On June 12, 2016, a mass shooting occurred inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, United States. Fifty people died, including the gunman, who was killed by Orlando police after a three-hour standoff. An additional 53 people were injured. It was the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in the United States, and the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in that country. The attack was widely denounced both as an act of terrorism and a hate crime.
The assailant was identified as 29-year-old Omar Mateen, an American born to parents of Afghan background. Witnesses said he was a regular patron of the nightclub and had used gay dating websites in the past, although the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is skeptical of such reports. In a 9-1-1 call shortly after the attack began, he swore allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) said it found no links between ISIL and Mateen. He has been reported to have expressed hostility towards LGBTs and other minorities.
First shots and hostage situation
On June 11, 2016, Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was hosting Latin Night, a weekly Saturday-night event drawing a primarily Hispanic crowd. Two Puerto Rican transgender women were headlining performers. About 320 people were inside the club, which was serving last call drinks at around 2:00 a.m. EDT on June 12. After arriving at the club by van, Omar Mateen approached the building on foot, armed with a SIG Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle and a 9mm Glock 17 handgun. A uniformed Orlando Police Department (OPD) officer working extra duty engaged Mateen, returning fire at 2:02 a.m. Mateen was able to enter the building, however, and began shooting patrons. The officer was soon joined by two additional officers who also began engaging Mateen. Mateen then retreated farther into the nightclub and began to take patrons hostage. About 100 officers from the OPD and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office were first dispatched to the scene.
During the attack, people trapped inside the club called and texted friends and relatives. Initially, some of them thought the gunshots were firecrackers or part of the music. Many described a scene of panic and confusion caused by the loud music and darkness. One person hiding in a bathroom covered herself with the bodies of victims for protection. Some entertainers hid in a dressing room when the shooting started and escaped the building by crawling out when police removed the air conditioning unit. One of the bartenders said she hid under the glass bar. Many patrons attempted to save the lives of those injured.
According to one of the hostages, Mateen entered a bathroom where people were hiding and opened fire, wounding several. The hostage, who had taken cover inside a stall with others, was injured by bullets and flying pieces of a wall that was hit with bullets. Mateen’s rifle then jammed briefly, at which point he stopped firing and took survivors hostage. Two survivors reported Mateen as saying “I don’t have a problem with black people” and that he “wouldn’t stop his assault until America stopped bombing his country”. Other survivors heard Mateen claim that he had explosives as well as snipers stationed around the club. Patrons trapped inside called or texted 9-1-1 to warn of the possible presence of explosives.
At 2:09 a.m., several minutes after the gunfire started, the club posted on its Facebook page, “Everyone get out of Pulse and keep running”. At 2:22 a.m., Mateen made a 9-1-1 call in which he expressed sympathy for Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bombers, and made a reference to Moner Mohammad Abu Salha, an acquaintance of his who died in a suicide bombing in Syria in 2014. Mateen said he was inspired by Abu Salha’s death for the Al-Nusra Front, and despite their being at war with ISIL, claimed allegiance to the latter organization. According to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials, Mateen made two other 9-1-1 calls during the shooting.
At 2:45 a.m., Mateen called News 13 of Orlando and said, “I am the shooter.” He then claimed his attack for ISIL and began speaking rapidly in Arabic. The TV station’s managing editor matched the incoming phone number to Mateen.
Dozens of additional first responders—including OPD officers, Orange County sheriff’s deputies, and FBI agents, as well as paramedics and firefighters from three fire departments—reported to the scene. A crisis negotiator was present as Mateen was holed up inside and holding hostages. Officers initially believed he was armed with a “device” that posed a threat, but it was later revealed to be a battery that fell out of an exit sign or smoke detector. Due to the nature of the situation, officers said they had to wait for three hours in order to have a full assessment of the incident, wait for armored vehicles, and ensure they had enough personnel.
At 3:58 a.m., the OPD announced to the public that there was a shooting at the club, and that there were multiple injuries. According to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Mateen told police during negotiations that he planned to strap bombs to four hostages and strategically place them in different corners of the building.
Around 4:00 a.m., Mateen sent a text message to his wife, Noor Salman, asking her if she had seen the news. At one point, she texted him back. She also made several attempts to call him, but he did not answer.
A survivor of the attack, Patience Carter, said Mateen talked about wanting the United States to “stop bombing his country”.
Just before 5:00 a.m., Mateen entered the bathroom stall where the hostages were hiding and fired three shots, killing one person. At around 5:00 a.m., SWAT officers entered the building by driving an armored vehicle through a wall, then used two flashbangs to distract Mateen. Mateen was shot and killed in the gunfight, which involved eleven officers.
Five minutes later, police said a bomb squad had set off a controlled explosion. At 5:53 a.m., they confirmed Mateen’s death. Thirty hostages were freed during the police operation during which one officer received a shot to his head, causing him to be hospitalized for minor eye injuries. Many of the survivors were searched by police for guns and explosives.
Fifty people were killed in the shooting, and another 53 were injured, some critically. Many underwent surgery. Thirty-nine, including the gunman, were pronounced dead at the scene, and eleven at local hospitals. Most of the injured—44 people—were taken to the Orlando Regional Medical Center, the primary regional trauma center three blocks away; others went to Florida Hospital.
All but three of the casualties were civilians; a police officer received a minor eye injury when a bullet hit his helmet, while the gunman was killed in the shootout, and an ununiformed United States Army Reserve captain was killed. Under guidelines instituted after the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, the off-duty captain will be eligible for a Purple Heart if Mateen is found to have been part of or inspired by a foreign terrorist organization. Over 90% were of Hispanic background, and half of the Hispanics were of Puerto Rican descent—Pulse was hosting a Latin Night. Three Mexican citizens were killed, and three Colombians and two Canadians were injured. Two Universal Orlando employees and one Walt Disney World cast member were killed.
The attack is the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in United States history, 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), and the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since September 11, 2001.
List of deaths
The names and ages of the victims killed were confirmed by the City of Orlando after next of kin had been notified:
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, 29
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
Juan R. Guerrero, 22
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 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. Nives Rodriguez, 27
Luis O. Ocasio-Capo, 20
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25
Eric I. 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 E. Serrano Rosado, 35
Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, 25
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
Shane E. Tomlinson, 33
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
Luis S. Vielma, 22
Luis D. Wilson-Leon, 37
Jerald A. Wright, 31
The gunman was identified as 29-year-old Omar Mateen, an American born in New Hyde Park, New York. His parents were Afghan, and he was raised as a Muslim. At the time of the shooting, he lived in Fort Pierce, Florida, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from Orlando.
From October 2006 until April 2007, Mateen worked as a prison guard for the Florida Department of Corrections. He was fired for making a joke about bringing a gun to work a few days after the Virginia Tech shooting. Since 2007, he had been a security guard for G4S Secure Solutions, a subsidiary of the London-based multinational security firm G4S plc. The company said two screenings—one conducted upon hiring and the other in 2013—had raised no red flags. Mateen held an active firearms license and a security guard license, had passed a psychological test, and had no criminal record. A former coworker said he “had talked about killing people”. He was also reported to have voiced “hatred of gays, minorities, and Jews”.
After the shooting, the psychologist said to have evaluated and cleared Mateen for his firearms licence in 2007 by G4S records denied ever meeting him or living in Florida at the time, and said she had stopped working for the company in 2005. G4S admitted Mateen’s form had a “clerical error”, and insisted he was cleared by another psychologist, from the firm that bought the wrongly-named doctor’s practice. This doctor had not interviewed Mateen, but evaluated the results of a standard screening test he took before being hired.
In 2009, Mateen married his first wife, who left him after four months; the couple’s divorce became final in July 2011. Following the nightclub attack, she said Mateen was “obviously disturbed, deeply”, was often physically abusive, and used steroids.
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 having family connections to al-Qaeda and being a member of Hezbollah, which resulted in his employer G4S removing Mateen from his post and the county sheriff reporting him to the FBI. The 2014 investigation was opened after he was linked to Moner Mohammad Abu Salha, an American radical who traveled to Syria and committed a suicide bombing there. Mateen was interviewed three times in connection with the investigations, which were both closed after producing nothing that warranted further investigation.
A police academy classmate named Susanne Coburn Laforest told the Wall Street Journal that Mateen threatened to shoot his classmates at a cookout “after his hamburger touched pork, in violation of Muslim laws” in 2007.
An unnamed police academy classmate told the media that Mateen had asked him out romantically around 2006, that they had spent time at gay bars together after class, and that he believed Mateen was gay. He also described him as “socially awkward” and disliked by classmates. At least four regular customers at the nightclub had seen Mateen visit the nightclub on at least 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. According to a witness who recognized him outside the club an hour before the shootings (and later turned over his own phone for FBI analysis), Mateen had messaged him using Jack’d, a gay dating app, intermittently over the course of a year before the attack. Another witness said Mateen used the Grindr app and Adam4Adam website to communicate with gay men online, and had posted pictures of himself on both sites. A third witness said Mateen would try to pick up men at the nightclub. The FBI have doubts that Mateen was gay, and suspects the witnesses’ reports could be mistaken. Mateen also had a history of homophobic hate-speech.
Mateen’s father, Seddique Mir Mateen, initially said 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 attack, which he suggested might have been a motivating factor. Two days later he appeared to back away from that assertion after his son’s alleged true or repressed sexual orientation became a point of inquiry as focus continued to grow on the topic, with multiple witnesses emerging to speak on Mateen’s private activities going back at least ten years. Mateen’s father stated he didn’t believe his son was secretly homosexual or bisexual. Mateen’s ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, claimed that his father called him gay while in her presence. Her current fiancé, Marco Dias, speaking on her behalf, 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”.
At the time of the shooting, Mateen was married to his second wife, Noor Zahi Salman, and had a young son.
Mateen legally purchased the two guns used in the attack from a shop in Port St. Lucie two weeks before the shooting.
On the early morning of June 12, the day of the attack, Mateen made a series of posts on Facebook using multiple accounts, finishing with “In the next few days you will see attacks from the Islamic State in the usa.” These posts were revealed by Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson in an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg seeking further information about Mateen’s use of the site.
Many people lined up to donate blood at local blood donation centers and bloodmobile locations after OneBlood, a regional blood donation agency, urged people to donate. The surge in blood donations and the fact that the shooting targeted a gay nightclub highlighted the controversial federal policy that forbids men who have been sexually active with other men in the past year from donating blood.
The LGBT Community Center of Central Florida provided grief counseling for survivors. A victims’ assistance center was opened at Camping World Stadium (formerly known as the Citrus Bowl).
Facebook activated its “Safety Check” feature in the Orlando area following the attack, allowing users to mark themselves as “safe” to notify family and friends—the first use of the feature in the United States.
Following the shooting, businesses in the U.S., such as shopping malls, movie theaters, and concert halls, reexamined their security procedures, and gay pride festival organizers made plans to increase the police presence at Pride Month and other events.
Two dozen news agencies have jointly demanded the release of recordings of 9-1-1 calls made on the night of the shootings. Orlando Police have refused to release the tapes citing an “ongoing investigation”.
This section is outdated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (June 2016)
Officials have characterized the attack as an act of terrorism and a hate crime. FBI special agent Ron Hopper called the attack both terrorism and a hate crime and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings classified the incident as domestic terrorism. City of Orlando Chief of Police John W. Mina said Mateen seemed organized and well-prepared.
Officials said a SIG Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle and a Glock 9mm semiautomatic pistol were recovered from Mateen’s body, along with additional rounds. Mateen and law enforcement fired a total of 202 rounds. A .38 Smith & Wesson revolver was recovered from Mateen’s car; this gun was not used in the shooting. Autopsies of all 49 shooting victims were completed by the Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office by June 14. Security-camera video footage was recovered from the nightclub.
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 U.S. Intelligence Community was “highly confident that this killer was radicalized at least in part through the Internet”, and that the investigation had found “strong indications of radicalization by this killer and of potential inspiration by foreign terrorist organizations”. Comey also said the FBI will review its work and methods. 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'”.
U.S. officials said ISIL may have inspired Mateen without training, instructing, or having a direct connection with him. Investigators have said no evidence linking Mateen to the group has emerged, and have cautioned that the attack may have been ISIL-inspired without being ISIL-directed, as was the case in the December 2, 2015 attack in San Bernardino, California. Yoram Schweitzer of the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies posited that Mateen associated the attack with ISIL to add notoriety, and said it was very unlikely that ISIL had known of him before the attack.
Following the shooting, officers from multiple federal, state, and local law-enforcement agencies (including the FBI, ATF, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, 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.
The shooting has been described as an example of soft target terrorism, which targets civilian locations that have minimal security.[not in citation given]
Senate Intelligence Committee member Angus King said Mateen’s wife, Noor Salman, had “some knowledge” of Mateen’s plans beforehand. Media reports, citing anonymous law enforcement officials, said Salman was with Mateen as he scouted possible Orlando-area targets (including the Walt Disney World Resort, Disney Springs, and the Pulse nightclub) and that she was also with Mateen when he purchased ammunition and a holster in the months leading up to the attack.
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, calling the shooting a “lone wolf” attack.
Florida Governor Rick Scott expressed support for all affected, and said that the state emergency operations center is monitoring the incident. Scott declared a state of emergency for Orange County, Florida, and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer declared a state of emergency for the city.
The Obama administration expressed its condolences to the victims. President Barack Obama directed that “the federal government provide any assistance necessary to pursue the investigation and support the community.” In a speech, he described the attack as an “act of hate” and “act of terror”. He also issued a proclamation ordering U.S. flags around the country to be lowered to half-staff. He and Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Orlando on June 16 to lay flowers at a memorial and visit the victims’ families; Obama gave a speech afterwards.
Leaders of the American Muslim community swiftly condemned the attack. Prayer vigils for the victims were held at mosques across the country. The Florida mosque where Mateen sometimes worshiped issued a statement condemning the attack and offering condolences to the victims. The Council on American–Islamic Relations called the attack “monstrous” and offered its condolences to the victims. CAIR Florida urged Muslims to donate blood and contribute funds in support of the victims’ families.
Many people on social media and elsewhere, including U.S. presidential 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. Vigils were held, or are being planned, in various cities and countries around the world to mourn those who were killed in the shooting.
On June 15, 2016, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy and other Democrats filibustered for 14 hours and 50 minutes, promising to hold the Senate floor for action on gun control legislation. Murphy secured a promise from the Senate floor to hold votes “on a measure to assure that those on the terrorist watch list do not get guns and an amendment … to expand background checks to gun shows and to internet sales”.
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. As of June 16, it raised more than $5 million, a record for GoFundMe, and continues to increase with the average donation around $49. Another fundraising campaign, OneOrlando, was established by Mayor Buddy Dyer. The Walt Disney Company and NBCUniversal, which operate the nearby Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort, each donated $1 million to the fund.
Police tactics experts expressed misgivings about the three-hour delay in breaching the nightclub, citing lessons learned from other mass shootings in which officers had to enter a shooting location, even at great risk to themselves, to quickly neutralize a threat.
Seddique released a Dari-language video statement via Facebook on June 13, speaking about his son’s actions.
A June 13 broadcast from the ISIL radio station al-Bayan said Mateen was “one of the soldiers of the caliphate in America”, without indicating any foreknowledge of the shooting.
Read entire entry here
Source – Wikipedia