feature image by Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press
At least 50 people were killed at Pulse, a gay nightclub, in Orlando around 2 a.m. Sunday morning after a gunman opened fire in the deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history. Police say at least 53 more people were injured. Police shot and killed the gunman who was identified as Omar Manteen, a 29-year-old from Fort Pierce, Florida.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina said an off-duty officer working security at the nightclub exchanged gunfire with the shooter, who carried “an assault-type rifle and handgun.”
“The officer engaged in a gun battle with that suspect. The suspect at some point went back inside the club and more shots were fired. This did turn into a hostage situation,” Mina said.
Manteen was shot dead by officers about three hours later after SWAT team members entered the club. The shooting is being investigated as an act of terrorism.
NBC News spoke to Manteen’s father, Mir Seddique and he apologized for Manteen’s actions. “We weren’t aware of any action he is taking. We are in shock like the whole country,” he said. Seddique adds it had nothing to do with religion and that he believes his son got angry when he saw two men kissing in Miami a couple of months ago and thinks it may be related to the shooting, NBC News reports.
Even though authorities haven’t named this a hate crime, Florida Rep. Alan Grayson spoke to the media and said: “It’s a gay club. It might be that we’ve seen a commission of an awful hate crime last night.”
Right now officials are trying to sort out if Manteen’s actions and motives are linked to a wider terrorist organization and are reporting on his nationality and his family’s nationality but that doesn’t matter. One thing is clear — this was a homophobic attack. Manteen targeted a gay nightclub on Latin Night that was filled with LGBT people during Pride month, a time in which we should be celebrating our triumphs. You can’t ignore these facts. These were our friends and family who were killed. Conservative and liberal politicians alike will condemn this act of violence and rightfully so but don’t be fooled by Republican lip service. This shooting was fueled by their right-wing, conservative rhetoric that’s perpetuated by their anti-LGBT laws and anti-transgender bathroom bills which has created a hostile climate for LGBT people.
In the wake of the aftermath, OneBlood, a blood center in Orlando said it was in an urgent need of donors. However, since we live in an upside down world, queer men and trans women can’t help out their injured brothers, sisters and siblings because of FDA’s blood donation regulation which pretty much bans them from donating if they’ve had sex with men in the past year.
Our heart goes out to the Orlando queer community. We mourn the loses of our friends and family. This is devastating news and I hope y’all are taking care of yourselves and each other.