Orlando terror attack updates: Obama meets with victims’ families in Orlando
Ken J. Mascara, the sheriff of St. Lucie County in Florida, said Thursday that the man who carried out the massacre at an Orlando nightclub was removed from his job as a security guard at the county’s courthouse in 2013 after he made inflammatory comments about women, Jews and the mass shooting at Ft. Hood.
Here is Mascara’s statement:
“Omar Mateen was one of multiple contracted security guards that rotated through the St. Lucie County Courthouse as part of a contract with G4S Secure Solutions USA Inc.
“In early 2013, our staff was made aware of inflammatory comments made by Mateen. Our courthouse supervisor first requested that G4S management transfer him out of the courthouse rotation permanently. That was immediately granted. Our agency then made the appropriate notifications to inform our federal partners. It was at this time that the FBI began an investigation into Mateen that was later deemed inconclusive.”
The motives of this killer may have been different than mass shooters in Aurora or Newtown, but the instruments of death were so similar.
In Orlando, Fla., President Obama referred to Donald Trump’s recent claim that more lives could have been saved at Pulse if more patrons were armed themselves. Such a notion “defies common sense,” he said, without naming Trump.
Obama said he was pleased the Senate would hold votes on gun safety measures, one day after Democrats waged a filibuster to force the issue.
Earlier, Obama met with the owners and staff of the Pulse nightclub, a place, he said, to “be who you truly are.” The attack, an “act of hate,” was an opportunity for Americans to reflect on how we treat one another, Obama said.
“Hatred toward people because of sexual orientation, regardless of where it comes from, is a a betrayal of what’s best in us,” he said.
Obama said the nation would continue to be relentless in its fight against terrorist networks like Al Qaeda and Islamic State. But he noted that attacks in Orlando, Fla., and San Bernardino were perpetrated not by sophisticated cells but so-called lone wolves, requiring a different approach.
“We can’t anticipate or catch every single deranged person who may wish to do harm,” he said. “But we can do something about the damage they do.”
As he embraced the victims’ families, Obama said they pleaded for him to do more.
“They don’t care about the politics, and neither do I,” he said.
Orlando’s response to the Pulse shooting massacre is a reminder “of what is good” about America, President Obama said in an emotional tribute to the victims Thursday.
After hours-long meetings with their families and survivors of the deadly attack, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden traveled to a makeshift memorial to leave bouquets of 49 white roses -- one for each life lost -- among the other flowers, balloons and photos that have collected there.
In brief remarks to reporters after, Obama said those lost “showed us what is best about humanity.”
“It will carry us through this atrocity and other challenges,” he said as a light rain began to fall. “Out of this darkest of moments, that gives us hope.”
Though the city was “shaken by an evil, hateful act,” the president added, “most of all, there is love.”
Republican Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Thursday that President Obama is “directly responsible” for the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla,, because Obama has allowed the growth of Islamic State group on his watch.
McCain — who lost to Obama in the 2008 presidential election — made the comment to reporters while Obama was in Orlando visiting with the families of those killed in Sunday’s attack and some of the survivors.
“Barack Obama is directly responsible for it, because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, Al Qaeda went to Syria, became ISIS, and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama’s failures, utter failures, by pulling everybody out of Iraq,” a visibly angry McCain told reporters in the Capitol as the Senate debated a spending bill.
“So the responsibility for it lies with President Barack Obama and his failed policies,” McCain said.
However, McCain later sought to clarify his comments, saying over Twitter: “To clarify, I was referring to Pres Obama’s national security decisions that have led to rise of #ISIL, not to the President himself.”
This post was updated to reflect McCain’s clarification of his earlier remarks. The original post was published at 12:06 p.m.
The medical examiner who oversaw the autopsies of the 49 victims in the Pulse nightclub shooting says he kept their bodies separated from the gunman’s body.
Dr. Joshua Stephany said in a statement Thursday that the remains of gunman Omar Mateen were being held in a building separate from the victims.
He also says the gunman’s autopsy was conducted in a separate building from the victims’.
Stephany says he decided to do that not because of any requirement but because he thought it was the right thing to do.
The medical examiner says his staff was able to identify and conduct autopsies on the all victims within 72 hours after Sunday morning’s shooting.
Nearly half of those killed in the Pulse nightclub massacre had ties to Puerto Rico.
CIA Director John Brennan warned Thursday that as Islamic State loses ground in Syria and Iraq, it probably will use “guerrilla tactics” to launch more terrorist attacks like those in Orlando, Fla., Brussels and Paris.
The CIA has seen “no sign” that Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, was in contact with Islamic State or any other terrorist group, Brennan told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Like the married couple who killed 14 people on Dec. 2 in San Bernardino, Mateen appears to have been self-radicalized online, in part by listening to jihadist sermons and watching videos of beheadings by militants.
Islamic State supporters “have accounted for 67 homegrown violent jihadist plots” in the United States between 2014 and early June 2016, according to an analysis by the Congressional Research Service, although only a handful were carried out.
The plots, in which Americans either joined terrorist organizations abroad or committed violent attacks at home or overseas, involved more than 100 individuals, the 18-page report said.
A total of 13 homegrown attacks were carried out in the United States since 2001, the CRS found, five of which involved people inspired by the Islamic State. The analysis said these attackers, which include the Orlando shooter and the couple who gunned down 14 people in San Bernardino, often acted alone and did not have “sustained, substantive, in-person contact with foreign terrorist organizations,” rather they “scraped together ideological justification” from online and social media sources.
“In essence, these attacks involved do-it-yourself — DIY — terrorists,” the study said. “Largely isolated from the operational support of terrorist organizations, they acquired violent skills (however rudimentary) by themselves or relied on abilities that they had developed prior to becoming violent jihadists.”
President Obama has arrived in Orlando, Fla., to meet with the family members of victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre.
But unlike some of the president’s previous trips for memorial services after mass shootings, this one will be decidedly low-key: no address to a large crowd, but simply “a few personal reflections” to the press after spending time with mourners.
The White House has worked closely with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer to coordinate the visit, spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters traveling with the president, and did not want to overburden local law enforcement officials strained by the attacks.
The quick visit, though, was a way for both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to show that “Americans stand shoulder to shoulder” with the people of central Florida. “There’s no more tangible way to show support than by traveling to the city where this horrific incident occurred,” Schultz said.
The shooting has quickly become fodder for the presidential campaign, but Obama’s visit has a bipartisan note. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida joined Obama aboard Air Force One to travel to Orlando. And among those greeting Obama upon arrival was Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
The comfort of words flowed, as smooth as their spirits.
A vigil for the victims of the Orlando mass shooting, the largest in U.S. history, took place in a gay nightclub in Santa Ana — the seat of famously conservative Orange County.
“This is the church of the LGBTQ community, our safe space,” Sian Wiltshire of Orange Coast Unitarian Universalist Church said Wednesday night, standing under rainbow-colored spotlights at the Velvet Lounge.
About 100 people, many of them holding flickering candles, intoned the names of the dead.
He shattered a veneer of safety that we all had constructed. I feel like we have to go back and reclaim that.
Rev. Kent Doss of Tapestry Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Mission Viejo
Alex Honorato just arrived at the Amway Center. His son, Miguel, was killed in the shooting. He was 30 and a father of three.
The elder Honorato arrived with several women who appeared to be family members. They walked in silently.
You can read more about Miguel Honorato here.
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