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 'An act of terror and an act of hate': America's worst mass shooting

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sororityalpha

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PostSubject: 'An act of terror and an act of hate': America's worst mass shooting   Wed Jan 18, 2017 4:12 am


'An act of terror and an act of hate': The aftermath of America's worst mass shooting

June 13 2016

Latin Night was wrapping up at Pulse around 2 a.m. as about 320 people danced and drank to thumping reggaeton, salsa and merengue.

Minutes later partyers were fleeing into the street. Some clutched gunshot wounds. Others were splattered with the blood of people they didn’t know. Some were carried and dragged to safety. Police frantically loaded one injured man into the bed of a pickup truck.

Those still trapped in the gay nightclub could only hide.

Before the sun rose in the humid Florida air Sunday, 50 people lay dead, and 53 more were injured – the deadliest shooting in American history.

The gunman, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, died in a shootout with SWAT officers three hours after his rampage began. Mateen, the son of Afghan immigrants, called 911 during the siege, pledging his allegiance to Islamic State and mentioning the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

The FBI had twice investigated Mateen on suspicion of having terrorist ties in 2013 and 2014, yet they could not find conclusive evidence. Mateen was able to legally purchase a handgun and a .223 AR-15-style assault rifle days before the massacre.

After the shooting, a statement attributed to Islamic State’s Amaq news agency said the attack “was carried out by an Islamic State fighter.”

National security officials said they had not determined whether he was directed by Islamic State or simply inspired by the group. Nor had they learned how other motivations, such as homophobia, factored into the attack.

“We know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate,” said President Obama at a White House media briefing after meeting with the FBI director. “And as Americans we are united in grief, in outrage and in resolve to defend our people.”

“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,” he said.

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), noted similarities to the November attack on the Bataclan nightclub in Paris and said in a statement that intelligence officers were combing through terrorism databases to see whether there were any known links between the shooter and a terrorist group.

FBI agents were interviewing Mateen’s family and friends Sunday and planned to search his home, authorities said.

Since 2014, Islamic State has urged supporters in the U.S. to plan and carry out deadly attacks without traveling overseas first or communicating directly with the group's leaders. Such so-called lone -wolf attacks are difficult to prevent because there are few communications to uncover or visits to terrorist training camps to track.

In May, Islamic State renewed a call for supporters in Europe and the U.S. to launch attacks on civilians during the holy month of Ramadan, which lasts from early June to the beginning of July.

"Ramadan has come near, and it is the month of raids and jihad, the month of conquest," Abu Muhammad Adnani, an Islamic State spokesman said in an audio message posted online.

Make it "a month of suffering" for non-Muslims, Adnani added, saying the message was specifically directed to "soldiers and supporters" in Europe and America.

Whether Mateen heeded the call or followed his own agenda is unclear.

From his home in Fort Pierce, a sleepy town on the Atlantic coast, Mateen drove 120 miles to Orlando. He was a man brimming with rage. He beat his ex-wife for not doing the laundry, for any perceived slight; she thought he was mentally ill and left him after four months of marriage. At the security firm where he worked, he vented his hatred for gays, blacks, women, Jews. He grew furious on a recent trip to Miami, where he saw two men kissing in a park.

Mateen pulled into the parking lot at Pulse in the early hours of Sunday. The club sits on a humble commercial strip of South Orange Avenue, next to Dunkin’ Donuts, across from a RadioShack.

At the entrance, an armed security guard confronted Mateen at 2:02 a.m. Shots were fired, but whatever happened did not stop Mateen. He stormed into the club just as last call was announced over the microphone.

When the first of dozens of shots rang out, many thought the sound was part of the music.

When one of the clubgoers, Chris Hansen, heard the loud banging noises, he thought the pops seemed to move with the beat.

“I thought it was a Ying Yang Twins song or something,” Hansen recalled.

But the DJ turned down the sound and the sharp pop of gunfire became chillingly clear. In cellphone videos, the sound of single, high-velocity shots echoed through the streets. At other times, bullets crackled like firecrackers, the sound of a fully automatic weapon.

Partyers ran for the doors and fled into the surrounding neighborhood. Some had gunshot wounds.

At 2:09, the club posted a chilling note on its Facebook page: “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running.”

But many couldn’t escape. They barricaded themselves in the bathrooms. One woman covered herself with dead bodies to hide from the shooter. Two others briefly hid under the DJ stand.

Many who couldn’t get out texted their loved ones.

"Mommy I love you," wrote one man, identified by the Associated Press as Eddie Justice, to his mother, Mina Justice.

"In club they shooting"

"He's coming"

"I'm gonna die"

"He's in the bathroom with us"

The fate of Justice, 30, was unknown.

[Update: Authorities have confirmed Justice was among those killed.]

Mateen stopped shooting and made his call to 911 about 20 minutes into the attack. He held the remaining 30 clubgoers as hostages. Authorities said they did communicate with him at this point, but did not specify what was said.

Outside, dozens of emergency vehicles poured into the area. There were not enough ambulances, so police cars transported many of the wounded to the hospital. The Orlando Fire Department called its bomb squad and hazardous material team to the scene after 3 a.m.

At 5:05 a.m., a SWAT team made up of 14 Orlando police officers and Orange County sheriff’s deputies moved in to rescue the 30 hostages. They busted through a wall in an armored vehicle.

A fierce shootout broke out when they located Mateen. One officer took a shot to the head but was saved by his Kevlar helmet.

At 5:53 a.m., Mateen was dead.

No one left more carnage behind in an American shooting. Not the Columbine High School shooters in Colorado, where 13 people died in 1999; not Adam Lanza in Newtown, Conn., where 26 people were killed in 2012; not Seung-Hui Cho at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., where 32 people were killed in 2007.

Muslim leaders in America, bracing for a backlash, condemned both the slaughter and Islamic State.

“You do not speak for us,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “You do not represent us. You are an aberration. You are an outlaw. You don’t speak for our faith. “

He continued, railing against the extremists: “They never belong in this beautiful faith. They claim to. But 1.7 billion people are united in rejecting their extremism, interpretation and their acts and senseless violence.”

Brandon Wolf escaped the Orlando massacre by hiding in the bathroom. But he couldn’t find his friend Drew.

“Please Drew. Please,” he tweeted at 6:39 a.m.

He braced himself for the worst.

“Lord give me strength,” he wrote.

Then Wolf heard news he didn’t expect: His other friend Juan was among those killed in the attack.

Devastated, he grieved and waited for word of Drew.

More than 15 hours after the attack, he tweeted again: “I want to thank you for all your prayers. And thoughts. But we lost them both. 2day is a sad day for earth and an incredible day for heaven.”

At an Orlando hospital, Shawn Roysten, who survived the shooting, waited at the side of friends who fared less well, including one who was shot five times.

Roysten, a New York resident in town to visit family, had gone to the club as part of its Latin night. He arrived about 12:30 a.m. When the gunfire started, Roysten ran out and hid behind a fence, said his mother, Helene.

The bullets just kept coming, penetrating the fence. “There were so many bodies, so much blood,” Roysten told his mother.
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PostSubject: Witnesses: Pulse shooter roamed club throughout ordeal    Wed Jan 18, 2017 4:16 am


June 25 2016

Omar Mateen muscled the muzzle of his assault rifle through a crack in a bathroom door at the Pulse nightclub after shooting through it where Sylvia Serrano and others were hiding.

Serrano, 49, said she and others tried to keep the door shut with their legs to prevent the gunman from coming in. She called her daughter, in what she thought would be her last goodbye, at 2:28 a.m. That's when the gunfire started again.

Victims trapped in the gay nightclub said they remember Mateen darting around, pacing between the club's three bathrooms, and opening fire sporadically for as long as 90 minutes.

"I don't know why they didn't come in to save us sooner," said Serrano, of Deltona, who was rescued about a half hour into the ordeal. "He just kept shooting and shooting."

Their accounts of gunfire contradict Orlando Police Department Chief John Mina, who on Friday said it is "not accurate" to say there was shooting until 2:30 a.m.

He said officers entered the club at 2:08 a.m. and "methodically searched" the building, rescuing victims until they encountered Mateen sometime between 2:10 a.m. and 2:18 a.m. near the back bathrooms. They fired at Mateen, and he retreated into the bathroom with hostages, Mina said.

Mina added that none of the witnesses who have given sworn testimony so far have said the shooting lasted until 2:30 a.m.

"It's not uncommon for people to have different perceptions of time, different vantage points and other points of view," he said.

As more survivors share their accounts, questions about the tactical decisions — such as when the operation shifted from an active shooter incident to a hostage situation, and why police didn't follow Mateen into the bathrooms where dozens were gravely injured — remain unanswered.

After repeated requests by the Orlando Sentinel, the City of Orlando would not release OPD's policies and procedures for responding to active shooters, hostages and barricaded subjects, citing a public records exemption for "any comprehensive inventory of state and local law enforcement resources."

Since the early stages of the investigation, though, Mina has been adamant that no gunfire erupted in the nightclub during the time the situation turned from an active shooter situation into a nearly three-hour hostage situation.

Orange County Sheriff's Office deputy statements released Saturday offer more detail about what was happening outside the club, but none of the reports came from the 21 deputies who worked with OPD's SWAT team inside, where most of the shooting happened. The incident reports describe a chaotic scene with many casualties and "individuals running out of the club covered in blood with gunshot wounds."

Further clarity may not come until the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement complete their investigations into the shooting that killed 49 people, allowing his department to conduct its own internal review, Mina said.

At that time, OPD will release a detailed action report, modeled after the one done by the Aurora Police following the 2012 theater shooting in Colorado.

'Screaming and moaning'

It was another busy evening at Pulse for "Latin Night," a signature event that brought 300 people to dance and drink at the club — until the first shots erupted in the middle of the dance floor right before closing.

Off-duty Orlando Police Officer Adam Gruler, who was hired by Pulse for a security detail, traded gunfire with Mateen at 2:02 a.m. near the entrance but didn't go inside until more officers arrived at 2:08 a.m. and fired on the shooter.

Jason Cornwell, an officer with neighboring Belle Isle Police Department who was among the first responders, told The Washington Post that he searched for Mateen in those critical moments but couldn't find him and never fired his gun. Another Belle Isle Officer, Justin Lemieux, said he arrived on scene about 2:15 a.m. and heard gunshots.

Lemieux said he heard Cornwell over the scanner about 2:35 a.m. saying Mateen was barricaded in a bathroom.

A responding officer aiming at Mateen couldn't get a clean shot as the crowd rushed toward him, said security guard Neal Whittleton, who helped rush dozens of people out of the 4,500-square-foot venue through a back door. Patrons streamed out the back patio and trampled a fence.

Pulse regular Chris Littlestar, 25, ran to the bathroom right after hearing gunshots. He said he was shot in the abdomen five times, after Mateen opened fire on the bathroom stall twice, about 15 minutes apart.

"[Mateen] went back out toward the dance floor and was still shooting — I'm not sure if it was him or the police, I just know I heard a whole bunch of gunshots more ... half of us were in pain, the other half was dead," said Littlestar, who hid under the bodies of those killed in the first round of shooting to shield himself from bullets in the second. "People were screaming and moaning."

I'm not sure if it was him or the police, I just know I heard a whole bunch of gunshots more ... half of us were in pain, the other half was dead — Chris Littlestar, Pulse shooting survivor

Answai Bennett, 25, who was in the same bathroom as Littlestar, said he remembered the gunman entering twice. He wasn't hurt in the first round of shooting but got hit during a second one, which he estimated happened about an hour into the hostage situation. He called his aunt at 3 a.m. to tell her he was hurt, but couldn't recall exactly how much time had passed.

Orlando Torres, 53, was in a bathroom across the hall from Bennett and Littlestar. He said the gunman shot into a stall at the beginning of the siege and then about an hour and a half in, at about 3:30 a.m. He said he wasn't looking at a clock but was recording some of the events on his phone, which he has since turned in to the FBI.

Serrano and her friend Katherine Patricio, 32, were lying on the floor of a bathroom on the other side of the club, near the dance floor and patio door. From the bathroom, Serrano said she heard Mateen firing near the dance floor then the sounds of gunshots got farther away after 2:15 a.m., when she made her first phone call to her daughter.

She said after the phone call, she heard several people outside the bathroom trying to run out of the club. She heard Mateen return and the club-goers begging for their lives before he shot them. Then she called her daughter again nearly 15 minutes later — to say goodbye.

Time matters

The 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado marked a paradigm shift in the way police agencies respond to active shooters — from contain and negotiate to respond and confront as quickly as possible, according to a 2014 study by the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit policy organization in Washington D.C.

The report distinguishes active shooter situations, in which people "aim to inflict mass casualties as quickly as possible, usually in a matter of minutes" from hostage situations, which involve "threats by persons who have barricaded themselves in a building or protected area but are not actively harming anyone."

From 2000 to 2013, there were 63 mass shooting incidents that authorities were able to time — 70 percent of which lasted 5 minutes or less, with 23 ending in 2 minutes or less, according to the FBI. The agency could not determine times in all 160 cases.

Most of those shootings, however, also ended with the suspect either committing suicide or fleeing the scene before police arrived — unlike the Pulse case.

In Orlando, city and state officials have been quick to praise Orlando police officers for their heroic actions. As Mateen barricaded himself, officers went into the club numerous times to rescue wounded victims, piling at least 20 victims into an unmarked police pickup.

After Mateen made threats to strap people with bomb vests within 15 minutes, police decided to breach the bathroom starting at 5:02 a.m., the FBI timeline said. There were calls of shots fired at 5:14 a.m. and Mateen was killed in a firefight with SWAT team members.

SWAT Commander Mark Canty, who directed the operation, said more answers will emerge after he formally talks to officers involved in the initial response.

"I think we are going to look at every aspect of it," he said."We're going to look at the entire event and kind of critique it … where can we improve and what our strengths were."
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PostSubject: Sheriff's documents shed light on 'panic' of first minutes Pulse response   Wed Jan 18, 2017 4:36 am


Sheriff's documents shed light on 'panic' of first minutes of Pulse response

June 25 2016

Orange County Sheriff's Office documents released Saturday describe a scene of chaos and bodies in the parking lot during the first minutes of response to the Pulse mass shooting June 12.

The first sheriff's deputy arrived at the nightclub about 2:02 a.m. to find "individuals running out of the club covered in blood with gunshot wounds and many more in the parking lot also with gunshot wounds," according to a report.

A deputy said those first at the scene had "extremely limited" information and were told an Orlando police officer "was not responding to their radio after calling, 'Shots fired!'"

By 2:04, deputies and victims were carrying victims from outside the nightclub to a triage location behind Einstein Bros. Bagels across the street.

"The scene was chaotic as many of the victims had gunshot wounds and some who had been carried over appeared to be dead," a deputy wrote in a report.

In total, 144 deputies worked the scene that morning — 21 of those deputies went inside the club, but their incident reports were not released Saturday.

Officials made special arrangements to respond to the event because a superior said that "this incident had been declared a National Special Security Event and should not be discussed outside the law enforcement community," one deputy wrote.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security makes that designation for events deemed to be potential targets for terrorism, mass protests or other criminal activity.

From 2:08 to 2:11, deputies saw multiple victims escape the nightclub and about three or four victims dead in the northwest corner of the parking lot.

"Upon arrival, I observed numerous subjects running from the club in panic," a deputy wrote. "I observed several subjects lying on the ground near the club."

One deputy reported speaking with two women with gunshot wounds just outside the nightclub. He tried to get them to tell him what happened inside, but neither could provide any information.

Meanwhile, deputies said they still heard gunshots, where shooter Omar Mateen had begun a rampage that left 49 people dead and more than 50 wounded.

"During this time I heard numerous sounds of gunfire … from within the nightclub," a deputy wrote in a report.

While some deputies carried victims from the area, others searched for explosive devices in the parking lot.

As victims continued "running from the club in a panic" shortly after 2:11 a.m., a deputy reported joining Orlando police officers taking "a defensive position" near the northwest corner of Pulse.

"I … maintained visual contact with an open doorway on the west side of the club," a deputy wrote.

The deputy would later move when SWAT members arrived and took over. Officials have not said what time SWAT members arrived.

By 2:30, deputies were still "evacuating victims out of the night club's entrance," according to one account.

The walking wounded were still being treated in the Einstein Bros. parking lot by 2:38 a.m., according to a deputy's report. Some deputies worked on controlling the crowd there "as lots of the victims and witnesses were hysterical."

Deputies and officers worked together sorting the wounded "by categories of levels of injuries to gain control of the scene," a deputy reported. The fatally wounded and critical patients were put directly behind the bagel shop while the less wounded were sent to the east parking lot.

It is unclear how long triage remained at Einstein Bros. before moving further from the scene.

A deputy then took uninjured friends of victims to a nearby 7-Eleven. He later sorted victims being taken out of the club by levels of injury, found emergency vehicles for those who needed to be taken to the hospital and sent witnesses to "safe areas."

Sometime after 2:57 a.m., a deputy reported "providing cover" as a police dog and officer "swept the parking lot and located [Mateen's] vehicle," according to a report. Officers and deputies continued extracting victims from the club in the time after.

The Orlando Police Department has not released any incident reports from the Pulse shooting. An investigation by the FBI and FDLE into the actions of law enforcement at the scene is continuing.
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'An act of terror and an act of hate': America's worst mass shooting
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