Vigils held after US’ deadliest shooting

Vigils have been held across the United States after the deadliest mass shooting in its history targeted a gay nightclub in the state of Florida. Orlando Police chief John Mina described the shooting as “one of the worst tragedies we’ve seen”, adding that police officers “were shaken by what they’ve seen inside the club”.


“It’s a tragedy not only for the city but the entire nation,” he said. “Just a look into the eyes of our officers told the whole story.” The injured, many in critical condition, were transferred to nearby hospitals. Among those injured was one police officer, whose kevlar helmet was hit by a round from the suspect.

The suspect exchanged gunfire with a police officer working at the club, which had more than 300 people inside. The gunman then went back inside and took hostages, Mina said.

Ron Hopper, special FBI agent in charge of the Orlando office, confirmed that Mateen was interviewed twice by the agency in 2013, after he made “inflammatory comments” to co-workers alleging possible “terrorist ties”.

In 2014, authorities interrogated Mateen anew for possible ties to an American suicide bomber. In both cases, the FBI closed the investigations as they turned out to be “inconclusive” at that time, Hopper said.
Vigils held after US’ deadliest shooting
Hopper also confirmed media reports that Mateen made 911 calls to police early on Sunday, and referred to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL also known as ISIS) group. Late on Sunday, mourners gathered near the target of the attack, the Pulse nightclub, as well as landmarks in other cities.

In New York, the Empire State building went dark to honour the victims, while One Trade Centre lit up its spire in the colours of the gay pride flag.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that all flags would be flown at half-mast in the city and that security measures have been strengthened, in particular around places associated with the LGBT community. De Blasio told reporters the shooting, that also left dozens injured, was “against our values.”

But “you’ll see a lot of additional police presence on the streets of the city,” he added. “No city in the world is better prepared to stop terror, to stop hate.”

Hundreds of people gathered on Sunday evening in Greenwich Village to reflect on the violence and leave flowers, candles and letters beside a sign reading “Stop Hate”. Earlier, US President Barack Obama condemned the shooting as “an act of terror and an act of hate”, calling the shooter “a person filled with hatred”.

“As Americans, we’re united in grief and outrage,” he said, adding that the attack is “a further reminder of how easy it’s for someone to get their hands on a weapon” and commit violence in the US. Florida Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in Orlando.

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