[More Updates:] Worst Mass Shooting in U.S. in Orlando Gay Club, Social Media & Conspirators

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Regular updates, check back for more info. Killer’s wife knew about his desire to attack somewhere; the worst mass shooting in U.S. history; Tribute to Pulse Orlando by TRT, Eastern Bank & Harvard Pilgrim

Breaking news from Orlando, Fla. via CNN, about the FBI issuing bulletins to gay clubs as a precaution. The FBI has listed the massacre as both a hate crime and an act of terrorism.

The press conference also shed some light about Noor Salman, the killer’s wife, making it official that she knew of the “killer’s thirst for attack,” but they don’t think Salman was a co-conspirator. In addition, they reported that the gunman had befriended transgender women on gay sites and visited online gay chat rooms.


According to a CNN interview with Salman, the widowers said “she is not sure if Omar Saddiqui Mateen, her ex-husband and father of her son, was gay or not. She added, in the interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, that being “homosexual” brings shame to their families. She also, said that Mateen’s father was not tolerant of the “homosexual way of life,” and added that neither is she.

Authorities find that Salman may be a person of interest and are trying to find out if she is a co-conspirator in the attack that killed 49 innocent people and injured 53 others in the morning of June 12. Main media networks have questioned about her possible involvement or knowledge she may have had about the shooting. Salman was born in California. Her parents are Palestinian.


To find out more about events and vigils being held tonight and throughout the week, click here.


Update: President Obama spoke to the nation, after getting briefed by the FBI and Homeland Security today, called the Orlando shooting “homegrown extremism,” something that has worried the administration for some time. While at the last minute the shooter expressed allegiance to Isil, he did not appear to be part of a broader Isil plot, said the President.

He said organizations like IS, al-Qaida and others target gays and lesbians because of their ‘‘vicious, bankrupt ideology’’ and their religious beliefs about homosexuality.

‘‘The fact that it took place at a club frequented by the LGBT community I think is also relevant,’’ Obama said.

He noted that the attack underscored the “risks we were taking by being so lax on firearms.” The President also said these sort of events tended to devolve into an “either-or” debate over gun control versus terrorism. He said they were still looking at “all the possible motivations of the killer.”


Update: A Torrington, Conn. native with ties in Massachusetts for over a decade, was working for Pulse at the time of the shooting. KJ Morris, 37, has been confirmed as one of the victims of the massacre at the night club. Morris was a bouncer at Pulse and had moved to Fla. only two months ago, according to her FB page. She was a well known drag king in western New England, often performing at various area clubs under the stage name “Daddy K.”

A Springfield, Mass. resident, Stanley Manolo Almodovar III, 23, was also another victim. Born and raised in Springfield, Almodovar moved to Clermont, Fla. in 2004, according to CBS Boston.


Update: President orders the American flag to be flown at half staff everywhere in the U.S. and abroad in U.S Offices. President Obama’s addressed the most deadly mass shooting in the U.S. history via the following statement.

THE PRESIDENT:  Today, as Americans, we grieve the brutal murder—a horrific massacre—of dozens of innocent people.  We pray for their families, who are grasping for answers with broken hearts.  We stand with the people of Orlando, who have endured a terrible attack on their city.  Although it’s still early in the investigation, we know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate.  And as Americans, we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to defend our people.

I just finished a meeting with FBI Director Comey and my homeland security and national security advisors.  The FBI is on the scene and leading the investigation, in partnership with local law enforcement.  I’ve directed that the full resources of the federal government be made available for this investigation. 

We are still learning all the facts. This is an open investigation. We’ve reached no definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer. The FBI is appropriately investigating this as an act of terrorism.  And I’ve directed that we must spare no effort to determine what—if any—inspiration or association this killer may have had with terrorist groups.  What is clear is that he was a person filled with hatred. Over the coming days, we’ll uncover why and how this happened, and we will go wherever the facts lead us.

This morning I spoke with my good friend, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and I conveyed the condolences of the entire American people. This could have been any one of our communities. So I told Mayor Dyer that whatever help he and the people of Orlando need—they are going to get it. As a country, we will be there for the people of Orlando today, tomorrow and for all the days to come.

We also express our profound gratitude to all the police and first responders who rushed into harm’s way. Their courage and professionalism saved lives, and kept the carnage from being even worse. It’s the kind of sacrifice that our law enforcement professionals make every single day for all of us, and we can never thank them enough.

This is an especially heartbreaking day for all our friends—our fellow Americans—who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub—it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights. 

So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American—regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation—is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country. And no act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that make us Americans.

Today marks the most deadly shooting in American history. The shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and a powerful assault rifle. This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub. And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be.  And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.

In the coming hours and days, we’ll learn about the victims of this tragedy. Their names. Their faces. Who they were. The joy that they brought to families and to friends, and the difference that they made in this world. Say a prayer for them and say a prayer for their families—that God give them the strength to bear the unbearable.  And that He give us all the strength to be there for them, and the strength and courage to change. We need to demonstrate that we are defined more—as a country—by the way they lived their lives than by the hate of the man who took them from us.

As we go together, we will draw inspiration from heroic and selfless acts—friends who helped friends, took care of each other and saved lives.  In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another. We will not give in to fear or turn against each other. Instead, we will stand united, as Americans, to protect our people, and defend our nation, and to take action against those who threaten us.

May God bless the Americans we lost this morning. May He comfort their families. May God continue to watch over this country that we love. Thank you.


Update: A suspect with arsenal arrested at L.A. Gay Pride, the city of West Hollywood is in heightened alert.


Although many cities have been celebrating LGBT Pride in June throughout the country, one city in the country is mourning. A Gay Club in Orlando, Florida was the site of what many are considering the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the nation and the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11, according to CNN.

Equality Florida immediately reacted to the mass shooting.

“We are heartbroken and angry that senseless violence has once again destroyed lives in our state and in our country,” read their statement. “Gay clubs hold a significant place in LGBTQ history. They were often the only safe gathering place and this horrific act strikes directly at our sense of safety. June commemorates our community standing up to anti-LGBTQ violence at the Stonewall Inn, the nightclub that has become the first LGBTQ site recognized as a national monument.”

Pulse, one of the biggest nightclubs in Orlando, Florida, was holding, according to BBC News, a Latin-themed event that was nearing its end when a man opened fire inside. Shortly afterwards, the nightclub posted on its Facebook page: “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running.”

Mayor Buddy Dyer said to USA Today that 53 wounded in the attack at Pulse, 1912 S Orange Ave., a gay club just south of downtown. Other news sources are reporting 50 people were killed.

NBC News reported that Mina Justice was outside the club trying to contact her 30-year-old son Eddie, who texted her when the shooting happened and asked her to call police. He told her he ran into a bathroom with other club patrons to hide. He then texted her: “He’s coming.”

“The next text said: ‘He has us, and he’s in here with us,'” she told The Associated Press. “That was the last conversation.”

According to CNN, the shooter has been identified as Omar Saddiqui Mateen, of Port St. Lucie Fla. who had pledged allegiance to ISIS. Pro ISIS/islamic forums are responding with excitement to the shooting, although no group has claimed responsibility for the massacre yet.

CNN also reported that the gunman called 911, claimed allegiance to ISIS and also mentioned Boston Bombers during the call. The shooter reportedly demonstrated anti-gay sentiment.

USA Today reported that Police Chief John Mina said the tragedy “began at 2:02 a.m., when three police officers engaged the suspect in a gun battle outside the club. A hostage situation then took place inside, and a SWAT team was called in, Mina said. Police received updates from patrons trapped in the club, and decided to storm the club at about 5 a.m.”

“Our biggest concern was further loss of life,” Mina said. “We exchanged gunfire with the suspect, and he was dead at the scene.”

Florida Governor, Rick Scott, has declared a state of emergency following the massacre. Scott told CNN that this was “clearly an act of terrorism,” adding too that it “should make every American angry.”

Local Statements

Steve Boswell, President and CEO of Fenway Health, released the following statement:

“Our hearts are with our grieving community in Orlando and with our larger community where people are hurting today.  This atrocious act of terror and hate is beyond comprehension. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and loved ones and the many lives they touched.

“As the nation continues to grapple with gun violence and important questions related to community safety in the aftermath of this and the far too many events like it, we urge our political leaders, policy makers, the media, and citizen activists to take action to ensure public safety.  We must demand the right to live in a safe and peaceful society.

“In Orlando, patrons at an LGBT bar were targeted. Coming during LGBT Pride Month, a time when we come together to celebrate our lives and each other, this attack is an assault on the entire LGBT community.

“We’ll learn more as events unfold in the coming days, but let’s focus on staying strong, staying proud and staying united against hate and intolerance. When we stand together, we are strong and we are beautiful.”

MassEquality’s Executive Director, Deborah Shields, JD, MPH, released the following statement:

“All of us at MassEquality are shocked and deeply saddened by the news from Orlando, FL this morning. Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting, the Orlando LGBTQ and Latin@ communities, and all who have been touched by this terrible event.

“We are horrified that the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history took place in a gay nightclub during Pride month–a time when the LGBTQ community and its allies join together to celebrate our history and look ahead to a future when we hope everyone can live free from discrimination and violence. The fact that those who were killed and wounded were at the club on Latin night painfully highlights the racist violence faced by so many members of our community.

“MassEquality stands in solidarity with the LGBTQ and Latin@ communities in Orlando and throughout the country, and with communities everywhere that have lost beloved members through senseless acts of violence. We honor their memories and grieve their loss. We ask everyone to take concrete steps to end homophobia, racism and violence and to join together to heal and protect our communities.”

MassEquality is the leading statewide grassroots advocacy organization working to ensure that everyone across Massachusetts can thrive from cradle to grave without discrimination and oppression based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

“From the entire Fenway Health family: Our hearts are with our grieving community in Orlando, and with our community everywhere where people are hurting today,” read a statement released by Fenway Health. “In the face of hate and intolerance, let’s all remember that we are strong together, and we are beautiful.”

“Words do not express the shock and sadness I feel,” said Elias Vivas, Interim Director, Hispanic Black Gay Coalition, HBGC. “The state of LGBTQ rights greatly depends on the continued work to undo homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia and racism that will surface as a result of this tragedy. These horrific events should not be the only way we are motived to make change — we have a lot of work to do to support our LGBTQ communities. My condolences go out to those families grieving this Sunday.”

Rhode Island Pride and the RI LGBTQ Center stand together in solidarity with those touched by the recent mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse LGBT club.

Our hearts are with our Florida brothers and sisters, their families and all those affected by this senseless act. We lament the agonizing loss of life, and we are renewed in our commitment to create a safer world.

The vibrant light of our LGBTQ community will not be extinguished by violence or terror.

National Statements

Michael Adams, SAGE CEO and Dr. Yanira Cruz, NHCOA President & CEO released the following joint statement:

“As leaders from organizations working to advance equality and to counteract discrimination against the LGBT and Latino communities, we unite today to condemn the outrageous violence that took the lives of more than 50 of our brothers and sisters last night in Orlando.

“Many constituents of SAGE (Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders) are Latino and many constituents of NHCOA (National Hispanic Council on Aging) are LGBT.

“Words cannot express our grief at the senseless loss of so many – including many LGBT Latino people, in the heinous massacre at Pulse in Orlando.

“The tragedy last night at Pulse, reminds us that we cannot be divided into disconnected communities and that our lives, our cultures, our identities and our goals intersect in ways large and small.

“Knowing this, we condemn not only the violence in Orlando, but also any effort to hijack this tragedy to advance an agenda of bigotry and hatred against immigrants, Muslims or any other community.

“We will not allow the lost lives of our LGBT and Latino brothers and sisters to be devalued in this way. Our diversity is a source of strength, and must not be used to create division. Thus, we will stand strong for justice and equity for every member of every community in this extraordinarily diverse country.”

SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) is the country’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in New York City, SAGE is a national organization that offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBT older adults and their caregivers, advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBT older people, and provides training for aging providers and LGBT organizations through its National Resource Center on LGBT Aging. With offices in New York City, Washington, DC and Chicago, SAGE coordinates a growing network of 28 local SAGE affiliates in 20 states and the District of Columbia. Learn more at sageusa.org and lgbtagingcenter.org.

Congresswoman Gwen Moore (WI-04) released the following statement: “My heart aches over the tragic events that took place last night in Orlando, Florida. As details about this horrific incident emerge—including the background of the perpetrator—make no mistake, this was indeed an act of terror. This savage act was carried out in an effort to intimidate and terrify our LGBT brothers and sisters.

“This senseless loss of life transpired in a club that was meant to be a safe space for an already vulnerable group of Americans, but we must never forget that an attack on the LGBT community is an attack on all of us. As we mourn for those whose lives have been touched by this act of barbarism, we must do everything in our collective power to put an end to the attitudes and behaviors that help cultivate a society where such hate can come to fruition. Today, Milwaukee stands with the City of Orlando and our nation’s LGBT community.”

Stuart Milk, nephew of Harvey Milk and co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation, released the following statement in response to the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida:

“Last night, the worst domestic terror attack since 911 has tragically hit American LGBT families head on—know the latest victims of hatred—mostly young men and women who were simply out for a night of dancing and enjoyment of our community during LGBT Pride month. These victims of a hate crime targeting an LGBT club had their futures stolen, had their dreams stolen, their potential contributions stolen from us all.

The LGBT Orlando community and our allies in Central Florida are both strong and unified. We send a world of love and prayers to all who are grieving today and to all who will begin the hard journey to recover from untold wounds, both physical and emotional. But our love and prayers are simply not enough. Hate and separation continue to bring forth too much grief, too many stolen lives across the whole world.

As we reach out to comfort the Orlando families, and as we support the courage for the injured to heal, may we also have the strength to address and deal with the roots of hatred and separation that target any minority community with violence, anywhere in the world. May we find a way forward to make this act of horrendous violence a commitment to come together and so honor the memories of those who were killed today.”

*The Chair of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), a coalition of 40 of the nation’s preeminent Latino advocacy organizations, issued the following statement in response to the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida at the Pulse nightclub, and expressing solidarity with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community.

“We stand in solidarity with our LGBTQ brothers and sisters who were targeted in this heinous attack in Orlando, in which initial reports suggest that the brunt of the suffering fell upon LGBTQ Latinos. We share our deepest condolences and sympathy with the families and loved ones of those who were killed. This was an attack on all of us,” said Hector Sanchez, NHLA Chair and Executive Director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. “We hope that those who were injured are able to make a full recovery and encourage all those who are able, to donate blood as soon as possible at the nearest blood donation center to help the survivors.”

Equality Federation released the following statement: “Our hearts are heavy at this time and we extend our love and condolences to the friends and family of those affected by the horrific tragedy in Orlando.

Pulse nightclub was founded in part to honor a man who had died of AIDS and to promote awareness of the local LGBTQ community. Nightlife venues have historically been places of refuge for LGBTQ people and continue to serve an important role, keeping our community vibrant and connected.

This outrageous, senseless act of terror comes during Pride month when LGBTQ people around the world are celebrating the progress we’ve made towards achieving peace and equality for all. It impacts all of us. We need everyone to be united in the struggle against violence and discrimination.”

Statement from San Francisco LGBT Center Executive Director Rebecca Rolfe:

“Our hearts are with the LGBTQ and entire Orlando community. Any violence is unacceptable in our society. And while our community has made historic strides in acceptance and equality, this tragedy is a painful reminder of the dangers LGBTQ people continue to face every day.”

The Center is co-sponsoring a vigil tonight at 8 p.m. at Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco. We will mourn, honor, and remember the victims and recommit to peace and our continuing purse of full LGBTQ equality.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is outraged at the attack on the Pulse Club in Orlando, Florida, which specifically targeted the LGBT community. The Museum expressed its condolences to the many families and friends who lost loved ones in this depraved act.

The perpetrator had reportedly expressed allegiance to ISIS reminding us of the continuing dangers extremist ideologies pose. Regardless of whether this was a hate crime or an act of terrorism, the intent was to murder members of the LGBT community. During the Nazi era, the Germans dramatically intensified their persecution of homosexuals who were deemed unfit for the “Aryan community.” Some 50,000 were sent to prison and between 5,000 and 15,000 were incarcerated in concentration camps where many perished.

A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. Its far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by generous donors. For more information, visit www.ushmm.org.

Gun Control

Florida State Senator, Geraldine Thompson, spoke to CNN regarding “getting serious about gun reform,” a statement made by Sen. Thompson since she represents the district where the night club resides. “Every time we talk about mass shootings we talk reform, but nothing is done.”

The shooter was a U.S. citizen born in New York in 1986. He had active security officer and fire arm silences, according to Florida records, reported NBC News.

Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla. whose district also include the area of the shooting said, “It’s no coincidence that the attack took place when it did and where it did. It might be that we’ve seen the commission of an awful hate crime. This comes on the cusp of celebrating Gay Pride.

President Obama’s address to the nation happened about the hate crime took place close to 2 p.m. EST on June 12.

Counseling

The GLBT Community Center of Central Florida is open and offering grief counseling to those affected by the Pulse Orlando massacre. They are encouraging anyone who needs help and support to please go to the center located at 946 N Mills Ave Orlando, Florida 32803; Phone Number: (407) 228-8272; website: www.thecenterorlando.org/.

Anyone needing support today may call the Zebra Coalition hotline at (407) 228-1446 to speak to a counselor.

Blood Donations

OneBlood, the local blood bank in Orlando, has posted an EMERGENCY need for O-, O+, and AB Plasma in the light of last night’s tragedy. If any of you have a chance today to go donate blood or plasma PLEASE DO. You could very well save someone’s life. To find a donation center or Big Red Bus near you visit www.oneblood.org or call 1.888.9Donate.

First Unitarian Church
1901 East Robinson Street
Orlando, FL 32803
now through 1 p.m.

Weingarten Realty
2566 E Colonial Drive
12 pm-6 pm

West Orlando Donor Center
345 W Michigan St Suite 106
now til 2 o’clock

Other donation places are:
Orlando Main Donor Center 8669 Commodity Circle, Orlando, FL 32819

Oviedo Donor Center, 1954 W. State Road 426, Oviedo, FL 32765

Asbury United Methodist Church – Bloodmobile 220, West Horatio Avenue, Maitland, FL 32751

St. Luke’s United Methodist Church – Bloodmobile, 4851 S. Apopka Vineland Road, Orlando, FL 32819

Metro Church – Bloodmobile, 1491 East State Road 434, Winter Springs, FL 32708

Vigils around the country

A vigil tomorrow pending clearance from police. To receive updates on the vigil with details as we receive them, sign up here: www.eqfl.org/pulse_vigil.

In Salem, Mass. a vigil for Orlando will take place at Riley Plaza at 6:30 p.m. For more information click here.

Chicago LGBTs and supporters will gather at 7 p.m. tonight at Halsted and Roscoe Streets in response to the Florida mass shooting.

Donations

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help raise funds for the victims and families of the horrific Orlando Pulse Nighclub Shooting: www.gofundme.com/PulseVictimsFund.

Twitter responses to the Shooting from the LGBT community organizations and victim’s family members:

 

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