Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Mass Shooting at Gay Club in Orlando: “Worst in U.S. History”

Worst mass shooting in U.S. History in Orlando at Pulse Gay Club. AP photo by M. Ebenhack.

Worst mass shooting in U.S. History in Orlando at Pulse Gay Club. AP photo by M. Ebenhack.

Orlando, Florida – A lone, heavily armed gunman has attacked a gay nightclub at 2 a.m. June  12 in what NBC News describes as “the worst mass shooting in American history.” Fifty are dead, fifty-three are wounded and in area hospitals. The gunman, who took at least one hostage, was killed in a shootout with SWAT Team members. One police officer was wounded in the gun battle.

Pulse Nightclub billed as “the hottest gay nightclub in Orlando” erupted in gunfire as approximately 320 patrons were enjoying Latin night.  The carnage was horrific. Officials are still clearing the building of bodies and meticulously sweeping for evidence. Survivors describe barely escaping with their lives. Family members and loved ones are seeking their relatives, lovers and friends. Authorities are trying to reach the families of the victims, and HIPPA restrictions have been waived so that loved ones can be given information on the wounded and deceased.

The gunman is identified as Omar Mateen, born 1986, but living in Port Saint Lucie, Florida. He was married, with a three year old child. His father, contacted by NBC News, said that there was no religious motivation behind the attack. His son was outraged, he said, after seeing two gay men kissing in Miami recently in view of his wife and child. The anti-gay motive has yet to be confirmed by officials. He was armed with an automatic rifle and a hand gun. Police report that he was wearing body armor.

The siege lasted for three hours before Mateen was killed by law enforcement. Apparently he was named on a watch list of persons of interest by the FBI, but was not considered seriously, and his name was dismissed over three years ago. Mateen is reported to have an Associates degree in criminology. He may have had a security job.  Officials have much more yet to reveal about him, but are not yet ready to reveal what they know and what they suspect.

A state of emergency has been declared for Orlando and Orange County. Blood donations are being called for by health authorities. Counseling is being provided for the gay community at the GLBT Community Center on Mills Avenue.

The Orlando LGBT community is in shock in the wake of this unfolding terror attack. Whatever the motivation, this attack is one of a long list of other hate driven acts of violence against gays, lesbians, bisexual people, and transgender persons. In terms of mass attacks driven by homophobia and heterosexism, this is the most serious in the nation’s history. It calls to mind the horror of the UpStairs Lounge arson in New Orleans in 1973. Gay and lesbian nightclubs across the nation will be on alert, as will Pride Month celebrations and observances.

Unfinished Lives expresses our sincere heartbreak at this awful, senseless loss of life. Coverage and analysis will continue.

June 12, 2016 - Posted by | FBI, Florida, Gay Bars, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Mass shooting | , , , , , , ,

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