website where the public can contribute their ideas, too.

While the memorial is the more immediate concern, the museum will be created in the years to come. “She wants to include the artifacts that were preserved. What the victims left behind,” Brady explained. There will also be an educational component “to teach against hate,” said Brady. “We cannot let hate win.”

Very few recent mass shootings have occurred at small businesses, but Pulse nightclub was just that. This wasn’t a government building, it was a husband and wife who owned a small nightclub that was created to honor a family member. The nightclub provided a safe place, and was part of the heartbeat of the LGBT community in Florida.

The one-year anniversary was marked with three memorials. One began at 1:45 a.m. Two mayors, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, were in attendance, as well as over 1,000 spectators. At 2:02 a.m., the exact time the lone gunman entered Latin night at Pulse in Orlando and started to fire his bullets the year before, the names of the 49 victims were read out loud. Earlier that morning, Poma turned the outside lights on for the first time since the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history took place the previous year. “We only had room for around 200 people in the building, there was a huge overflow. It was emotional and very beautiful. They invited family members up one at a time to say their loved ones’ names,” Brady said. The memorial was guarded by 49 people dressed as angels, in all white, who silently surrounded the perimeter of the club. There was another memorial later that day at noon, with the final one at 10 p.m.

Other venues in Orlando memorialized the victims of the Pulse shooting, too. The Center, an LGBTQ sanctuary in Orlando, revealed an art installation by local artist Lindsay Lynch that displayed the faces of each of the 49 victims. After the shooting, The Center became a central gathering place for the community looking to express grief.

In months after the tragedy, Poma had originally considered selling the nightclub to the city of Orlando for $2.25 million, but instead decided she would spearhead the mission to create a memorial and museum. To do this, she created the onePULSE Foundation to see it through, which has a task force made up of survivors, family members and individuals from the community. “Poma has been very clear, this isn’t her memorial, this is for the families,” Brady said.

In 2018, Governor Rick Scott officially declared June 12 as Pulse Remembrance Day in Florida.


Remembering victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting: 4 years later

ORLANDO -- A ceremony commemorating the fourth anniversary of a massacre at a gay nightclub in Florida was being held virtually Friday because of the coronavirus, instead of members of the public gathering outside the club to remember the victims as in years past.

A pre-taped, online ceremony was being held to remember the 49 people who were killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in June 2016. The area around the club was closed to the public Friday, though survivors, family members of victims and first-responders were being allowed to visit.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered state flags to be flown at half-staff Friday for Pulse Remembrance Day, and he asked Floridians to pause for a moment in the morning to remember the Pulse victims.

"Four years have now passed, but our community's commitment to honoring the 49 angels and supporting the survivors, families of the victims and first responders remains strong," Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer tweeted.

At the time, the massacre at the Pulse nightclub was the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history until a gunman opened fire on Las Vegas concertgoers in 2017. Gunman Omar Mateen died in a shootout with police.

A memorial is being developed at the nightclub and a museum is being planned at a location several blocks away. Both had been slated to open in 2022 before the pandemic.


Remembering victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting: 4 years later

ORLANDO -- A ceremony commemorating the fourth anniversary of a massacre at a gay nightclub in Florida was being held virtually Friday because of the coronavirus, instead of members of the public gathering outside the club to remember the victims as in years past.

A pre-taped, online ceremony was being held to remember the 49 people who were killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in June 2016. The area around the club was closed to the public Friday, though survivors, family members of victims and first-responders were being allowed to visit.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered state flags to be flown at half-staff Friday for Pulse Remembrance Day, and he asked Floridians to pause for a moment in the morning to remember the Pulse victims.

"Four years have now passed, but our community's commitment to honoring the 49 angels and supporting the survivors, families of the victims and first responders remains strong," Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer tweeted.

At the time, the massacre at the Pulse nightclub was the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history until a gunman opened fire on Las Vegas concertgoers in 2017. Gunman Omar Mateen died in a shootout with police.

A memorial is being developed at the nightclub and a museum is being planned at a location several blocks away. Both had been slated to open in 2022 before the pandemic.


Survivors of the Pulse nightclub massacre have called for gun law reform

Survivors of the shooting have also used their voices to demand gun law reform in the United States in a bid to stop another massacre like Pulse from ever happening again.

Leonel Melendez, 43, opened up about the long-lasting effects of that traumatic night in an interview with the New York Post as the world marked the fifth anniversary of the shooting.

“I can’t hear on my left side and I use a hearing aid… I lost some of my vision,” Melendez said.

“I was pretty much a miracle – but my recovery has been long and hard.”

He added: “[Lawmakers] should make it so that not just anybody can own a gun. Gun control needs to be more strict.

“You should have to pass a background test and take a psychological test before you can own a gun. There has to be a better way, it should be more controlled. If there was more restriction on owning a gun this would have never happened.”

Lawmakers are also doing their part to ensure the victims of the shooting are never forgotten. The House of Representatives and the Senate have both passed a bill designating the nightclub as the “National Pulse Memorial”.

The bill has now been sent to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it into law imminently.

On the fifth anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, we are sharing the names of those who lost their lives to ensure that they are never forgotten.

Stanley Almodovar III, 23
Amanda Alvear, 25
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
Martin Benitez Torres, 33
Antonio D Brown, 30
Darryl R Burt II, 29
Jonathan A Camuy Vega, 24
Angel L Candelario-Padro, 28
Simon A Carrillo Fernandez, 31
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
Luis D Conde, 39
Cory J Connell, 21
Tevin E Crosby, 25
Franky J Dejesus Velazquez, 50
Deonka D Drayton, 32
Mercedes M Flores, 26
Peter O Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
Juan R Guerrero, 22
Paul T Henry, 41
Frank Hernandez, 27
Miguel A Honorato, 30
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
Jason B Josaphat, 19
Eddie J Justice, 30
Anthony L Laureano Disla, 25
Christopher A Leinonen, 32
Brenda L Marquez McCool, 49
Jean C Mendez Perez, 35
Akyra Monet Murray, 18
Kimberly Morris, 37
Jean C Nieves Rodriguez, 27
Luis O Ocasio-Capo, 20
Geraldo A Ortiz-Jimenez, 25
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
Enrique L Rios Jr, 25
Juan P Rivera Velazquez, 37
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
Christopher J Sanfeliz, 24
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25
Edward Sotomayor Jr, 34
Shane E Tomlinson, 33
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
Luis S Vielma, 22
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
Jerald A Wright, 31


Orlando to Remember Pulse Victims on Anniversary of Nightclub Shooting

The city of Orlando will remember the victims of the Pulse nightclub on June 12th, the anniversary of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The city of Orlando will remember the victims of the Pulse nightclub on June 12th, the anniversary of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, with the “Orlando Love &ndash Remembering Our Angels” event.

“What happened at Pulse was the darkest day in our city&rsquos history, and we continue to grieve for the victims and fight for those who are still suffering,” Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan said in a statement. “This June 12, our entire LGBTQ community and our allies need to stand together and continue to show that we are a strong, united city that responds with love.”

Orlando Love, which takes place the night of June 12th at the city’s Lake Eola park, will features performances by Orlando-based artists as well as singers like Olga Tañón, who will sing her rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” One-time The Voice contestant Sisaundra Lewis will also perform at the event.

Other acts include the Orlando Gay Chorus, the From Broadway With Love Choir, the CFCA Choral Group, the Orlando Firefighters Pipes and Drums and more.

Additionally, Pulse owner Barbara Poma and Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer are among those who will speak at the Orlando Love event, which is being produced by volunteers and supported entirely by donations.

Forty-nine people were killed and nearly 60 more injured when a shooter opened fire in the Orlando nightclub, which was popular among the city’s LGBT community. In the aftermath of the massacre, Orlando made plans to purchase the nightclub for $2.25 million and turn it into a memorial for the victims, but the club’s owner Poma opted instead to convert it into a “sanctuary of hope.”


Orlando Heartbreak: Remembering the Pulse Shooting's 49 Victims 4 Years Later

Editor’s note: This story was originally published on June 14, 2016. PEOPLE is republishing it to mark the four-year anniversary of the tragic Pulse nightclub shooting, which claimed 49 victims&apos lives before the gunman’s death.

One was known for his relentless positivity and the top-hat he wore to events. Another was a professional dancer who had traveled the world. Another professional dancer was a father to a 5-year-old child.

The victims of the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, had diverse backgrounds and interests. But all came to Pulse expecting a fun night out at a place known for its inclusive spirit, and all became victims of what authorities are calling the worst mass shooting in United States history, which killed 49 innocent people.

Orlando set up a website to identify victims after their families have been notified of their deaths. A day after the shooting, the 49th and final name was added to the list.

PEOPLE spoke to friends and family members who lost their loved ones. Here are their stories.

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34

A friend of Sotomayor, who was a brand manager for LGBT travel agency ALandCHUCK.travel, tells PEOPLE he was known as “Top-Hat Eddie” because of the black top hat he always wore to events. “He was one of the greatest guys I’ve ever met. He touched so many people’s lives because he’s such a positive person. He would do anything for anybody,” the friend, Jason Howell, tells PEOPLE.

Of confirming that Sotomayor had died, Howell says, “I just started bursting into tears and I’ve been like that all day. You never think that one of your friends is going to be killed in a terrorist attack.”

Franky Jimmy DeJesus Velazquez, 50

DeJesus was a professional dancer who had danced in Puerto Rico and had traveled the world. “Jimmy was lovable, outgoing,” his sister, Sarah Lopez, tells PEOPLE. “He was one of those guys that you wanted to be friends with, you know? One of those people who brightened a room when he walked in.

“How many people can do that with a smile? Not many. But Jimmy did.”

Stanley Almodovar III, 23

Almodovar, who was originally from Springfield, Massachusetts, worked as a pharmacy technician at Avella Specialty Pharmacy and lived in nearby Clermont, Florida, according to his Instagram page and Facebook account.

A GoFundMe page set up to help with funeral costs says, “Stanley was a kind soul with a great personality. He had a great sense of humor and kept us laughing. He will truly be missed.”

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35

Rosado was the father of a 5-year-old child and also a professional dancer, specializing in salsa. Close friend Glenda Padua, 32, tells PEOPLE that he used to dance for Disney and Universal Studios.

“He was a great, great father,” she says. “He was just the most fun, happiest guy you could ever know.”

Jorge-Reyes had a passion for life, according to friend Dr. Charmaine Ortiz. Ortiz met Jorge-Reyes, who was originally from Puerto Rico, through her practice, and says, “He was so funny and so alive and savvy.”

“He had an extreme talent for the arts and was very creative with makeup,” she shares.

Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33

Tomlinson was a lead singer in Frequency Band, a local cover band that performed top 40 songs, according to longtime friend Jai Saint.

“He has a great voice, he is so popular around here. Honestly it’s hard not to enjoy his voice,” Saint tells PEOPLE of his best friend of 10 years. “When he sings it just kinda flows and makes you happy. Orlando will miss his voice. The world will miss his voice.”

Saint continues, “He’s extremely positive, he’s all about life and living it to the fullest. He had amazing energy, which is hard to come by these days.”

Tomlinson graduated from East Carolina University in 2003 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication with a minor in Business Administration.

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20

Ocasio-Capo, who went by “Omar,” was a 2015 graduate of La Vergne High School in Tennessee, according to Nashville Public Radio.

Daniel Suarez-Ortiz, who went to LaVergne High School in Tennessee with Omar, tells PEOPLE, “He was such a caring, loving person. If you ever needed advice, he was that person. He was just that person to go to for anything.”

Tamandra Diaz, 27, was his dance teacher and longtime friend. She tells PEOPLE, �ncing was life for him. He loved to dance.”

She adds, “With Omar, all anybody can say about him is that he was always happy.”

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22

Guerrero worked as a telemarketer, his cousin said, and was in school at the University of Central Florida. He was at Pulse with his boyfriend, Christopher Andrew 𠇍rew” Leinonen, who also died in the attack.

“Juan and Drew were soul mates, and they were great together,” Christopher Irizarry-Drozd, a friend of the couple, told PEOPLE. 𠇎very time I actually did go out, they made the time so much better! They were a light that will always be with us. Everyone who knew them knows they were just some of the best people ever.”

A joint funeral was held in remembrance of the couple, who planned to marry.

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36

Ortiz-Rivera was a newlywed, just married to his husband for about a year, his cousin Orlando Gonzalez told The New York Times. He lived in downtown Orlando and worked at both a Party City and a Sunglass Hut.

According to Gonzalez, Ortiz-Rivera was a “goofball” with an artistic side.

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22

A UPS employee, Gonzalez-Cruz loved to goof around and enjoyed making customers laugh, his friend Pia Crawford tells PEOPLE.

“We would do accents and crack each other up,” Crawford says. “He was truly a delight, and I always cheered up when I𠆝 see him.”

Vielma was an employee of Universal Studios, and worked on the park’s Harry Potter ride, the series’ author J.K. Rowling said in an emotional tweet.

“He was very bright one of those exuberant people who radiates positivity and love,” Amber Smyth, a former coworker of Vielma’s at Universal Orlando Resort, told PEOPLE. “I worked with him a couple times in a few places, and he was always a good person to have by your side. A true Gryffindor.”

“Luis always included everyone. I’m much older, so I rarely get invited to do fun stuff with the team,” added another coworker of Vielma’s, Cherah Parker, who added that he was 𠇏reakin’ hilarious!”

“Luis always made certain I was included,” she continued. “He was one of the kindest individuals I have ever known. He loved soccer. He loved dancing. Luis’ love for people was, and is, the stuff of fairy tales.”

He was also an Emergency Medical Services student at Seminole State College and was enrolled in a CPR class this summer, according to a statement from the college.

Morris, a bouncer at the nightclub, was a former basketball player at Post University in Connecticut, her friend, Narvell Benning, tells PEOPLE.

Says Benning, “She was tough and played hard on the basketball court but off the court she was all smiles.”

“She always had a smile on her face,” Benning added.

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30

Justice worked as an accountant and lived in downtown Orlando, according to the Washington Post. He loved accessorizing with flashy jewelry and making others laugh.

Justice’s mother Mina received texts from her son throughout the shooting as he hid in the bathroom. At one point he wrote, “He’s coming. I’m gonna die.”

Darryl Roman Burt II, 29

Burt was a member of the Jacksonville Jaycees, a young professionals group in Florida, president Shawn DeVries tells PEOPLE.

“He was personable, social and easy going,” DeVries says of Burt. 𠇋oth socially and professionally he was always interested in making positive impact on people’s lives and in the community.”

A hard worker, Burt had recently been recommended for a position on the Jaycee’s Board of Directors.

Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32

Drayton, 32, had been through rough times, a friend tells PEOPLE, but was pulling herself together and was happy living in Orlando.

“She was getting it together,” says the friend, who asked not to be named out of consideration to the family. “She was in a good place.”

Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25

Disla was a talented dancer, who excelled in a variety of styles including salsa, mambo, tango or ballroom was in Orlando to pursue a career as both a dancer and choreographer.

His mother, Olga M. Disla, tells PEOPLE: “He was lovely, kind and respectful of others all the time. He liked to help anyone who needed help.”

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35

“He was always happy,” Claudia Agudelo, Perez’s coworker at the Orlando Perfumania told the Orlando Sentinel. She shared, “He laughed with the people and would make jokes.”

Perez, born in Puerto Rico, was obsessed with fitness and loved testing out new fragrances, Agudelo said. He met his longtime partner Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon at the store. Wilson-Leon was also a victim of the shooting.

Friend Marisa Castano tells PEOPLE, “Nicest guy you𠆝 ever meet. Both of them, actually. They were magnetic. They𠆝 walk into the room and everyone would turn to look, because they were just so handsome.”

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37

Wilson-Leon was the manager of a shoe store and longtime love of fellow victim Perez.

“They faced the odds, Luis came from Puerto Rico and being gay isn’t totally accepted, obviously here, but it’s not totally accepted there as well,” his cousin Luis Wilson tells PEOPLE. “He is an inspiration. He grew up conflicted but found peace with himself and those around him and he finally had found acceptance and love. Finally found it. And now look.”

Wilson said the couple bonded over dancing. �ncing was their passion,” he says. “Those two just liked to have fun. And what’s wrong with that? They knew what the important things in life were.”

Alvear was attending school to be a nurse, and had recently been promoted to the lead pharmacy technician at the pharmacy where she worked, Shannon Marie Baxley, her sister-in-law, tells PEOPLE.

“She loved the gay community, the LGBT community. She was straight herself but those were her people, those were her family. She was a magnetic person,” Baxley shares. “She was the loveliest girl, just the sweetest girl.”

A doting aunt, Alvear spent her final day shopping with her 8 and 12-year-old nieces, Baxley’s children. “She was a fighter and fierce in everything that she did,” Baxley says of the former prom queen.

Martin Benitez Torres, 33

Melissa Del Valle, a former coworker and longtime friend of Torres, tells PEOPLE that he just had moved to Florida at the end of the last year to continue working for Hertz. He was also studying marketing at Sistema Universitario Ana G Mndez.

“He was one of a kind,” she shares. “He was always a person that you could talk to. He was our confidant. He was always surrounded by all of us. We were all women where we used to work, so we used to laugh with him, we used to cry with him. He was a good friend.”

Jerald Arthur Wright, 31

Wright worked in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, according to a Facebook post from a former employee.

“Jerry was a great guy to work with,” the former employee wrote. “I remember seeing him one of my last days in the tunnel when I was leaving, he was telling me how much he was enjoying working on Main Street since had had left Tomorrowland.”

Another person who worked with him added that he was “hard-working” and “loved his job.” “He was one of the first to say hi and make us smile and laugh,” he commented.

Cory James Connell, 21

𠇊nytime anyone needed somebody to talk to or just somebody to lean on, he was always there,” says friend Adrianna Estrada.

Estrada, 22, recalls how Connell helped her through the grieving process when her father died. “When my father passed,” she says, “he was actually one of the first people who found out and just about every day for almost two weeks he would send me messages reminding me that God gives his greatest battles to His strongest warriors.”

Estrada tells PEOPLE that Connell enjoyed playing football and basketball and had dreams of becoming a firefighter. While still in pursuit of that dream, Connell studied at Valencia Community College in Orlando and worked stocking shelves at the Publix in Orlando’s Edgewater neighborhood.

Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49

McCool, a mother of 11, was battling leukemia when her life was cut short, her niece, Neila Rodriguez, tells PEOPLE. At Pulse with her son Isaiah, McCool was shot in the back and told him to “just run, go.”

“She was a modern mom. She was very updated. She tried to talk like the kids would talk,” Rodriguez says.

“She was a cool mom. She was really down-to-earth and open-minded.”

Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32

ABC featured an extremely emotional interview with Christine Leinonen, Christopher’s mom, waiting to hear if her son — who was known as 𠇍rew” to his friends — made it out of the attack.

Christine told ABC through tears that her son established the gay-straight alliance at his high school and received a humanitarian award for his efforts.

𠇍rew not only started his GSA at his own high school (Seminole High), but also assisted us at Largo High with starting one of our own,” Wil Toro told PEOPLE, adding that Christopher was involved with many organizations throughout Pinellas County, Florida.

Christopher attended Pulse on Saturday with his boyfriend, Juan Guerrero, who also died in the shooting.

𠇍rew (as I first knew him, Chris) is my oldest friend. We went to elementary, high school and college together,” Michael Eyermann told PEOPLE. “His passion for LGBT rights was infectious, and he taught me about compassion. I wouldn’t be an ally without him. I owe every relationship I have with the LGBT community to him. He was a great man you can tell by looking at his Facebook wall. People relied on him, and he will be missed.”

𠇍rew was the best person I’ve ever met. He was a film buff, enjoyed meeting new people, and always put others before himself,” said Leinonen’s friend Joshua Yehl. “His boyfriend Juan made him so happy, and they deserved to enjoy that happiness instead of having it taken away from them in a senseless act of violence. Love never goes away and so we will never forget them or how much better they made our lives.”

Christopher’s friends have banded together to share stories about him on social media, using the hashtag #thedruproject, a nod to his longtime online username.


Remembering victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting: 4 years later

ORLANDO -- A ceremony commemorating the fourth anniversary of a massacre at a gay nightclub in Florida was being held virtually Friday because of the coronavirus, instead of members of the public gathering outside the club to remember the victims as in years past.

A pre-taped, online ceremony was being held to remember the 49 people who were killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in June 2016. The area around the club was closed to the public Friday, though survivors, family members of victims and first-responders were being allowed to visit.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered state flags to be flown at half-staff Friday for Pulse Remembrance Day, and he asked Floridians to pause for a moment in the morning to remember the Pulse victims.

"Four years have now passed, but our community's commitment to honoring the 49 angels and supporting the survivors, families of the victims and first responders remains strong," Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer tweeted.

At the time, the massacre at the Pulse nightclub was the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history until a gunman opened fire on Las Vegas concertgoers in 2017. Gunman Omar Mateen died in a shootout with police.

A memorial is being developed at the nightclub and a museum is being planned at a location several blocks away. Both had been slated to open in 2022 before the pandemic.


Contents

First shots and hostage situation Edit

On June 11 , 2016, Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was hosting "Latin Night", a weekly Saturday night event drawing a primarily Latino crowd. [3] [4] About 320 people were still inside the club, which was serving last call drinks at around 2:00 a.m. EDT on June 12 . [5] [6] At around the same time, Omar Mateen arrived at the club via rental van, parking it in the parking lot of a neighboring car shop. [1] [7] He got out and walked toward the building armed with a SIG Sauer MCX [8] semi-automatic rifle and a 9mm Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol. [9] [10] [11] [12] He was wearing a green, blue, and white plaid dress shirt, a white T-shirt underneath and tan cargo pants. [1] At 2:02 a.m. , Mateen bypassed Officer Adam Gruler, a uniformed off-duty Orlando Police Department (OPD) officer working extra duty [13] [14] as a security guard, entered the building through its southern entrance, and began shooting patrons. [1] [5] [6] [15] Dozens were killed or severely injured inside the crowded nightclub, either directly or by ricochets. [1] [16]

Gruler took cover and called in a signal for assistance. He told a Police Foundation assessment team that he had immediately recognized that his handgun would be no match for Mateen's rifle. [1] When he witnessed Mateen shooting two patrons attempting to escape through an emergency exit, Gruler fired shots at him. [1] [15] [17] In response, Mateen withdrew back into the nightclub and continued shooting victims as he traversed through the building, sometimes firing into bodies without checking whether they were already dead. [1] When additional officers arrived at the nightclub beginning at 2:04 a.m., Gruler shouted "[The gunman]'s in the patio!" and resumed firing at Mateen a minute later. [1] [14] [18] Two officers joined Gruler in engaging Mateen, who then retreated farther into the nightclub and "began a 'hostage situation'" in one of the bathrooms. [1] [5] [19] [20] In less than five minutes, Mateen had fired approximately 200 rounds, pausing only to reload. [1]

During the shooting, some of the people trapped inside the club sought help by calling or sending text messages to friends and relatives. Initially, some of them thought the gunshots were firecrackers or part of the music. [21] [22] [23] A recently discharged Marine veteran working as a nightclub bouncer immediately recognized the sounds as gunfire, which he described as "high caliber", and jumped over a locked door behind which dozens of people were hidden and paralyzed by fear, then opened a latched door behind them, allowing approximately 70 people to escape. [24] [25] Many described a scene of panic and confusion caused by the loud music and darkness. One person shielded herself by hiding inside a bathroom and covering herself with bodies. A bartender said she took cover beneath the glass bar. At least one patron tried to help those who were hit. [26] According to a man trapped inside a bathroom with fifteen other patrons, Mateen fired sixteen times into the bathroom, through the closed door, killing at least two and wounding several others. [27]

According to one of the hostages, Mateen entered a bathroom in the nightclub's northwest side and opened fire on the people hiding there, wounding several. The hostage, who had taken cover inside a stall with others, was injured by two bullets and struck with flying pieces of a wall hit by stray bullets. Shortly after entering the women's restroom, Mateen's rifle jammed. He then discarded the rifle and switched to his Glock 17 pistol. [28] [29] [30] Two survivors quoted Mateen as saying, "I don't have a problem with black people", [31] [32] and that he "wouldn't stop his assault until America stopped bombing his country". [33] Other survivors heard Mateen claim he had explosives as well as snipers stationed around the club. [34]

Patrons trapped inside called or texted 9-1-1 to warn of the possible presence of explosives. [35]

Emergency response Edit

In the next 45 minutes, about 100 officers from the OPD and the Orange County Sheriff's Office were dispatched to the scene. [20] Among the earliest first responders to arrive were a firefighter crew from Fire Station 5 and two supporting firefighter paramedics from Fire Station 7 . Eighty fire and emergency medical services personnel from the Orlando Fire Department were deployed during the entire incident. [36]

At 2:09 a.m. , several minutes after the gunfire began, the club posted on its Facebook page, "Everyone get out of pulse [sic] and keep running." [37] At 2:22 a.m. , Mateen placed a 9-1-1 call, during which he mentioned the Boston Marathon bombers—Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev—as his "homeboys" and made a reference to Moner Mohammad Abu Salha, an American citizen who died in a suicide bombing in Syria in 2014. [20] [38] [39] Mateen said he was inspired by Abu Salha's death for the Al-Nusra Front targeting Syrian government troops (a mutual enemy of the two Salafist groups, despite their history of violence with each other), and swore allegiance [40] to ISIL leader al-Baghdadi. [41] The FBI said that Mateen and Abu Salha had attended the same mosque and knew each other "casually". [42] Mateen made two other 9-1-1 calls during the shooting. [39] Numerous 9-1-1 calls were made by the patrons inside the nightclub around this time. [43]

After the initial rounds of gunfire between Mateen and Gruler, six officers shot out a large glass window and followed the sound of shooting to the bathroom area. When Mateen stuck his head out from one of the bathrooms, at least two officers shot at him. After the gunfire stopped, they were ordered to hold position instead of storming the bathroom, according to one of the officers. [15] [28] [44] After about 15 to 20 minutes, SWAT arrived and had the officers withdraw as the officers were "not really in tactical gear". SWAT then took over the operation. [44] When asked why the officers didn't proceed to the bathroom and engage Mateen, Orlando Police Chief John Mina said it was because Mateen "went from an active shooter to a barricaded gunman" and had hostages. He also noted, "If he had continued shooting, our officers would have went in there." [28] At that time, the last shot by Mateen was fired between 2:10 a.m. and 2:18 a.m. [45]

Rescues of people trapped inside the nightclub commenced and continued throughout the night. Because so many people were lying on the dance floor, one rescuing officer demanded, "If you're alive, raise your hand." [16] By 2:35 a.m. , police had managed to extract nearly all of the injured from the nightclub. Those who remained included the hostages held by Mateen in the bathroom, as well as a dozen people who were hiding inside dressing rooms. [46]

Phone calls and negotiations Edit

At 2:45 a.m. , Mateen called News 13 of Orlando and said, "I'm the shooter. It's me. I am the shooter." He then said he was carrying out the shooting on the behalf of ISIL and began speaking rapidly in Arabic. [47] [48] Mateen also said the shooting was "triggered" by a U.S.-led bombing strike in Iraq that killed Abu Wahib, an ISIL military commander, on May 6 . [49]

A crisis negotiator was present as Mateen was held up inside and holding hostages. [50] [51] Officers initially believed he was armed with a "suspicious device" that posed a threat, but it was later revealed to be a battery that fell out of an exit sign or smoke detector. [52]

Police hostage negotiators spoke with Mateen by telephone three times between 2:48 a.m. and 3:27 a.m. [53] He claimed during one of the calls that he had bombs strapped to his body. [50] [53] He also claimed that he "had a vehicle in the parking lot with enough explosives to take out city blocks." [16] At 3:58 a.m. , the OPD publicly announced the shooting and confirmed multiple injuries. [20] At 4:21 a.m. , eight of the hostages escaped after police had removed an air conditioning unit from an exterior wall. [20] [53] At approximately 4:29 a.m. , Mateen told negotiators that he planned to strap explosive vests, similar to those used in the November 2015 Paris attacks, to four hostages, strategically place them in different corners of the building, and detonate them in 15 minutes. [1] [35] [50] OPD officers then decided to end negotiations and prepared to blow their way in. [20] [21] [50]

At around 2:30 a.m. , Mateen's wife—after receiving a call from her mother at approximately 2:00 a.m. asking where her husband was—sent a text message to Mateen asking where he was. Mateen texted back asking her if she had seen the news. After she replied, "No?", Mateen responded, "I love you, babe." According to one source, she texted him back at one point saying that she loved him. She also called him several times during the standoff, but he did not answer. She found out about what was happening at 4:00 a.m. after the police told her to come out of her house with her hands up. [54] [55]

A survivor of the shooting recalled Mateen saying he wanted the United States to "stop bombing his country". [56] [57] The FBI said Mateen "told a negotiator to tell America to stop bombing Syria and Iraq and that was why he was 'out here right now'". [53] During the siege, Mateen made Internet searches on the shooting, while police dispatched a tactical robot to discreetly enter the restroom and allow them to communicate with hostages via two-way audio. [1]

Rescue and resolution Edit

The FBI reported that no shots were heard between the time Mateen stopped exchanging gunfire with the first responders and 5:02 a.m. , when Orlando police began breaching the building's wall. [53] Just before the breach, Mateen entered a women's bathroom where the hostages were hiding and opened fire, killing a man who sacrificed his life to save the woman behind him and at least one other, according to witnesses. [28] [29]

At 5:07 a.m. , fourteen SWAT officers—after failing to blow open a big enough hole in the bathroom's exterior wall using a bomb due to the wall's structure [1] —successfully breached the building when a policeman drove a BearCat armored vehicle through a wall in the northern bathroom. They then used two flashbangs to distract Mateen, and shot at him. [15] [37] [46] [58] [59] The breach drew Mateen out into the hallway, and at 5:14 a.m. , he engaged the officers. He was shot eight times and killed in the resulting shootout, which involved at least eleven officers who fired about 150 bullets. [46] [58] [60] [61] [62] He was reported "down" at 5:17 a.m. [58]

At 5:05 a.m. , the police said a bomb squad had set off a controlled explosion. [20] [63] At 5:53 a.m. , the Orlando police posted on Twitter, "Pulse Shooting: The shooter inside the club is dead." [20] Thirty hostages were freed during the police operation. [15] [64] The survivors were searched by police for guns and explosives. [35]

Fifty people died in the incident, including Mateen, and another 58 were injured, 53 by gunfire and five by other causes. Some survivors were critically injured. [1] [16] [65]

Fatalities Edit

Thirty-nine, including Mateen, were pronounced dead at the scene, and eleven at local hospitals. [26] [37] Of the thirty-eight victims to die at the scene, twenty died on the stage area and dance floor, nine in the nightclub's northern bathroom, four in the southern bathroom, three on the stage, one at the front lobby, and one out on a patio. [16] [30] At least five of the dead were not killed during the initial volley of gunfire by Mateen, but during the hostage situation in the bathroom. [46]

Pulse was hosting Latin Night over 90% of the victims were of Hispanic background, and half of those were of Puerto Rican descent. [66] [67] Four Dominicans and three Mexican citizens were also among the dead. [68] [69] An off-duty United States Army Reserve captain at the club who was not in uniform was also killed. [70] [71]

The attack is the second-deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter in United States history, behind the 2017 Las Vegas shooting [72] [73] prior to the Las Vegas shooting, the Pulse shooting had been the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. [74] [75] [76] It is also the deadliest incident of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the history of the United States—surpassing the 1973 UpStairs Lounge arson attack [77] —and the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since the September 11 attacks in 2001. [26] [78] [79]

The names and ages of the victims killed were confirmed by the City of Orlando after their next of kin had been notified: [80] [81]

  • Stanley Almodovar III, 23
  • Amanda Alvear, 25
  • Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26
  • Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
  • Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
  • Martin Benitez Torres, 33
  • Antonio D. Brown, 30
  • Darryl R. Burt II, 29
  • Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24
  • Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
  • Simon A. Carrillo Fernandez, 31
  • Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
  • Luis D. Conde, 39
  • Cory J. Connell, 21
  • Tevin E. Crosby, 25
  • Franky J. Dejesus Velazquez, 50
  • Deonka D. Drayton, 32
  • Mercedez M. Flores, 26
  • Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
  • Juan R. Guerrero, 22
  • Paul T. Henry, 41
  • Frank Hernandez, 27
  • Miguel A. Honorato, 30
  • Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
  • Jason B. Josaphat, 19
  • Eddie J. Justice, 30
  • Anthony L. Laureano Disla, 25
  • Christopher A. Leinonen, 32
  • Brenda L. Marquez McCool, 49
  • Jean C. Mendez Perez, 35
  • Akyra Monet Murray, 18
  • Kimberly Morris, 37
  • Jean C. Nieves Rodriguez, 27
  • Luis O. Ocasio-Capo, 20
  • Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25
  • Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36
  • Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
  • Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25
  • Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
  • Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
  • Christopher J. Sanfeliz, 24
  • Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35
  • Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25
  • Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
  • Shane E. Tomlinson, 33
  • Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
  • Luis S. Vielma, 22
  • Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
  • Jerald A. Wright, 31

Autopsies of the 49 dead were completed by the Orange County Medical Examiner's Office by June 14 , [82] and their results were released in early August. According to the autopsy reports, many of the victims were shot multiple times in the front or side, and from a short distance. More than a third were shot in the head, and most had multiple bullet wounds and were likely shot more than 3 feet (0.91 meters) away. In total, there were over 200 gunshot wounds. [83] [84] [85] [86]

Injuries Edit

Many of the injured underwent surgery. [87] Most of them—44 people—were taken to the Orlando Regional Medical Center (ORMC), the primary regional trauma center three blocks away twelve others went to Florida Hospital Orlando. [88] [82] [89] Nine of ORMC's patients died there, and by June 14 , 27 remained hospitalized, with six in critical condition. [90] ORMC performed surgeries on 76 patients. [91] The last of the injured was discharged from ORMC on September 6 , nearly three months after the shooting. [90]

Three Colombians and two Canadians were among the injured. [92] [93] Additionally, a responding SWAT officer received a minor head injury when a bullet hit his Kevlar helmet. [94]

The gunman was identified as 29-year-old Omar Mateen, [95] an American born in New Hyde Park, New York. [96] [97] His parents were Afghan, and he was raised as a Muslim. [98] At the time of the shooting, he lived in an apartment complex in Fort Pierce, Florida, 117 miles (188 kilometers) from the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. [99] [100] [101]

Mateen's body was buried in the Muslim Cemetery of South Florida, near Hialeah Gardens. [102]

Personal life Edit

From October 2006 until April 2007, Mateen trained to be a prison guard for the Florida Department of Corrections. As a probationary employee, he received an "administrative termination (not involving misconduct)" [103] upon a warden's recommendation after Mateen joked about bringing a gun to school. [104] Mateen unsuccessfully pursued a career in law enforcement, failing to become a Florida state trooper in 2011 and to gain admission to a police academy in 2015. [103] According to a police academy classmate, Mateen threatened to shoot his classmates at a cookout in 2007 "after his hamburger touched pork" in violation of Islamic dietary laws. [105] [106] [107] [108] Other witnesses said that they saw Mateen drink alcohol and even "get drunk". [109] [110]

Since 2007, he had been a security guard for G4S Secure Solutions. [111] [112] The company said two screenings—one conducted upon hiring and the other in 2013—had raised no red flags. [113] Mateen held an active statewide firearms license and an active security officer license, [114] [115] had passed a psychological test, and had no criminal record. [116]

After the shooting, the psychologist who reportedly evaluated and cleared Mateen for his firearms license in 2007 by G4S records denied ever meeting him or having lived in Florida at the time, and said she had stopped her practice in Florida since January 2006. G4S admitted Mateen's form had a "clerical error" and clarified that he had instead been cleared by another psychologist from the same firm that bought the wrongly-named doctor's practice. This doctor had not interviewed Mateen, but evaluated the results of a standard test used in the screening he undertook before being hired. [117] G4S was subsequently fined for lapses in its psychological testing program (see below).

In 2009, Mateen married his first wife, who left him after a few months the couple's divorce became final in 2011. Following the nightclub attack, she said Mateen was "mentally unstable and mentally ill" and "obviously disturbed, deeply, and traumatized", was often physically abusive, and had a history of using steroids. [118] [119] [120] [121] His autopsy revealed signs of long-term and habitual steroid use, so more toxicology tests were ordered for confirmation. [122] As of July 15 , 2016, federal investigators were uncertain whether Mateen's steroid use was a factor in the attack. [123]

At the time of the shooting, Mateen was married to his second wife and had a young son. [124]

Motive Edit

In the hours before the shooting, Mateen used several Facebook accounts to write posts vowing vengeance for American airstrikes in Iraq and Syria and to search for content related to terrorism. These posts, since deleted, were recovered and included in an open letter [125] by Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg seeking further information about Mateen's use of the site. [126] [127] [128]

During the shooting, Mateen made a 9-1-1 call claiming it was an act of retaliation for the airstrike killing of, among others, ISIL militant Abu Waheeb in the previous month. He told the negotiator to tell America to stop the bombing. [49] [129]

An unnamed police academy classmate said Mateen asked him out around 2006, that they had spent time at gay bars together after class, and that he believed Mateen was gay. [130] He also described him as "socially awkward" and disliked by classmates. [131] A man who self-identified as Mateen's lover-of-two-months, "Miguel", stated that he believed the massacre was out of revenge against Latino men when Mateen learned he may have been exposed to HIV from a Puerto Rican man with whom he had sex. [132] [133] [134] Mateen's autopsy results, however, showed that he was HIV-negative. [122] At least four regular Pulse customers reported having seen Mateen visit the nightclub on no fewer than a dozen occasions. One of them said he would sometimes become drunkenly "loud and belligerent", and at other times would drink in a corner by himself. [96] According to a witness who recognized him outside the club an hour before the shooting, Mateen had messaged him using Jack'd, a gay dating app, intermittently over the course of a year before the attack. [135] Another witness said Mateen used Grindr, a gay hook-up app, and Adam4Adam, a website to communicate with gay men, and had posted pictures of himself on both sites. [130] A third witness said Mateen would try to pick up men at the nightclub. [136]

However, according to federal law enforcement officials, the FBI suspects the witnesses claiming Mateen's homosexuality could be mistaken, and has doubts that Mateen was gay. [137] [138] Law enforcement sources said the FBI found no photographs, text messages, smartphone apps, pornography, or cell tower location data to suggest Mateen lived a gay life, closeted or otherwise. [132] [139]

On the day of the shooting, Mateen's father, Mir Seddique Mateen, said that he had seen his son get angry after seeing a gay couple kiss in front of his family at the Bayside Marketplace in Miami months prior to the shooting, which he suggested might have been a motivating factor. [17] [140] [141] Two days later, after his son's sexual orientation became a subject of speculation, Mateen's father said he did not believe his son was homosexual. [142] Mateen's ex-wife, however, claimed that his father called him gay while in her presence. Speaking on her behalf, her current fiancé said that she, his family, and others believed he was gay, and that "the FBI asked her not to tell this to the American media". [118]

During his wife's trial in March 2018, her defense revealed in a motion that Mateen had Googled "downtown Orlando nightclubs" and, after passing Disney Springs, traveled between Pulse and the Eve Orlando Nightclub before choosing to target Pulse. Trial witnesses said the decision to target Pulse was made at the last minute, [143] and the defense's motion argued that this "strongly suggests that the attack on Pulse was not a result of a prior plan to attack a gay nightclub." [144]

Security-camera video footage was recovered from the nightclub as part of the investigation, [145] with a censored version later publicly released during the trial of Mateen's wife. [146] Facebook activated its "Safety Check" feature in the Orlando area following the shooting, allowing users to mark themselves as "safe" to notify family and friends—the first use of the feature in the United States. [147] [148]

Following the shooting, many business venues in the United States, such as shopping malls, movie theaters, bars, and concert halls, reexamined their security procedures. [149] [150] Also, police forces across the country announced plans to increase security at LGBT landmarks such as the Stonewall Inn and at Pride Month events including pride parades. [151]

Two former SWAT members, one an active-shooter tactics expert and trainer, expressed misgivings about the three-hour delay in breaching the nightclub, citing the lesson learned from other mass shootings that officers can minimize casualties only by entering a shooting location expeditiously, even if it means putting themselves at great risk. [152]

Seddique Mateen released a Dari language video statement via Facebook on June 13 to speak about his son's actions. [153] [154]

A June 13 broadcast from the Iraqi ISIL radio station al-Bayan said Mateen was "one of the soldiers of the caliphate in America", without indicating any foreknowledge of the shooting. [155]

On September 10 , the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services fined G4S Secure Solutions $151,400 for providing inaccurate psychological testing information on more than 1,500 forms over a ten-year period, which allowed employees to carry firearms. Mateen's form was among those investigated. [156]

On November 4 , it was reported that the Orlando Police Department was upgrading its equipment for officers following the shooting, since officers at the nightclub were not well-equipped for the event and therefore endangered. The upgraded equipment included ballistic helmets and heavier ballistic vests. [157]

Following the shooting and a vehicle-ramming attack and mass stabbing at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, a new federal initiative was launched, partially in response to at least one victim bleeding to death inside Pulse during the shooting. The initiative was designed to train people working at schools and other public places on how to treat injuries before paramedics arrive at the scene. Doctors have emphasized the importance for school faculty members to stay calm and assess injuries, but also discouraged the use of more invasive emergency procedures such as removing a bullet. [158]

Victim assistance efforts Edit

The FBI's Office of Victim Assistance (OVA) provided "information, assistance services, and resources" to the victims and witnesses of the shooting that, depending on their case-by-case eligibility, may have consisted of "special funding to provide emergency assistance, crime victim compensation, and counseling". [159] The OVA, through its Victim Assistance Rapid Deployment Team and Crisis Response Canines, also provided help to responders of the shooting in the days following June 12 . [160]

Immediately after the shooting, many people lined up to donate blood at local blood donation centers and bloodmobile locations when OneBlood, a regional blood donation agency, urged people to donate. [161] [162] The surge in blood donations and the fact that the shooting targeted a gay nightclub spotlighted the Food and Drug Administration's controversial federal policy that forbids men who had sex with men in the past year from donating blood. Despite expressions of frustration and disapproval by a number of gay and bisexual men, and LGBT activists across the country and a group of Democratic lawmakers [163] urging the ban to be lifted, the FDA stated on June 14 that it had no plans to change the regulation and will reevaluate its policies "as new scientific information becomes available". [164] [165] [166]

A victims' assistance center, Orlando Family Assistance Center, was opened on June 15 inside Camping World Stadium by the City of Orlando. [167] [168] During the eight days it was open, it provided help to 956 people from 298 families. Those remaining were then directed to the newly opened Orlando United Assistance Center jointly set up by the City and Orange County, which, according to the mayor of Orlando, "will stay open as long as there is a need". [169] [170]

The two hospitals that treated Pulse victims, Orlando Regional Medical Center and Florida Hospital, announced in late August that they will not be billing the survivors or pursuing reimbursement. [171] [172]

The City of Orlando offered free plots and funeral service at the city-owned Greenwood Cemetery for those killed in the shooting. [173] [174] [175]

Fundraising campaigns Edit

Equality Florida, the state's largest LGBT rights group, started a fundraising page to aid the victims and their families, raising $767,000 in the first nine hours. [147] [176] [177] As of September 22 , 2016, they have raised over $7.85 million online, a record for GoFundMe, with over 119,400 donors and an average of about $66 per donation. [178] [179] [180]

Another fundraising campaign, OneOrlando, was established by Mayor Buddy Dyer. [181] The Walt Disney Company and NBCUniversal, which operate the nearby Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort, respectively, each donated $1 million to the fund. [182] [183] As of August 12 , OneOrlando has raised $23 million, [184] with a draft proposal to start payouts starting September 27 on a rolling basis in which the highest compensations will go to the families of the 49 people killed, followed by the 50 victims who were physically injured and hospitalized for one night or more. OneOrlando's fund administrator said that the draft has not decided whether to pay people who were held hostage but were not injured, and will take public feedback in two 90-minute hearings to be held on August 4 . A timeline of the draft proposal was released. [185] [186] On August 11 , its board of directors decided that the funds will only be dispersed to "the families of the dead, survivors who were hospitalized, survivors who sought outpatient medical treatment, and those who were present in the club when the shootings began but not physically injured", and that family members and survivors can start filing claims until the September 12 deadline. [184] As of December 1 , OneOrlando paid out over $27.4 million to 299 recipients, according to officials, with six more claims worth an additional $2.1 million still being contested among family members of the slain victims. [187]

IDW Publishing and DC Entertainment created LOVE IS LOVE, a graphic novel sold to raise money for the victims. The novel became a New York Times best seller and more than $165,000 was raised. Through Equality Florida, the proceeds were donated to the OneOrlando Fund. [188]

Release of transcripts and videos Edit

A total of 603 calls to 9-1-1 were made by victims, family members and friends of victims, bystanders, and rescue workers during the entire shooting. [189] On June 14 , two dozen news agencies sent a four-page letter to Orlando's city attorney jointly demanding the release of recordings that 9-1-1 callers made on the night of the shooting. The letter also contained a request for scanner and dispatch recordings. The Orlando police refused to release the recordings, citing an "ongoing investigation". [190] [191] June 20 , the FBI released a transcript of the first call by the shooter and a summary of three calls with police negotiators. [53] On July 14 , the University of Central Florida Police Department released nine body camera videos of UCFPD officers who rushed to Pulse to help Orlando police officers during the incident. [192]

On July 18 , the City of Orlando released a detailed 71-page document of OPD officers' accounts and responses to the shooting. Requests to release recordings of 9-1-1 calls, police radio transmissions, and the exchanges between law enforcement and Mateen were denied, citing disagreements over whether they fall under local or federal jurisdiction. The status on the authority over the recordings is pending a court ruling. [193] [194] [195] On July 20 , the Orange County Sheriff's Office (OCSO) released video footage from a body camera worn by one of its deputies during the incident. [196] On July 26 , the Orange County Fire Rescue released a recording of a 9-1-1 call made during the shooting. [197] On July 29 , the OCSO released dozens of pages of documents detailing the deputies' individual accounts of their involvement in the shooting. [198] [199] On August 30 , the OCSO released the 9-1-1 calls it received during the shooting. [200] [201] Two days later, OPD and the city of Orlando released nine of their hundreds of 9-1-1 calls, which were all made by friends and relatives outside of Pulse during the incident the rest are locked in a legal dispute between 24 media groups, OPD, and the city of Orlando. [202] [203] [204] [205]

On September 14 , the city of Orlando released 23 additional 9-1-1 calls made during the shooting. [206] [207] These included calls made from rescue workers advising preparedness for dozens of victims, [189] a patron who escaped from Pulse with a friend who was shot, and the brother of a woman who was shot several times and trapped inside a bathroom in the nightclub. [208] On October 31 , the City of Orlando released nearly 30 minutes of recordings of police negotiators talking with Mateen during the course of the shooting, after a judge with the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida ruled that these calls should be made public. A total of 232 other calls are still being withheld by the city. [209] [210]

On November 10 , the Orange County Sheriff's office released about two dozen videos of body camera footage of officers at the perimeter of the nightclub during the shooting. The footage, which was heavily censored, depicted officers conducting searches of bathrooms in the nightclub and tending to survivors. [211] [212] [213] On November 14 , the City of Orlando released 36 police audio recordings made during the shooting, which record officers' attempts to contact Mateen, their remarks on his "serious, unruffled attitude", and their conversations about how to respond to the hostage situation. [214] [215] Also released that day was an additional 9-1-1 call made by a woman who made it out of the nightclub with her sister, who was shot. [216] The next day, on November 15 , 21 additional 9-1-1 calls were released. [45] [217] This was followed by three additional hours of 9-1-1 calls released on November 16 . In many of these calls, people trapped inside bathrooms, kitchens, and an upstairs office were questioning why police had yet to enter the nightclub. [45] Two days later, on November 18 , 107 pages of transcripts of more than 30 9-1-1 calls were released. These calls were made during the first ten minutes of the shooting, and had to be released in the form of transcripts after a judge deemed them too graphic to be released as audio recordings. According to a city spokesman, all 9-1-1 calls made during the shooting have now been released to the public. [218] [219] [220]

Future of Pulse Edit

On September 14 , 2016, the City of Orlando announced it would pay $4,518 to erect a new fence around the Pulse nightclub on September 19 . The fence will feature a commemorative screen-wrap with local artwork that would serve as a memorial to the victims and survivors of the shooting. [221] [222] It will also be smaller than the nightclub's previous fence, in order to allow for more efficient navigation by passers-by. [221]

On November 8 the City of Orlando announced its plans to purchase the Pulse nightclub later that month for $2.25 million and turn the site into a memorial for the victims and survivors of the shooting. The announcement was met with praise from Orlando's LGBT community. [223] However, the vote was postponed on November 15 , with the city explaining that "more time was needed to plan a future memorial", and that there was some discomfort from city officials over having to pay such an amount of money. The vote was expected to be held on or before December 5 . [224] In December 2016, the owner declined to sell the nightclub to the city due to emotional attachment. [225] The owner then created the onePULSE Foundation, and in May 2017, announced plans for a memorial site and museum slated to open in 2022. [226] [227]

Classification Edit

Officials have characterized the shooting as an act of terrorism. FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Ron Hopper [228] called the shooting a hate crime and an act of terrorism [229] and Jerry Demings, a sheriff from the Orange County Sheriff's Office, classified it as domestic terrorism. [5] City of Orlando Chief of Police John W. Mina said Mateen seemed organized and well-prepared. [230] On March 13, 2018, the time of Mateen's wife's trial for aiding the attack, the FBI had still declined to classify it as a hate crime, and the prosecution said it had never contemplated arguing Mateen had targeted gays. [231] It instead only (unsuccessfully) argued she provided material support to a foreign terrorist organization. [232]

On June 13 , FBI Director James Comey told reporters, "So far, we see no indication that this was a plot directed from outside the United States and we see no indication that he was part of any kind of network". He said the United States Intelligence Community was "highly confident that this killer was radicalized at least in part through the Internet", [233] and that the investigation had found "strong indications of radicalization by this killer and of potential inspiration by foreign terrorist organizations". [234] Several days after the shooting, the FBI announced on its website that it has become "the lead law enforcement agency responsible for investigating the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on June 12 , 2016". [159] The agency took the lead after the shooting was classified as a terrorist attack due to Mateen's pledge of allegiance to ISIL during the event. [61]

According to Senator Ron Johnson, Mateen searched online for references to the shooting during the attack, and made posts on Facebook expressing his support for Islamic State, saying "You kill innocent women and children by doing us [sic] airstrikes. Now taste the Islamic state vengeance." [235]

Weapons Edit

Federal officials said a SIG Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle and a 9mm Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol were recovered from Mateen's body, along with additional rounds. [12] [236] [237] Mateen had legally purchased the two guns used in the shooting from a shop in Port St. Lucie: the SIG Sauer MCX rifle on June 4 and the Glock 17 pistol on June 5 . [8] [238] He and law enforcement were reported to have fired over 200 rounds. [23] [239] [240] From his car, "hundreds of rounds" were found along with a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver this gun was not used in the shooting. [61] [237]

Previous FBI investigation of Mateen and cooperation with Seddique Edit

Mateen became a person of interest to the FBI in May 2013 and July 2014. The 2013 investigation was opened after he made comments to coworkers about being a member of Hezbollah and having family connections in al-Qaeda, [241] and that he had ties to Nidal Hasan—perpetrator of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting—and Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev—perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing. According to new documents released on July 18 , Mateen said that he made these comments in response to "a lot of harassment" and frequent derogatory epithets made by St. Lucie County Sheriff's deputies and his G4S coworkers, who taunted and made jokes about him being a possible Muslim extremist. [242] [243] The comments resulted in his employer G4S removing Mateen from his post and the county sheriff reporting him to the FBI. [243] [244] The documents also show him saying that he was "1000% American" and writing that he was against any "anti American" and "anti humanity" terrorist organizations. [242]

The 2014 investigation was opened after he was linked to Moner Mohammad Abu Salha, [98] an American radical who committed a suicide bombing in Syria. Mateen was interviewed three times in connection with the two investigations. Both cases were closed after finding nothing that warranted further investigation. [114] [233] [245] After the shooting, Director Comey said the FBI will review its work and methods used in the two investigations. When asked if anything could have or should have been done differently in regard to Mateen, or the FBI's intelligence and actions in relation to him, Comey replied, "So far, the honest answer is, 'I don't think so'". [246]

A little over a month after the shooting, the FBI provided more details about its May 2013 – March 2014 investigation into Mateen, which was closed after a veteran FBI agent assigned to the case and his supervisor concluded that "there was just nothing there" and removed his name from the Terrorist Watchlist. Mateen was interviewed twice during the investigation, and had provided a written statement in which he confessed that he had previously lied to FBI investigators. During the investigation, the FBI had tracked his daily routine using unmarked vehicles, closely examined his phone records, and used two informants to secretly record his face-to-face conversations. The FBI Director said that they could have taken more initiative in gaining access to his social media accounts in 2013, but noted that back then such checks were not yet "part of [their] investigative DNA". However, it would not have mattered, as the analysis of Mateen's computer after the shooting showed that his social media accounts, including Facebook, had no ties to any terrorist groups, and that he did not post any "radical statements" until the early morning of the shooting. The FBI in 2013 also did not have the probable cause needed to obtain a search warrant in order to secretly listen to his phone calls or probe into Mateen's computer. [247]

On July 26 , a Senate homeland security committee chairman sent a four-page letter to the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) requesting an independent review of the FBI's 2013 and 2014 investigations. He wrote that if Mateen had stayed on the FBI watch-list, the federal agency would have been notified if he tried to purchase firearms, in which case "law enforcement potentially could have uncovered information on social media or elsewhere of Mateen's radicalization". [248]

On March 24, 2018, Sara Sweeney, the assistant attorney prosecuting Mateen's wife, Noor Salman, disclosed to her defense after the discovery period that her father-in-law, Seddique Mateen, was an FBI informant at various points between January 2005 and June 2016. [249] Agent Juvenal Martin, who handled the elder Mateen since 2006, said he considered making Omar an informant as well, after investigating and clearing him in 2013. [250] [251]

Searches and possible accomplices Edit

U.S. officials said Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) may have inspired Mateen without training, instructing, or having a direct connection with him. [155] [252] [253] Investigators have said no evidence linking Mateen to the group has emerged, and have cautioned that the shooting may have been ISIL-inspired without being ISIL-directed, [254] as was the case in the December 2 , 2015 attack in San Bernardino, California. [22] [255] Yoram Schweitzer of the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies suggested that Mateen associated the attack with ISIL to add to the notoriety of the incident, and said it was very unlikely that ISIL had known of him before the shooting. [155]

On June 16 , Director of the Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan told the Senate Intelligence Committee that his agency was "unable to uncover any link" between Mateen and ISIL. [256]

Following the shooting, officers from multiple federal, state, and local law-enforcement agencies (including the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office, and Fort Pierce Police Department) converged on Mateen's home in Fort Pierce and another home in Port St. Lucie. A bomb squad checked Mateen's Fort Pierce home for explosives. [257] In June 2016, the House Intelligence Committee said that United States investigators "are searching for details about the Saudi Arabia trips Mateen made in 2011 and 2012." [258] [259] [260]

Senate Intelligence Committee member Angus King said that Mateen's second wife appears to have had "some knowledge of what was going on". [261] [262] Media reports, citing anonymous law enforcement officials, said she was with Mateen as he scouted possible Orlando-area targets (including the Walt Disney World Resort's Disney Springs and the Pulse nightclub) and that she was also with him when he purchased ammunition and a holster in the months leading up to the attack. [263] [264] [265]

Trial and acquittal of shooter's wife Edit

Mateen's second wife, Noor Salman, was arrested in January 2017, at her home in Rodeo, California. [266] She was charged in federal court in Orlando with aiding and abetting as well as obstruction of justice. [267] Federal prosecutors accused her of knowing that Mateen was planning an attack. [268] Salman pleaded not guilty to the charges. [269] Salman moved to dismiss the obstruction charge this motion was denied by U.S. District Judge Paul G. Byron. [270] [271]

Salman's trial took place in March 2018. [272] During the trial, the prosecution revealed it withheld information during discovery that Salman's confession of helping scout potential attack locations was not true based on cell phone evidence, and that the FBI knew this even though it had been used to deny her bail. [251] The defense also sought to dismiss the charges or declare a mistrial on Brady disclosure grounds after this disclosure, and after the prosecution disclosed during the trial that Seddique Mateen had been a confidential FBI informant "at various points in time between January 2005 through June 2016." [273] The court denied Salman's motion to dismiss the charges or declare a mistrial. [250] [272] On March 30 the jury acquitted Salman of both charges. [274] [275] One survivor of the shooting called the acquittal "devastating" for the victims of the shooting. [276]

Progress Edit

In July 2016, law enforcement officials reported that the FBI—after conducting "interviews and an examination of his computer and other electronic media"—had not found any evidence that Mateen targeted Pulse because the nightclub was a venue for gays or whether the attack was motivated by homophobia. According to witnesses, he did not make any homophobic comments during the shooting. Furthermore, nothing has been found confirming the speculation that he was gay and used gay dating apps however, the FBI "has found evidence that Mateen was cheating on his wife with other women". Officials noted that "there is nothing to suggest that he attempted to cover up his tracks by deleting files". Generally, "a complete picture of what motivated Mateen remains murky and may never be known since he was killed in a shootout with police and did not leave a manifesto". [132] The FBI has yet to conclude its investigation. [61] [277]

In September 2016, an imam for a mosque in Kissimmee released video footage showing what appeared to be Mateen on June 8 , four days before the shooting, praying for about ten minutes. The imam said Mateen was praying there with his wife and child, and had no verbal exchanges with any of the other attendants. Though the FBI was already in possession of the mosque's security recordings, the video footage was released to the public only after a series of bombings or bombing attempts in New York and New Jersey, and a mass stabbing at a Minnesota shopping mall in September 2016. [278]

Evaluations of performance of law enforcement Edit

At the request of John Mina, the Orlando chief of police, the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) conducted a third-party "after-action assessment" of the Orlando Police Department's response to the shooting and its overall preparedness. [279] [280] COPS commissioned the Police Foundation to prepare the report, which was released in December 2017. The report concluded that the Orlando Police Department response "was appropriate and consistent with national guidelines and best practices" and saved lives. [281] The report stated: "The initial tactical response was consistent with the OPD's active shooter training and recognized promising practices. However, as the incident became more complex and prolonged, transitioning from a barricaded suspect with hostages to an act of terrorism, the OPD's operational tactics and strategies were challenged by the increasing threat posed by the suspect's claim of improvised explosive devices inside the club and in vehicles surrounding the club." [281] The report authors noted that they lacked access to FBI reports and other data about the crime scene and shooter, and did not have information about "potential law enforcement friendly fire." [281]

In April 2017, the Orlando Sentinel obtained a copy of a 78-page presentation given by Mina to some ten police groups located around the world, which discussed the OPD's response to the attack and what it has learned. The presentation offered a comprehensive timeline of the attack and included diagrams and still photos from body camera footage showing officers in their initial confrontation with Mateen. According to the presentation, 500 interviews were conducted, 1,600 leads were followed up on, more than 950 pieces of evidence were collected, and more than 300 people were subpoenaed. [16]

In December 2016, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement completed a 35-page "after-action report" about its response to the nightclub during the shooting. [282] [283] The report was publicly released in August 2017 after a public records request made by the Orlando Sentinel. [282] [283] The report generally praised the FDLE's handling of the nightclub shootings, but detailed the agency's difficulties in notifying the dead's families and complications arising from its inter-agency policies, which led to them not immediately sharing information about the shooting with federal investigators. [282] [283]

Florida governor Rick Scott expressed support for all affected, and said the state emergency operations center was monitoring the incident. [284] Scott declared a state of emergency for Orange County, Florida, [285] and Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer declared a state of emergency for the city. [286] [287] On June 24 , Scott directed that 49 state flags be flown for 49 days in front of the Florida Historic Capitol in Tallahassee, with the name, age, and photo of every victim displayed beneath each flag. [288]

The Obama administration expressed its condolences to the victims. President Barack Obama ordered that "the federal government provide any assistance necessary to pursue the investigation and support the community." [289] In a speech, he described the shooting as an "act of hate" and an "act of terror". [100] [290] [291] He also issued a proclamation on June 12 ordering United States flags upon non-private grounds and buildings around the country and abroad to be lowered to half-staff until sundown, June 16 . [292] He and Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Orlando on June 16 to lay flowers at a memorial and visit the victims' families. [293]

Many American Muslims, including community leaders, swiftly condemned the shooting. [294] [295] Prayer vigils for the victims were held at mosques across the country. [296] [297] [298] The Florida mosque where Mateen sometimes prayed issued a statement condemning the attack and offering condolences to the victims. [299] The Council on American–Islamic Relations called the attack "monstrous" and offered its condolences to the victims. CAIR Florida urged Muslims to donate blood even while observing the month of Ramadan – which requires Muslims to fast from dawn to dusk – and contribute funds in support of the victims' families. [294] [300] Some Muslim groups called on members to break their Ramadan fast to be able to donate blood. [301]

The United Nations Security Council issued a statement condemning the shooting for "targeting persons as a result of their sexual orientation". It was supported by some countries that suppress homosexual behavior and discussion, such as Egypt and Russia. [302] Samantha Power, United States Ambassador to the UN, led a group of 17 UN ambassadors on a visit to the historic LGBT landmark Stonewall Inn to express their support for LGBT rights in response to the shooting. [303] Countries that released their own statements condemning the shooting include Afghanistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Turkey. [304]

Many people on social media and elsewhere, including 2016 United States presidential election candidates, members of Congress, other political figures, foreign leaders, and various celebrities, expressed their shock at the event and extended their condolences to those affected. [305] [306] Vigils were held around the world to mourn those who were killed in the shooting, including one held at the banks of Lake Eola Park on June 19 that attracted 50,000 people. [307] [308] [309]

OnePulse Foundation, a charity organization created by a Pulse owner on July 7 , filed documents with a plan to fund and build a memorial at the nightclub. The foundation is collaborating with the city of Orlando to determine the location of the memorial. [310] [311] [312] The non-profit organization also plans to start a fundraising campaign to provide financial help to the surviving victims who were injured and the families of the 49 who were killed. [313]

The LGBTQ gun rights organization Pink Pistols saw its membership increase from 1,500 to 4,500 the subsequent week after the shooting. [314] As of June 24, 2016, membership was over 7,000 with 36 chapters around the country. [315] The group experienced increased interest following Donald Trump's election to the presidency. [316] As of April 2017, the group claimed over 9,000 members. [317]

In the aftermath of the 2018 trial, some media re-assessed the reactions, possible motives, and media narrative of the shooting. [318] [319]


MORE FROM CHANGING AMERICA

At noon, First United Methodist's church in downtown Orlando and others around the world rang their bells 49 times, one for each victim of the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since the Sept. 11 attacks. When it happened, it was also the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in American history, but was replaced by the Las Vegas shooting a year later. The debate around gun control and reform remains polarized.

Our country is in a historic fight. Add Changing America to your Facebook or Twitter feed to stay on top of the news.

The ceremony was shared virtually on the One Orlando Alliance Facebook page, which listed 49 acts of love and kindness in remembrance. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered flags to fly at half staff and a spire in front of Orlando’s city hall was lit up in the colors of the rainbow, representing the LGBTQ+ community.

The spire in front of @citybeautiful city hall lit up in rainbow colors #WeRemember the 49 lives lost @pulseorlando 4 years ago today. @fox35orlando pic.twitter.com/G8fEGnTtWa

— Holly Bristow (@hollybnews) June 12, 2020

On Twitter, the city of Orlando's official account shared a graphic with the names of each person killed.


Today, we remember the fourth anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting

Four years ago on June 12, 2016, one of the worst mass shootings in US history claimed 49 lives at a Florida gay bar. This morning, people across the state will observe a moment of silence to honor those who were lost.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a proclamation declaring June 12 "Pulse Remembrance Day," in memory of those killed during a mass shooting at Pulse nightclub, a popular LGBTQ+ venue in Orlando in 2016.

The proclamation orders all flags to be lowered to half-mast and Floridians are asked to mark the date with a moment of silence at 9 a.m. DeSantis declared Pulse Remembrance Day in 2019, too, and former Gov. Rick Scott did the same in 2018.

In the early hours of June 12, 2016, 49 people were shot and killed and 50 others were injured. The shooting occurred during the club's Latin Night, and many of those killed were Latino and LGBTQ+.

The gunman, Omar Mateen, died in a shootout with police the same day. Authorities said he had pledged allegiance to ISIS.

The incident was the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. until one year later when 58 people were murdered at a Las Vegas country music concert.

The Pulse shooting is still the deadliest act of violence against LGBTQ+ people in the US.

The remembrance of the Pulse nightclub shooting comes as violence against LGBTQ+ people persists.

Transgender people, especially black transgender women, face a heightened level of violence. In 2019, at least 26 trans-Americans were killed, according to the Human Rights Campaign. This year so far, at least 12 trans people have been fatally shot. There are likely many more deaths that go unreported, the organization said.

Pulse was considered a refuge for LGBTQ+ Floridians until the tragedy. The club hasn't operated since the shooting, but the site where it stands has turned into a makeshift memorial until a permanent memorial is constructed.

The design for the memorial will include a reflecting pool that surrounds the Pulse building and a garden with 49 trees, one for each victim. A museum and "education center" will operate about one-third of a mile from Pulse, the foundation behind the memorial, onePulse, said.

The permanent memorial is planned to open in 2022.

In June 2019, Florida lawmakers proposed a plan to designate the Pulse site a national memorial, which would make it one of the few LGBTQ+ landmarks in the country. The bill was last debated in March.

By Scottie Andrew, CNN via The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.


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