Vigils across the state held for victims of Pulse shooting

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At least 50 people have been killed, and 53 injured at an Orlando nightclub shooting, the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

  • TOP NEWS:
    • At least 50 killed in Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando
    • Omar Mateen of Fort Pierce identified as gunman
    • AR-15 assault rifle used in slayings
    • Gunman legally purchased 2 guns in Florida in the past few days
    • Mateen was investigated by FBI in 2011, 2012
    • Hotline for concerned family members: 407-246-4357
    • OneBlood asking for blood donations
    • FBI seeking tips, information: 1-800-CALL-FBI
    • Meeting place for families: Hampton Inn & Suites, Orlando/Downtown, 43 Columbia St., 407-270-6460
    • Orange Avenue will be closed from Kaley Avenue to Grant Street through Monday
    • Obama orders public flags at half-staff till sundown Thursday
    • Gov. Rick Scott asking for a moment of silence at 6 p.m. tonight
    • City of Orlando has set up a website where they are identifying victims

A gunman, Omar Mateen of Fort Pierce, opened fire inside Pulse nightclub, a gay club, early Sunday morning.

Many of the injured were taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center in critical condition.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott called it an act of terrorism.

The FBI has taken the lead on the investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI Hotline at 1-800-CALL-FBI.


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Update: 9:15 p.m.:

While the loss of life is staggering, residents can at least find solace knowing that club goers and first responders were able to save some lives with some simple acts of bravery.

“I see behind me there’s a bunch of people falling and screaming and then you’re hearing that bang bang,” said witness Christopher Hansen, who was inside Pulse when the shooting started.

More than half of the people at the club escaped with their lives, while dozens more were injured, and carried out to safety.

“They were just screaming ‘get out get out,’" said Hansen, "but you know when you see somebody laying there, bleeding, you can’t just leave them.”

Hansen helped carry victims to paramedics and tended to others lying on the ground with injuries.

“I put him over my shoulder and got him across the street,” said Hansen.

The identities of the victims are being released as the next of kin are notified. Officials tell us that many of the bodies remain in the Pulse nightclub as they continue to process the crime scene.

Update: 7:54 p.m.:

Lew Oliver, the chairman of the Orange County Republican Executive Committee, released the following statement:

The Orange County Republican Party offers its deepest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families and friends of today’s unfathomable tragedy in Orlando. There is nothing appropriate to say of a political nature at such a moment, and I do not plan to do so in the future.  I have asked our members to offer their prayers and kind wishes to all of those who have suffered a loss today.  We are all Americans, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children or friends of someone dear to us.  Every life is precious and every thoughtful wish and prayer helps.  

Lew Oliver, Chairman

Orange County Republican Executive Committee


Update: 7:40 p.m.:

The Orlando Police Department shared on their Twitter account an email sent by Chief John Mina to OPD personnel:


Update: 7:31 p.m.:

Pulse co-founder Barbara Poma issued the following statement on the Pulse shooting:


Update: 6:53 p.m.:

Vice President Joe Biden has issued the following statement on the Pulse nightclub shooting:

Last night, at least fifty innocent people gathering to celebrate love and life were brutally killed in an act of pure hate and unspeakable terror. Scores of others were injured in the attack. They were our brothers and our sisters; our friends, neighbors, and loved ones. In the coming days, we will learn more about these fifty souls and the lives they lived and the world they made better.

As the President made clear, we are closely monitoring and fully involved in the investigation of the country’s worst mass shooting. We are grateful for the heroic actions of the Orlando Police, first responders—and many bystanders—who charged into danger and saved lives; who rushed the wounded to hospitals in ambulances, in police cars, in the backs of pickup trucks, and carried others to safety. As in the midst of so much evil, their acts are a reminder of the best in our common humanity.

Jill and I offer our prayers and deepest condolences for all those affected by today’s horrific events. But our prayers are not enough to end these kinds of senseless mass shootings. The violence is not normal, and the targeting of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans is evil and abhorrent.

Our law enforcement and intelligence professionals are still gathering the facts, and we do not yet know what, if any, connection or inspiration there may be with terrorist organizations. But we do know this—we will never rest in our relentless campaign to bring to justice all who would do America harm. And even as we grieve and pursue justice, no act of terror—no despicable act of hate—can tear us asunder. Times of unspeakable tragedy and evil like this are the moments to remind the killers, and the world, of what is best in us, and what unites us.

May God give strength to the families, friends, and all those who grieve today, with broken hearts, but unbound resolve. And may God continue to watch over our great nation.


Update: 5:40 p.m.:

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has directed the lights of One World Trade Center’s spire to be displayed in rainbow colors tonight in solidarity with the LGBT community.

"On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest thoughts and prayers to those affected by this horrendous tragedy," he said in a statement.


Update: 5 p.m.:

Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, the gunman who opened fire inside Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, graduated from Indian River State College in 2006 with an associate of science degree in criminal justice, a spokesman for the school told News 13.

Meanwhile, the lockdown at Orlando Regional Medical Center has been lifted, and the level 1 trauma center is accepting patients normally. The hospital previously was only accepting patients into its emergency department because of a lockdown.


Update: 3:20 p.m.:

Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, the gunman who opened fire inside Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, killing at least 50 and wounding dozens, was known by the FBI since 2011, according to an agent who spoke during a news conference Sunday afternoon.

Mateen, 29, made inflammatory remarks to coworkers, insinuating he had terrorist ties, and the FBI interviewed him twice. The next year, Mateen came to the FBI’s attention again, when he made comments insinuating he had an allegiance to American suicide bomber Moner Mohammad Abusalha. They determined that their contact was minimal and didn’t constitute a substantial relationship or threat at the time.

Mateen made a 911 call from Florida referencing the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer called the shooting "the most difficult day in the history of Orlando."

Eleven Orlando Police officers exchanged gunfire with Mateen, Police Chief John Mina said. All have been relieved of duty pending a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation, which is standard practice in officer-involved shootings. Additionally, three Orange County deputies were involved and also have been relieved pending a standard investigation.

Gov. Rick Scott has asked for a moment of silence at 6 p.m. "to mourn the loss of life and pray for those still fighting for their life, and their loved ones."

Mateen called the News 13 newsroom hours before the shooting at Pulse nightclub.

The City of Orlando has set up a website where they are identifying victims.

List of victims identified so far:

  • Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
  • Stanley Almodovar III, 23
  • Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20
  • Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22
  • Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36
  • Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
  • Luis S. Vielma, 22

Update: 2:45 p.m.:

President Barack Obama has ordered flags at half-staff until sunset Thursday, June 16, for all public buildings and grounds.

The Associated Press is reporting that the gunman in the Pulse nightclub shooting, Omar Mateen, held a firearms license since at least 2011 that was set to expire in September 2017.

Orlando Regional Medical Center officials say victims’ wounds were from an assault rifle and were to the trunk, extremeties and abdomen. Forty-four adults were admitted, and nine died after they were admitted. Hospital officials said that reports that a gunman breaching hospital emergency department security were not accurate, and that didn’t occur.

ORMC is still on lockdown for visitors, but the emergency department is accepting patients.


Update: 2 p.m.:

President Barack Obama addressed the nation about the deadly shooting in Orlando.

Also…

The Associated Press reports that the gunman, identified as Omar Mateen, was known to the FBI and had been looked at by agents in the past few years, according to a law enforcement official.

Facebook says the Orlando shooting marks the first time its Safety Check feature was used in the United States. Safety Check allows residents in an area to notify their Facebook friends and contacts that they are safe or not safe.

Tonight’s Tony Awards have been dedicated to the City of Orlando.


Update: 1:15 p.m.:

Gov. Scott was briefed on the shooting early Sunday morning, before making his way to Orlando.

“This is clearly an act of terrorism,” said Gov. Rick Scott. “It’s sickening. It should make every American angry.”

During a press conference, Gov. Scott praised the hard work of local and other law enforcement agencies. He said he declared a state of emergency for Florida to ensure everyone would have the resources needed.

Gov. Scott’s Office released the following statement:

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, families and all those affected by this horrific tragedy. We are a strong and resilient state and we will devote every resource available to assist with the shooting in Orlando. Our state emergency operations center is also monitoring this tragic incident. I have been in constant communication with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and state and local law enforcement this morning. I would like to also thank all the first responders who quickly came to assist and help those in need."


Update Noon:

The White House says President Barack Obama will deliver a message about the shooting in Orlando at 1:30 p.m. EDT.

Orlando Police have moved their next news conference to 2 p.m. EDT.

Update: 11 a.m.:

A state of emergency has been declared for the City of Orlando and the State of Florida.

Gov. Rick Scott is en route to Orlando and will hold a news conference shortly.


Update: 10:38 a.m.:

The White House issued this statement from Vice President Joe Biden’s spokesperson:

The Vice President was briefed this morning by his national security advisor on the heinous attack that took place overnight at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Vice President Biden offered his prayers for all those killed and injured in the shooting and sends his condolences to all the families and loved ones of the victims.  He is closely monitoring the situation and will continue to receive regular updates as we know more.


Update: 10:30 a.m.:

The shooting at Pulse nightclub became the worst mass shooting in U.S. history after law enforcement officers were able to enter the club and secure the scene and found at least 50 bodies inside.

Officers who have been on the force for decades "were shaken by what they saw," Orlando Police Chief John Mina said during a news conference. "This is absolutely one of the worst tragedies we’ve ever seen."

"Fifty people are dead, and 53 injured, but thousands upon thousands feel some degree of fear. It could have happened to any one at any time. That’s the nature of terrorism," Rep. Alan Grayson said.

Mina said the shooting was was done by a single assault rifle. Initial gunfire occurred just after 2 a.m., and the gunman exchanged gunfire with SWAT officers at about 5 a.m. SWAT officers rescued at least 30 people from the club.

One officer was struck in the head, but his kevlar helmet saved his life. The officer is being treated for facial injuries.

"When evil comes to our community like this, we will respond in force," Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said.

The FBI is asking anyone who attended the club but left before the shooting to come forward and offer any information.

An Orlando Regional Medical Center trauma surgeon said six trauma surgeons and a pediatric surgeon were called in per mass casualty protocols. There are a number of victims in surgery, and many of the shooting victims brought to ORMC were critically ill.

The White House has been contacted about the mass shooting.

"This was an hour of horror brought upon our city," said Imam Muhammad Musri of the Islamic Society of Central Florida. "I call on my fellow faith leaders… please pray for victims and their families in this hour. It was supposed to be a beautiful morning, but it’s already been heartbreaking.

"No one could have predicted this. No one could have prepared for this. It’s like lightning."


Update: 10:12 a.m.:

The Pulse nightclub shooter has been identified as Omar Mateen of Port St. Lucie, an American citizen. He’s in his late 20s.


Update (9:55 a.m.):

The Center of Orlando will have grief counselors available for those affected by the shooting.

Update (9:21 a.m.):

The White House released the following statement in regards to the Pulse nightclub shooting:

"The President was briefed this morning by Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, on the tragic shooting in Orlando, Florida. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of the victimes. The President asked to received regular updates as the FBI, and other federal officials, work with the Orlando Police to gather more information, and directed that the federal government provide any assistance necessary to pursue the investigation and support the community."


Update (8:42 a.m.):

Lockdown lifted for Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies.


Update (7:03 a.m.):

During a new conference, Orlando Police Chief John Mina said as many as 20 people are dead inside the Pulse nightclub. At least 42 people were transported to area hospitals and as many as 30 people were rescued from the nightclub.

The gunman is not from the area, police said, and investigators are working to identify him. A spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation said the agency could not confirm whether the shooter was a U.S. citizen.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said the shooting is being investigated as a domestic terrorist incident.

According to Mina, an Orlando officer was working at the Pulse nightclub at about 2 a.m. when the shooting happened. That officer engaged in a gun battle with the suspect at the club. The gunman closed the doors to the club, and the shooting became a hostage situation from there.

At about 5 a.m., law enforcement made the decision to rescue the hostages inside the club. A distraction explosion was set off to aid in the rescue. As many as 30 people were rescued, according to police.

Police said an assault rifle and a handgun was found with the gunman. He also had some sort of device on him, and investigators are trying to determine what it is.

At least nine OPD officers were involved in the shooting. One officer was injured but suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

The FBI is taking the lead on the investigation. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will assist with the officer-involved shooting portion of the investigation.

"Many lives were lost," said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer during the news conference. "Many lives were impacted by the crime they witnessed."


Earlier (5:30 a.m.):

A man responsible for a mass shooting inside an Orlando nightclub early Sunday is dead and dozens of people are injured, according to Orlando police.

According to investigators, the gunman opened fire inside the Pulse nightclub located at South Orange Avenue and Kaley Avenue at about 2 a.m.

According to witnesses, a man pulled out a gun near the entrance and opened fire on people inside. Some witnesses say the gunman closed the front doors and kept shooting.

He fled the scene but continued to fire shots as he headed down the street toward Orlando Regional Medical Center. 

ORMC was then put on lockdown. Reportedly other hospitals in the area, Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, are also on lockdown.

Hours later, Orlando police confirmed that the gunman was dead. Police also said the shooting is a mass casualty situation.

Pulse Orlando posted on its official Facebook page earlier this morning: “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running.”

Multiple law enforcement agencies reportedly responded to the scene, including the Orlando Fire Department’s bomb squad.


Several law enforcement agencies patrolling the area after a mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, June 12, 2016.

Witnesses reported hearing a loud explosion, but police say it was a controlled explosion law enforcement.

Orlando police are urging everyone to stay out of the area.

According to people who were inside the club at the time of the shooting, people were running and screaming when shots were fired.  Concerned family members and friends began arriving to ORMC to find out if their loved ones were OK.

"My son hasn’t been heard from," said one mother. "So I don’t know if he was left in the club, if he got shot or if he’s being worked on here. I don’t know."

Police are urging anyone with information that could help in the investigation is asked to contact the Orlando Police Department.

Pulse is a predominately gay nightclub that is very popular in the area.

This shooting comes after the fatal shooting Friday night of 22-year-old singer Christina Grimmie after a performance in Orlando.

Bay News 9 – local-news

June 12, 2016 |

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