Pulse nightclub logoA man fatally shot 49 people in an Orlando, Florida nightclub on Sunday, June 12th.

According to police, the shooter was 29-year-old Omar Mir Seddique Mateen of Fort Pierce, Florida. Mateen entered the PULSE nightclub at about 2:00 a.m. According to the Orlando Police Department (OPD) in a news release, an Orlando Police Officer who was working at the Pulse Nightclub that night responded to the shots minutes later. The officer and Mateen exchanged gunfire before Mateen continued firing shots in other areas of the club. Police said the incident was a hostage situation at that point.

According to OPD Chief John Mina, authorities decided to enter the club at 5:00 a.m. in order to bring the hostages to safety. Officers safely rescued 30 hostages. SWAT officers and Mateen engaged in gunfire, and Mateen was killed. According to Trevor Velinor, who is the Assistant Special Agent In Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Tampa Field Office, Mateen had bought the firearms legally within a week of the shooting. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is conducting the Officer Involved Shooting investigation. The 11 OPD officers that were involved in the shooting were relieved of duty, which is standard for officers that have been involved in a shooting.

Along with the 49 people that were killed, 53 other people were injured. On Sunday afternoon, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said the following, “This is probably the most difficult day in the history of Orlando.”

The City of Orlando website released the names of the 49 victims on Sunday. The following people perished in the shooting: Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old; Amanda Alvear, 25 years old; Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old; Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old; Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old; Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old; Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old; Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old; Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old; Cory James Connell, 21 years old; Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old; Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old; Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old; Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old; Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old; Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old; Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old; Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old; Frank Hernandez, 27 years old; Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old; Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old; Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old; Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old; Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old; Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old; Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old; Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old; Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old; Kimberly Morris, 37 years old; Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old; Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old; Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old; Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old; Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old; Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old; Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old; Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old; Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old; Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old; Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old; Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old; Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old; Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old; Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old; Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old; Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old; Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old; Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old; and Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old.

President Obama issued a statement after he was briefed about the shooting. His statement may be read in part below:

“THE PRESIDENT:  I just had the opportunity to get the latest briefing from FBI Director Comey, as well as Deputy Attorney General Yates and the rest of my national security team about the tragedy that took place in Orlando.  They’re going to be doing a more extensive briefing around noon — just a little bit after noon over at FBI headquarters.  So I will allow them to go into all the details, but I thought it was important for you to hear directly from me.

First of all, our hearts go out to the families of those who have been killed.  Our prayers go to those who have been wounded.  This is a devastating attack on all Americans.  It is one that is particularly painful for the people of Orlando, but I think we all recognize that this could have happened anywhere in this country.  And we feel enormous solidarity and grief on behalf of the families that have been affected.

The fact that it took place at a club frequented by the LGBT community I think is also relevant.  We’re still looking at all the motivations of the killer.  But it’s a reminder that regardless of race, religion, faith or sexual orientation, we’re all Americans, and we need to be looking after each other and protecting each other at all times in the face of this kind of terrible act.

With respect to the killer, there’s been a lot of reporting that’s been done.  It’s important to emphasize that we’re still at the preliminary stages of the investigation, and there’s a lot more that we have to learn.  The one thing that we can say is that this is being treated as a terrorist investigation.  It appears that the shooter was inspired by various extremist information that was disseminated over the Internet.  All those materials are currently being searched, exploited so we will have a better sense of the pathway that the killer took in making the decision to launch this attack.

As Director Comey I think will indicate, at this stage we see no clear evidence that he was directed externally.  It does appear that, at the last minute, he announced allegiance to ISIL, but there is no evidence so far that he was in fact directed by ISIL.  And there also at this stage is no direct evidence that he was part of a larger plot.  In that sense, it appears to be similar to what we saw in San Bernardino, but we don’t yet know.  And this is part of what is going to be important in terms of the investigation.

As far as we can tell right now, this is certainly an example of the kind of homegrown extremism that all of us have been so concerned about for a very long time.  It also appears that he was able to obtain these weapons legally because he did not have a criminal record that, in some ways, would prohibit him from purchasing these weapons.  It appears that one of those weapons he was able to just carry out of the store — an assault rifle, a handgun — a Glock — which had a lot of clips in it.  He was apparently required to wait for three days under Florida law.  But it does indicate the degree to which it was not difficult for him to obtain these kinds of weapons.

Director Comey will discuss the fact that there had been some investigation of him in the past that was triggered, but as Director Comey I think will indicate, the FBI followed the procedures that they were supposed to and did a proper job.

At the end of the day, this is something that we are going to have to grapple with — making sure that even as we go after ISIL and other extremist organizations overseas, even as we hit their leadership, even as we go after their infrastructure, even as we take key personnel off the field, even as we disrupt external plots — that one of the biggest challenges we are going to have is this kind of propaganda and perversions of Islam that you see generated on the Internet, and the capacity for that to seep into the minds of troubled individuals or weak individuals, and seeing them motivated then to take actions against people here in the United States and elsewhere in the world that are tragic.  And so countering this extremist ideology is increasingly going to be just as important as making sure that we are disrupting more extensive plots engineered from the outside.

We are also going to have to have to make sure that we think about the risks we are willing to take by being so lax in how we make very powerful firearms available to people in this country.  And this is something that obviously I’ve talked about for a very long time.

My concern is that we start getting into a debate, as has happened in the past, which is an either/or debate.  And the suggestion is either we think about something as terrorism and we ignore the problems with easy access to firearms, or it’s all about firearms and we ignore the role — the very real role that that organizations like ISIL have in generating extremist views inside this country.  And it’s not an either/or.  It’s a both/and.

We have to go after these terrorist organizations and hit them hard.  We have to counter extremism.  But we also have to make sure that it is not easy for somebody who decides they want to harm people in this country to be able to obtain weapons to get at them.

And my hope is, is that over the next days and weeks that we are being sober about how we approach this problem, that we let the facts get determined by our investigators, but we also do some reflecting in terms of how we can best tackle what is going to be a very challenging problem not just here in this country, but around the world.

Again, my final point is just to extend our deepest sympathies to the families of those who were affected and to send our prayers to those who are surviving and are in hospitals right now, and their family members hoping that they get better very soon.”

You can read Obama’s full statement, including the Q&A session, here.

 

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