Pulse nightclub victims honored at AAA event

At the rear of the American Airlines Arena there was a revolving sign Monday that shows photos of all 49 victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre. In addition to the photos, the Miami Police department and the LGBTQ group Pridelines Youth Services …

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Victims’ loved ones gather in Orlando on anniversary of Pulse nightclub massacre

Friends and families of those who were injured and killed last year in the Pulse nightclub massacre gathered in Orlando Monday on the tragedy’s one-year anniversary.

“The pain is terrible,” Alejandro Barrios Martinez’s mother told Local 10 News while visiting from Cuba.

Barrios Martinez was one of the 49 people who were killed at Pulse on June 12, 2016.

People who used to visit the club and others also came out to honor the victims.

“It felt incredibly warm to see the entire world coming just because of something that happened in my backyard,” Cris Pacheco, who used to frequent the nightclub, said.

Gatherers who lined up Monday to pay tribute were surrounded by volunteers dressed as angels, whose makeshift wings symbolically blocked out any hate, spreading only love and peace.

“Being here today, I get flashbacks of a year ago and that horrible feeling, but at the same time, it really helps with the closure of it,” Nicole Irizarry, whose friend, Christopher Sanfeliz, was killed in the shooting, said.

Irizarry returned to the scene Monday, joining hundreds of others for a ceremony outside the club.

Some said the massacre was a reminder for them to always hold the people they love tight and let them know what they mean to them. 

“If you’re having a fight, get over it. Don’t ever leave without telling people how much you love them, because with something like this, you never know what will happen and you don’t want that hanging over your head,” Terry DeCarlo, executive director of the LGBT Center of Central Florida, said.

Delanie Kimball, 11, didn’t know any of the victims of the shooting, but wanted to show her love and support.

“I wanted to donate blood at the blood drive, but I’m too young so we decided to make some hearts and I had my sister doing them too,” Delanie said. 

The young girl attended a memorial for the victims of the shooting on Monday. And she wasn’t the only one to express her grief through art. 

Two Pennsylvania-based artists painted a mural of the victims.

The pair spent the past year traveling the country and meeting with the family and friends of those impacted by the shooting. 

“That’s my baby. I see my baby,”  Felicia Burt said about her son Daryl Burt  II, who was portrayed in the painting.  

Burt said she was moved by the painting. 

“This shows that they are really trying to stomp out the hate. Because we’ve been seeing nothing but love here, and everybody here has been just so genuine,” she said. 

Inside the club, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer attended a ceremony. 

“We are not here to relive the horror of that day,” he said. “We are here for a far greater purpose. We are here to remember the innocent lives that were lost.” 

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Orlando ceremonies scheduled on anniversary of Pulse nightclub massacre

Thousands of people are expected Monday in the city of Orlando for the first anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre.

Early Monday morning survivors, victim’s families and employees gathered for a private remembrance ceremony as the 49 victims names were being read at the moment the first shots were fired. Dozens of people also dressed as white angels gathered in front of the club as many people mourned the anniversary.

The city has announced several ceremonies that will take place to honor the victims who were killed.

10 a.m.: Several items that were left outside the club days after the attack will be on display at the Orange County History Center. The items include pictures, letters, cards and stuffed animals. The event will be free and open to the public.

10:30 a.m.:  A “Sea-to-Sea” rainbow flag will unfold on the Orange County Administration building. Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, faith leaders and LGBTQ leaders are expected to attend.

11 a.m.: A ceremony will be held at Pulse where the names of the victims will be read aloud, along with prayers and music. Guests include the Orlando Gay Chorus, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and several first responders.

Noon: Church bells will ring 49 times for the victims who lost their lives.

7 p.m.: “Orlando Love: Remembering Our Angels” will take place at the Lake Eola Park Amphitheater. The event is open to the public and will feature guest speakers and performances.

10 p.m.: A final ceremony will be held at Pulse. It will feature songs, prayers, inspirational dances and music. The ceremony is expected to last until midnight.

The city of Orlando has deemed June 12 as “Orlando United Day: A Day of Love and Kindness.” Gov. Rick Scott has also ordered flags across Florida to be flown at half-staff Monday.

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Pulse survivor honors best friend killed in Orlando nightclub massacre

A survivor of the Orlando nightclub massacre has spent the past year trying to honor the life of his best friend, who was among the 49 people killed in last year’s Pulse shooting.

“Your only options are to hide or to run away,” Brandon Wolf said as he recalled the June 12, 2016, shooting that killed his best friend.

“I didn’t see anything. I didn’t want to see anything,” Wolf continued. “I just stared straight ahead at an open door.”

Wolf said he’ll never forget when the second round of shooting started.

“The smell of gun smoke, which is very, I think, distinctive, it almost burns your nose,” he said.

Wolf, 28, escaped uninjured, but he’s spent the last year trying to keep the memory of his best friend alive.

Andrew Leinonen was only 32 when he was killed.

“He said the thing we never say enough is that we love each other,” Wolf said.

That’s why Wolf and his friend decided to start the Dru Project, an LGBTQ organization that is now on a mission to spread love across the nation.

“There are people out there who are absolutely terrified that something like this is going to happen,” Wolf said. “So I feel an obligation as a survivor.”

Wolf said the hurt still remains one year later, but he knows that love will conquer hate.

“There’s more love in the world than hatred, and I’m hoping that when he looks down, he sees that and he’s inspired by that,” Wolf said.

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Pulse victims remembered at Equality Rally for Unity & Pride in Fort Lauderdale

From congressional leaders, to average citizens, hundreds of people turned up Sunday at Huizenga Park in Fort Lauderdale for the Equality Rally for Unity & Pride. 

During the event the 49 victims of the Pulse shooting, which took place a year ago, were remembered. 

“It’s important to show everybody that we’re all equal and equality matters,” attendee Maria Cardona, said.

E.J. Flessor said although it has been a year, he still feels the pain from Pulse shooting. 

“Nobody’s gotten over the pain yet. At least not people who are attached, so it’s important for you to be here,” E.J. Flessor, an attendee, said.

Chris Cooper also attended to remember the victims of the shooting.

“We’re here to remember the victims of the Pulse massacre and also celebrate the  gains we’ve made for equality,” he said. 

That theme was etched both on signs and on the minds of people who came to support LGBT rights during Pride Month.

The event was held on the same day that thousands of people converged in the nation’s capital for a large equality march for unity and pride.

“This is an opportunity for those who couldn’t be in Washington D.C. to be here in solidarity,” Roger Roa, who works with the Pride Center at Equality Park, said. “To show the current administration that we need to stand for equality, unity and pride.”

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‘If you’re alive, raise your hand’: Report details police activity inside Pulse

A newly released report details the Orlando Police Department’s activity and involvement during the Pulse nightclub massacre on June 12 and the days that followed, WKMG reports.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina presented the 78-slide PowerPoint to police groups across the globe, analyzing what the agency did well and what could have been done differently.

Within the first three hours of the attack on Pulse, which left 49 people dead and another 53 injured, 300 law enforcement officers swarmed the scene.

The rampage began at 2:02 a.m., just as patrons were preparing to end their night. Gunman Omar Mateen approached the night club’s dance floor and fired his assault rifle. The barrage of bullets left 20 people dead on the dance floor and near the stage area, the report said.

A detective who was at the club when the shooting began fired several rounds at Mateen and radioed for help. The first backup officer arrived one minute and 20 seconds later. 

That same detective fired at Mateen again at 2:05 a.m. The successions of gunshots within the club stopped.

Police entered the bar at 2:06 a.m., just in time to see Mateen running from the dance floor to the bathroom, where he spent hours holed up with hostages, pledging his allegiance to ISIS and claiming he had explosives in calls made to 911 operators.

Efforts to rescue the victims began at 2:08 a.m., exactly six minutes and eight seconds after the mass shooting began.

By 2:15 a.m., first responders make their way to the dance floor, the area where the most victims died.

“So many victims were on the ground. One officer is heard saying, ‘If you’re alive, raise your hand,'” the report raid.

[PICTURES: Evidence photos from inside Pulse]

Seven of those victims were carried out alive. 

All of the critically injured victims were out of the club by 2:35 a.m., except for those being held hostage in the west side of the club, eight people hiding in the west dressing room and four dancers in the north dressing room.

Along with the 20 who died on the dance floor, nine died in the northwest bathroom, four died in the southwest bathroom, three died on the stage, one died in the front lobby and one died on the patio.

Another 11 victims died after being rescued from the club: nine at Orlando Health and two at a triage area across from the club.

The Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office completed those autopsies within 72 hours.

It was at 5:27 a.m., three hours and five minutes into the ordeal, that all the remaining victims were rescued from the club.

By that point, Mateen had died in a gunfight with SWAT members at 5:15 a.m., feet from where he’d held terrified and wounded hostages for hours.

Explosives were used to breach the club at 5:02 a.m. so victims in the south bathroom could be rescued. The explosion didn’t fully breach the wall, so an armored vehicle was used. 

The explosion to breach the wall was one area OPD thought it could improve because the Orlando Fire Department, which was one of 27 agencies that responded that night, did not know the explosion was planned, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Better coordination with fire officials was one of the main criticisms OPD had of its efforts. The department also said providing the names of involved officers to the media created problems because they were bombarded with interview requests, the newspaper reports.

Mina also told the newspaper he doesn’t know if any victims were hit by friendly fire, a question the public has been left pondering in the wake of the attack.

The FBI followed more than 1,600 leads, conducted 500 interviews, collected 950 pieces of evidence, including 380 from the scene, issued 300 subpoenas and spent more than $450,000 on victim witness assistance funds during the investigation that followed.

Along with the precise details and timeline, the report also includes body camera images and crime scene photos. The full presentation is embedded at the top of this story. 


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