The deadliest mass shooting in modern American history occurred in the early hours of Sunday morning, June 12, when a lone gunman, Omar Mateen, killed at least 49 people and wounded 53 more at LGBT nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida.
Mateen entered the club around 2 a.m. He was killed by police when they arrived on the scene.
Mateen’s father has spoken to NBC News, stating that he believes anti-LGBT hatred motivated the attack.
He apologized for the shooting, expressed his shock and stated that the incident was not motivated by religion but most likely by homophobia. His father said that Mateen got “angry when he saw two men kissing in downtown Miami a couple months ago.”
NBC News is reporting that he pledged allegiance to the leader of ISIS on a 911 call shortly before the shooting.
WATCH: Father of shooter in Orlando club tells NBC News: “We are apologizing for the whole incident”https://t.co/SJiy3pFAYJ
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) June 12, 2016
President Obama addressed the country on the shooting.
“Today, as Americans, we grieve the brutal murder – a horrific massacre – of dozens of innocent people. We pray for their families, who are grasping for answers with broken hearts. We stand with the people of Orlando, who have endured a terrible attack on their city. Although it’s still early in the investigation, we know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate. And as Americans, we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to defend our people,” President Obama said.
“This is an especially heartbreaking day for all our friends – our fellow Americans – who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live,” he continued. “The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub – it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.
“So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American – regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation – is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country. And no act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that make us Americans.
“Today marks the most deadly shooting in American history. The shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and a powerful assault rifle. 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.”
You can read the full transcript of the speech here and watch it below.
President Obama has also called for flags to be flown at half-staff until sunset, June 16 in honor of the victims of the shooting.
Officials are calling for blood donations for the victims and so far the response has been overwhelming, with a line of people wrapping around the building at an Orlando blood bank. Unfortunately, there is still an FDA ban on men who have sex with men, and who have been sexually active in the past year with another man, from donating blood.
Equality Florida, the states LGBT civil rights organization, is accepting donations for victims of the shooting through a GoFundMe page, which you can find here.
The nightclub was hosting Latin night when the shooting occurred.
There will be a candlelight vigil at The Bar at 316, 316 Rensselaer Ave, in Charlotte tomorrow night at 8:30 p.m.
A candlelight vigil is being held tonight at 8 p.m. in Greenville, South Carolina at the entrance of Falls Park, organized by Upstate Pride SC, as well as Gender Benders, PFLAG Spartanburg, and PFLAG Greenville.
Equality NC has put together a list of vigils happening over the next few days across North Carolina, which you can find here.