Posts Tagged As: Terrorism

Video: Man Claims To Have Been Orlando Shooter’s “Friend With Benefits”

Jim Burroway

June 22nd, 2016

Among the many threads being pulled to try to explain why Omar Mateen shot up the Pulse gay night club in Orlando on June 12 — the influences of Islamist propaganda, the role of anti-LGBT teachings in mainstream American Islam (which, by the way, many mainstream Christian denominations share), a disturbing pattern of behavioral problems pointing to mental health problems, a deep-seated antipathy against LGBT people — there is also the possibility that Omar Mateen himself may have been dealing with his own conflicts with his sexuality.

This latest report should be taken with a word of caution: Univision said that they could not independently verify this man’s claims. But yesterday, a man came forward — his face heavily disguised and his voice modulated — for a Univision interview calming that he and Mateen had met through a gay dating site and became “friends with benefits.” The unidentified man given the pseudonym of Miguel said that Mateen’s motivation for the massacre was revenge:

He adored Latinos, gay Latinos, with brown skin – but he felt rejected. He felt used by them – there were moments in the Pulse nightclub that made him feel really bad. Guys used him. That really affected him,” Miguel said. “I believe this crazy horrible thing he did – that was revenge.”

Mateen, who liked to drink, expressed frustration over his father’s extreme views on homosexuality, which included a belief that “gay people [are] the devil and gay people have to die,” Miguel said.

Mateen was especially upset after a sexual encounter with two Puerto Rican men, one of whom later revealed he was HIV positive, he added.

“He [Omar] was terrified that he was infected,” he said. “I asked him, ‘Did you do a test?’ Yes. He went to the pharmacy and did the test … it came out negative but it doesn’t come out right away. It takes 4, 5 months.”

“When I asked him what he was going to do now, his answer was ‘I’m going to make them pay for what they did to me.'”

“Miguel” described Mateen as “a very sweet guy” who loved to be cuddled. He also said that Mateen was critical of the U.S. “war on terror” and the killing of innocent women and children. He also said that Mateen was frustrated over his father’s extreme views of LGBT people, saying that “gay people [are] the devil and gay people have to die.”

“Miguel” said that he had met with Mateen fifteen to twenty times, yet he never knew Mateen’s real name. The FBI confirmed that they had met with “Miguel” but will say nothing further. Absent a “blue dress,” caution is warranted. Nevertheless, this story is being picked up by the Associated Press, Fox News, ABC, CBS and other major outlets.

Updated: FBI Releases Partial Transcript Of Orlando Shooter’s 911 Call

Jim Burroway

June 20th, 2016

Update: The FBI released an unredacted version of Omar Mateen’s first 911 call. See below.

Pulse gay night clubPolitico explains the redacting:

The partial transcript is redacted to remove portions of Mateen’s pledges of allegiance to the Islamic State, a move intended to minimize the value of the calls as propaganda for the militant group. The FBI also did not release audio of the calls, which U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley said was meant to avoid “revictimizing” those who were inside the nightclub.

…“Part of the redacting is meant to not give credence to individuals who have done terrorist acts in the past,” FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Ron Hopper said at a news conference. “We’re not going to propagate their rhetoric, their violent rhetoric, and we see no value in putting those individuals’ names back out there. We’re trying to prevent future acts from happening again and for cowards like this one, people like that influence them.” Hopper confirmed that there is no indication that Mateen received direction for his attack from the Islamic State or any other terrorist group.

Several Republicans and Fox News are predictably furious over the redactions, although they hardly left much to the imagination. The FBI confirms that Omar Mateen made three calls to 911 while gunning down LGBT patrons at the Pulse night club in Orlando.

Here is the FBI release:

ORLANDO—In order to provide an update on the progress of the investigation into the Pulse nightclub shooting, the FBI is releasing an excerpt from the timeline of events inside the Pulse nightclub during the early morning hours of Sunday, June 12, 2016. Out of respect for the victims of this horrific tragedy, law enforcement will not be releasing audio of the shooter’s 911 calls at this time, nor will law enforcement be releasing audio or transcripts of the calls made by victims at the Pulse nightclub during the incident. Furthermore, the name of the shooter and that of the person/group to whom he pledged allegiance are omitted.

The following is based on Orlando Police Department (OPD) radio communication (times are approximate):

2:02 a.m.: OPD call transmitted multiple shots fired at Pulse nightclub.
2:04a.m.: Additional OPD officers arrived on scene.
2:08 a.m.: Officers from various law enforcement agencies made entrance to Pulse and engaged the shooter.
2:18 a.m.: OPD S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons & Tactics) initiated a full call-out.
2:35 a.m.: Shooter contacted a 911 operator from inside Pulse. The call lasted approximately 50 seconds, the details of which are set out below:

Orlando Police Dispatcher (OD)
Shooter (OM)

OD: Emergency 911, this is being recorded.

OM: In the name of God the Merciful, the beneficial [in Arabic]

OD: What?

OM: Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [in Arabic]. I let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings.

OD: What’s your name?

OM: My name is I pledge of allegiance to [omitted].

OD: Ok, What’s your name?

OM: I pledge allegiance to [omitted] may God protect him [in Arabic], on behalf of [omitted].

OD: Alright, where are you at?

OM: In Orlando.

OD: Where in Orlando?

[End of call.]

(Shortly thereafter, the shooter engaged in three conversations with OPD’s Crisis Negotiation Team.)

2:48 a.m.: First crisis negotiation call occurred lasting approximately nine minutes.

3:03 a.m.: Second crisis negotiation call occurred lasting approximately 16 minutes.

3:24 a.m.: Third crisis negotiation call occurred lasting approximately three minutes.

In these calls, the shooter, who identified himself as an Islamic soldier, told the crisis negotiator that he was the person who pledged his allegiance to [omitted], and told the negotiator to tell America to stop bombing Syria and Iraq and that is why he was “out here right now.” When the crisis negotiator asked the shooter what he had done, the shooter stated, “No, you already know what I did.” The shooter continued, stating, “There is some vehicle outside that has some bombs, just to let you know. You people are gonna get it, and I’m gonna ignite it if they try to do anything stupid.” Later in the call with the crisis negotiator, the shooter stated that he had a vest, and further described it as the kind they “used in France.” The shooter later stated, “In the next few days, you’re going to see more of this type of action going on.” The shooter hung up and multiple attempts to get in touch with him were unsuccessful.

4:21 a.m.: OPD pulled an air conditioning unit out of a Pulse dressing room window for victims to evacuate.

(While the FBI will not be releasing transcripts of OPD communication with victims, significant information obtained from those victims allowed OPD to gain knowledge of the situation inside Pulse.)

4:29 a.m.: As victims were being rescued, they told OPD the shooter said he was going to put four vests with bombs on victims within 15 minutes.

(An immediate search of the shooter’s vehicle on scene and inside Pulse ultimately revealed no vest or improvised explosive device.)

5:02 a.m.: OPD SWAT and OCSO Hazardous Device Team began to breach wall with explosive charge and armored vehicle to make entry.

5:14 a.m.: OPD radio communication stated that shots were fired.

5:15 a.m.: OPD radio communication stated that OPD engaged the suspect and the suspect was reported down.

Update: After severe criticism from House Speaker He-Who-Cannot-Say-Our-Name (R-WI) and other conservatives, the FBI and Justice Department have decided to reverse course and issue an unreacted transcript of Omar Mateen’s first 911 call. Here is the full statement announcing that reversal. I’ve italicized the portion that was originally redacted.

Joint Statement From Justice Department and FBI Regarding Transcript Related to the Orlando Terror Attack

The Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued the following statement regarding the FBI’s release of the transcript related to the Orlando shooting:

“The purpose of releasing the partial transcript of the shooter’s interaction with 911 operators was to provide transparency, while remaining sensitive to the interests of the surviving victims, their families, and the integrity of the ongoing investigation.  We also did not want to provide the killer or terrorist organizations with a publicity platform for hateful propaganda.  Unfortunately, the unreleased portions of the transcript that named the terrorist organizations and leaders have caused an unnecessary distraction from the hard work that the FBI and our law enforcement partners have been doing to investigate this heinous crime.  As much of this information had been previously reported, we have re-issued the complete transcript to include these references in order to provide the highest level of transparency possible under the circumstances.”

Transcript of Orlando Police Department 911 Calls, June 12, 2016

2:35 a.m.: Shooter contacted a 911 operator from inside Pulse.  The call lasted approximately 50 seconds, the details of which are set out below:

(OD)   Orlando Police Dispatcher

(OM)   Omar Mateen

OD:     Emergency 911, this is being recorded.

OM:     In the name of God the Merciful, the beneficent [Arabic]

OD:     What?

OM:     Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [Arabic]. I wanna let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings.

OD:     What’s your name?

OM:     My name is I pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State.

OD:     Ok, What’s your name?

OM:     I pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may God protect him [Arabic], on behalf of the Islamic State.

OD:     Alright, where are you at?

OM:     In Orlando.

OD:     Where in Orlando?

[End of call.]

Pulse Night Club Will Reopen: “We’re Not Going To Let Someone Take This Away From Us”

Jim Burroway

June 16th, 2016

Barbara Poma, owner of Pulse, appeared on NBC’s The Today Show this morning to speak for the first time about what happened early Sunday morning. She described the club as “a safe, fun place to come be who you are.” And she described that phone call she got that morning:

It was the most surreal phone call I’ve ever received. When my manager called me and told me, and he was just yelling into the phone. He kept saying, “We have a shooter! We have a shooter!” I just kept screaming, “What?” And finally it sunk in and… you can’t wrap your brain around that. You can’t.

… I can’t stop imagining what that was like for them… I don’t think I’ll ever stop that.

She opened Pulse about thirteen years ago in honor of her brother, who had died of AIDS. She chose to name the club Pulse “because it has to do with your heartbeat. It has to do with your life, and we just wanted to keep the heartbeat alive.”

Lauer asked how her mission would change as she goes from honoring one person to now honoring 49:

We just welcome those families into our family. And we just have to move forward and find a way to keep their hearts beating and keep our spirit alive. And we’re not going to let someone take this away from us. …I have to go back to that club.

After the interview, Matt Lauer added that she told him, “It’s important never to let hate win.”

CBS Poll: Americans Strongly Disapprove of Trump’s Response to Orlando Massacre

Jim Burroway

June 15th, 2016

Clinton, TrumpA CBS News Poll out today shows that a majority of Americans strongly disapprove of Donald Trump’s responses to the massacre at Orlando’s Pulse gay night club. Americans are fairly evenly split when it comes to Secretary Hillary Clinton’s response.

Clinton Trump
Approve 36% 25%
Disapprove 34% 52%
Don’t Know 30% 24%

The report adds: “Most Democrats (62%) approve of Clinton’s response, while just half of Republicans (50%) approve of Trump’s. More independents are critical of Trump’s response than Clinton’s.”

Americans have also soundly rejected Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.:

Total Reps Dems Inds
Yes, should ban 31% 56% 14% 30%
No, should not ban 62% 37% 79% 62%

Americans across the board largely hold that the attack was both an act of terrorism as well as a hate crime (57%). That response was similar for Republicans (65%), Democrats (53%) and Independents (56%). A larger minority of Republicans say it was “mostly” terrorism” (22%) than Americans as a whole (14%), while a somewhat larger majority of Democrats say it was “mostly a hate crime” (37%) than Americans as a whole (25%).

The margin of error for the entire group is ±4%. The margin of error for the Republican, Democratic, and Independent subgroups will be greater according to their respective samples sizes.

More Reports: Orlando Shooter Used To Hang Out At Gay Clubs

Jim Burroway

June 13th, 2016

Omar MateenAdding to what the Orlando Sentinel published earlier, we now have this report from the Canadian Press:

A drag-dancing married couple described seeing Mateen as many as a dozen times at the gay-friendly nightclub where he’d later embark on the single worst gun massacre in modern American history.

Ty Smith and Chris Callen recalled the eventual killer being escorted drunk from the Pulse bar on multiple occasions, including one incident where he pointed a knife at a friend.

Both professed shock at seeing his face on TV: “It’s the same guy,” said Callen, who performs under the name Kristina McLaughlin. “He’s been going to this bar for at least three years.”

They expressed incredulity at the story being told by Mateen’s father in the wake of the shooting, that the gunman had once been scandalized during a visit to Miami by the sight of men kissing each other.

They say Mateen saw plenty of men kiss — and far closer to home than Miami.

“That’s bullcrap, right there. No offence. That’s straight-up crap. He’s been around us,” Smith said Monday in an interview at the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida.

Smith and Callen also describe an incident that corroborates other stories of Mateen’s explosive temper:

They said they decided to keep their distance from Mateen after he exploded in anger at a joke told by one of their friends, possibly about religion: “He ended up pulling a knife,” Callen said.

“He said if he ever messed with him again, you know how it’ll turn out.”

Another witness a local television station another detail:

Kevin West said the shooter, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, contacted him three months ago through a dating app called Jack’d.

“When he first contacted me, he was saying things like, ‘What clubs are popping and things of that sort, what are good places to go?'” West said. “And I remember telling him, ‘Oh, you can just look it up online because I don’t go out that much.”

West told the station that he turned the communications over to the FBI.

This thread seems to be picking up steam. Chris Hayes tweeted this teaser:

Report: Mateen Cased Pulse Before the Attack

Jim Burroway

June 13th, 2016

The East Orlando Post reported that other gay bars in the Orlando area found that Omar Mateen had been using social media to gain information prior to Sunday’s attack at Pulse. Now the Orlando Sentinel said that he had been surveilling Pulse directly:

At least four regular customers at the gay Orlando nightclub where a gunman killed 49 people Sunday morning said today that they believe they had seen the killer, Omar Mateen, there before.

“Sometimes he would go over in the corner and sit and drink by himself, and other times he would get so drunk he was loud and belligerent,” said Ty Smith, who also uses the name Aries.

He saw Mateen at the club at least a dozen times, he told the Orlando Sentinel.

“We didn’t really talk to him a lot, but I remember him saying things about his dad at times,” Smith said. “He told us he had a wife and child.

Mateen’s Ex-Wife: “When He Was Angry, He Would Sometimes Rant About Homosexuals”

Jim Burroway

June 13th, 2016

Sitora Yusufiy, 27 and the ex-wife of Pulse night club shooter Omar Mateen, has come forward to described her two-year abusive marriage to Mateen. She said that when they first met on Myspace in 2008,  and married after a short engagement, ““He was a normal guy, joking, laughing, you know, like having fun.”

Mateen was religious but not radical. Born in New York, Mateen came from an Afghan family but was “Americanized,” Yusufiy said. Yusufiy, who now lives in Colorado, is Uzbekistani but had lived in the United States for nearly a decade before the marriage.

Yusufiy said Mateen desperately wanted to be a policeman and hung out with a lot of cops, often going to the shooting range with them.

But just a few weeks into the marriage, Yusufiy said, Mateen started showing another side, one of anger and control. She said Mateen made her get a job and then took the money she made.

“It was just his personal form on control. He wanted to control me and do whatever he [could] to keep me hostage,” she said.

When he was angry, he would sometimes rant about homosexuals, Yusufiy said.

“In those moments of emotional instability, he would express his anger towards [a] certain culture, homosexuality, because in Islamic culture, it is not really tolerated, homosexuality. And I know at the time he was trying to get his life straight and follow his faith,” she said.

One former co-worker at the Port St. Lucie security firm that employed Matteen confirmed to the New York Times Mateen’s bigotry and erratic behavior:

According to Mr. Gilroy, who said that he had repeatedly complained to G4S, the security company that employed them, Mr. Mateen was a loud, profane presence who was prone to using racial, ethnic and sexual slurs.

Mr. Gilroy, a former police officer in Fort Pierce, described Mr. Mateen as a man who had “issues and just constant anger.”

“He was just agitated about everything, always shaken, always agitated, always mad,” said Mr. Gilroy, who said his relationship with Mr. Mateen became increasingly tense, with Mr. Mateen badgering him with text messages 20 or 30 times a day.

According to the FBI, Mateen had, at various times, expressed admiration for Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda, and, just before the attack, ISIS. Observers note the confusing contradictions in those endorsements: all three groups are bitter enemies of each other. According to the Guardian:

The full extent of Mateen’s motivations may have been complex and less clear than immediately apparent, though. A knowledgeable US official told the Guardian that while the federal investigation was in the earliest stages, an initial hypothesis regarding the shooter’s motive leaned closer to a hate crime than an act of terrorism.

“The idea of it being terrorism is not off the table, but it’s probably not the principal approach,” said the official, who would not be identified by name or agency in discussing a fast-moving investigation. “There are other reasons to believe it was motivated toward a very specific kind of community, obviously.”

That investigation was still determining if the shooting was “terrorism or a massive, massive hate crime”, the official said. The official emphasized that all hypotheses were preliminary.

 

Report: Mateen Cased Other Orlando Gay Bars Before the Attack

Jim Burroway

June 13th, 2016

The East Orlando Post reports:

Micah Bass, owner of the recently opened Revere Nightclub and The M Hotel, informed the East Orlando Post that Mateen had sent him a friend request on Facebook late last week.

“With running The M and Revere, I constantly get requests from LGBT allies, performers, and potential guests who just want to have fun and spend time with family and friends.”

Earlier today, Bass notified the FBI of Mateen’s activity on social media and is reviewing security footage to see if the suspected shooter or any potential accomplices did, in fact, visit the property in the weeks leading up Sunday’s tragedy at Pulse.

…Veteran investigator and former Orlando law enforcement officer James Copenhaver observed that Mateen could have very well investigated several venues before selecting Pulse Nightclub to carry out what Florida Governor Rick Scott has called a “terrorist attack.”

“My training and experience suggest the shooter was scoping out LGBT clubs by friending club owners, club staff, and even customers of the LGBT clubs in the Orlando area on social media.”

British Journalist Walks Off Live TV Over Downplaying of Homophobia

Jim Burroway

June 13th, 2016

I’m seeing the same trend here in the states, and I’ll have much, much  more to say about this. But here’s Owen Jones walking out of a Sky News panel discussion over the host’s insistence on downplaying the homophobia aspect to yesterday’s mass shooting.

“The issue is I will not have people, as a gay man, appropriating — the people who never speak about gay rights except when this happens if there are Muslims involved. Then they’s jump on the bandwagon and they’ll spam as much bile as they want. And I’m proud to live in a city, one the the greatest cities on the face of the earth whose mayor is a Muslim. He votes for equal rights including equal marriage in defiance of lots of other people and death threats.”

Host Mark Longhurst then brought up the arrest in L.A. of James Wesley Howell who was reportedly preparing to attack the Gay Pride celebration there. He only acknowledged that Howell was not Muslim “as far as we know,” and asked “whether there is, as you say, a hate crime or whether something is being done in the name of religion.” As if there was a difference.

Jones responded: “Can we just be clear, because you say its lunatics and all the rest of it. We’ve got to be clear. If he went into a synagogue and killed innocent Jewish people… People have done that, disgusting anti-Semitic terrorists, we will call it out for what it is. This person is a homophobic terrorist, whatever else he is. Presumably he’s got some twisted view of Islamic fundamentalism to justify his… even though he’s a knuckle-dragging thug and a get. At the end of the day this is a homophobic hate crime as well as terrorism. It as be called out because I have to say on Sky News and lots of other news, there’s not been many LGBT voices I’ve personally heard myself. And people have to understand as LGBT people watching this and elsewhere, they look at something like this and it is one of the worst atrocities committed against LGBT people in the Western world for generations.”

Longhurst continued to insist that the attack was carried out against human beings. “You cannot say this is a worse attack than what happened in Paris.” It was, he said, a crime Host Mark Longhurst interjected and said the crime had been carried out against “human beings” who were “ trying to enjoy themselves, whatever their sexuality.”

“What are you talking about?” Jones exclaimed. “I’m trying to understand the point you’re making. It was a deliberate attack on LGBT people in an LGBT venue. It was a homophobic terrorist attack. Do you understand that? It’s not some abstract… just kind of he picked a random club out of nowhere. He picked a club because it was full of people he regarded as evil. That’s why he picked the club.”

Co-panelist Julia Hartley-Brewer joined the minimization by suggested that the killer “might have equally horrified by me as a gobby woman”.

“Well fuck!,” Jones replied. “Why would you try to deflect?”

“I’m sorry, I just find this the most astonishing thing I’ve ever been involved in on television,” he continued. “If he’d walked into a synagogue and massacred dozens of Jewish people, you wouldn’t be saying what you’re saying now. You’d be saying it was an anti-Semitic attack. This was a deliberate attack on LGBT people. It was a deliberate attack on the LGBT community. It’s bizarre…”

As the panel continued to divert and dissemble, Jones clearly withdrew himself form the discussion. Longhurst then brought up Peter Tachell’s gay rights group Stonewall to introduce the LGBT element on Longhursts’ chosen terms (“Is the danger… that you focus on one particular area and not the whole threat to our modern way of life?”). “I’ve had enough of this,” Jones said as he took off his microphone and walked off the set.

The Daily Agenda for Monday, June 13

These are the names of the dead as of late last night.

Edward "Top Hat Eddie" Sotomayor, Jr., 34 years old.

Edward “Top Hat Eddie” Sotomayor, Jr., 34 years old. A brand manager for a travel agency that specializes in gay cruises.

Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old.

Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old. A pharmacy tech, originally from Massachusetts. “Always bubbly and super down to earth and such a sweet guy.”

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old. Friends called him “Omar.” One aunt says he now “dances freely in heaven.”

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old (left). His boyfriend, Drew Leinonen, was also at the night club. As of Sunday night, he was unaccounted for.

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old (left). His boyfriend, Drew Leinonen, was also at the night club. Late last night, his mother confirmed that he had died. Drew had established a Gay-Straight Alliance in his high school.

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old. Originally from Puerto Rico, he had been married to his husband for about a year.

Peter Ommy Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old

Peter Ommy Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old. Originally from New Jersey. “R.I.P. Peter Ommy. A great person with a beautiful smile.”

Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old

Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old. A student at Seminole State College. Worked the “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” ride at Universal Orlando Resort.

Kimberly"KJ" Morris, 37 years old, a bouncer at Pulse.

Kimberly”KJ” Morris, 37 years old, a bouncer at Pulse. Friends remembered her dancing and her smile.

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old. Mommy I love you,” he texted to his mother at 2:06 a.m. “In club they shooting.”

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old. “Mommy I love you,” he texted to his mother at 2:06 a.m. “In club they shooting.”

Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old. (No photo available as of 10:15 PDT.)

… And 39 others.

Who Is Omar Mateen?

Jim Burroway

June 12th, 2016

Omar-mateen_640x345_acf_cropped-1The Hill reports:

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility Sunday for a deadly nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., that left 50 dead and 53 injured. “The attack that targeted a nightclub for homosexuals in Orlando, Florida and that left more than 100 dead and wounded was carried out by an Islamic State fighter,” ISIS said in a statement. The organization offered no proof for the attacks.

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 1.47.03 PM

ISIS’ claim of responsibility came several hours after news of the attack hit the news. It’s important to remember that authorities have not established a connection between the Orlando shooter Omar Mateen and ISIS. Friends, family, and an ex-wife all say he was not particularly religious. Co-workers at the security company he worked for called the FBI in 2013 after he made comments about terrorist connections, but the FBI investigation found no basis for concern. The FBI investigated in 2014 over potential ties with someone who became an Al-Quida suicide bomber in Syria. That investigation was inconclusive.

The FBI did put him on a watch list, but that alone was not enough to prevent Mateen to purchase an AR-15. Congress refused to close that loophole last December. ATF says that Mateen legally purchased his weapons in the last week. Shortly before attacking Pulse, Mateen called 911 and pledged his allegiance to ISIS. According to NBC News:

Investigators are trying to determine whether religious extremism motivated the attack and piece together what exactly set off Mateen, who lived less than two hours south of Orlando in Port St. Lucie and worked as a security guard.

Mateen didn’t appear to have any direct ties with ISIS, sources told NBCNews, although he was a follower of ISIS propaganda and referenced the Tsarnaev brothers, who carried out the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, at the scene of the shooting.

Based on what we know so far, the most immediate reason why Mateen chose this particular target and these particular people appears to be what Mateen saw in Miami:

Because of his name and heritage, there were immediate questions about Mateen’s possible ties to Islamic fundamentalism. But his father told NBC News that his son was affected by a recent incident involving two men showing each other affection.

“We were in Downtown Miami, Bayside, people were playing music. And he saw two men kissing each other in front of his wife and kid and he got very angry,” Mateen’s father, Mir Seddique, told NBC News on Sunday. “They were kissing each other and touching each other and he said, ‘Look at that. In front of my son they are doing that.’ And then we were in the men’s bathroom and men were kissing each other.”

“We are saying we are apologizing for the whole incident,” Seddique said. “We weren’t aware of any action he is taking. We are in shock like the whole country.”

Seddique added: “This had nothing to do with religion.”

Mateen’s ex-wife describes him as being very violent:

“He was not a stable person,” said the ex-wife, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she feared for her safety in the wake of the mass shooting. “He beat me. He would just come home and start beating me up because the laundry wasn’t finished or something like that.”

…“He seemed like a normal human being,” she said, adding that when they were married he wasn’t very religious and often worked out at the gym. She said in the few months they were married he gave no signs of having fallen under the sway of radical Islam. She said he owned a small-caliber handgun.

Reports: Orlando Blood Donations Being Accepted from ALL Doners

Jim Burroway

June 12th, 2016

There’s an arbitrary FDA ban on blood donations for gay men who have had sex in the past year. It appears that the ban has been lifted, at least temporarily in Orlando. U.S. Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) released this statement at 12:30 am EST Sunday:

“Due to the critical need for blood donations in Orlando, ALL blood donations will be accepted and screened. Nobody will be turned away because of their sexual orientation. O Positive and O Negative blood types are needed most urgently. Please make appointments to donate throughout the week as there will be a continued need.”

HIV Plus magazine noticed earlier that local hospitals appear to be accepting blood from all comers.

Update: Others are suggesting that the blood banks are accepting donations, but are probably using the application forms to screen out those who answer the gay-and-had-sex question to dispose of that donation.

President: “This Was an Act of Terror and an Act of Hate”

Jim Burroway

June 12th, 2016

Here is a transcript of President Barack Obama’s remarks on today’s massacre:

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.

I just finished a meeting with FBI Director Comey and my homeland security and national security advisors.  The FBI is on the scene and leading the investigation, in partnership with local law enforcement.  I’ve directed that the full resources of the federal government be made available for this investigation.

We are still learning all the facts.  This is an open investigation.  We’ve reached no definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer.  The FBI is appropriately investigating this as an act of terrorism.  And I’ve directed that we must spare no effort to determine what — if any — inspiration or association this killer may have had with terrorist groups.  What is clear is that he was a person filled with hatred.  Over the coming days, we’ll uncover why and how this happened, and we will go wherever the facts lead us.

This morning I spoke with my good friend, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and I conveyed the condolences of the entire American people.  This could have been any one of our communities.  So I told Mayor Dyer that whatever help he and the people of Orlando need — they are going to get it.  As a country, we will be there for the people of Orlando today, tomorrow and for all the days to come.

We also express our profound gratitude to all the police and first responders who rushed into harm’s way.  Their courage and professionalism saved lives, and kept the carnage from being even worse.  It’s the kind of sacrifice that our law enforcement professionals make every single day for all of us, and we can never thank them enough.

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.  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.

In the coming hours and days, we’ll learn about the victims of this tragedy.  Their names.  Their faces.  Who they were.  The joy that they brought to families and to friends, and the difference that they made in this world.  Say a prayer for them and say a prayer for their families — that God give them the strength to bear the unbearable.  And that He give us all the strength to be there for them, and the strength and courage to change.  We need to demonstrate that we are defined more — as a country — by the way they lived their lives than by the hate of the man who took them from us.

As we go together, we will draw inspiration from heroic and selfless acts — friends who helped friends, took care of each other and saved lives.  In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another.  We will not give in to fear or turn against each other.  Instead, we will stand united, as Americans, to protect our people, and defend our nation, and to take action against those who threaten us.

May God bless the Americans we lost this morning.  May He comfort their families.  May God continue to watch over this country that we love.  Thank you.

Reports: Shooter Pledged Allegiance to ISIS

Jim Burroway

June 12th, 2016

Both CNN and NBC are reporting that shortly before the shooting, Omar Mateen called 911 and claimed allegiance to ISIS.

“Not Terrorism”

Jim Burroway

August 2nd, 2009

That’s what this Associated Press video says:

Other outlets earlier made the same claim, although many have gone back and re-edited their stories so that they now say that it appears to be criminal and not nationalistic, although I don’t know how they can claim that since we don’t know who the attacker was. He may still turn out to be an Israeli nationalist.

Nir Katz (top) and Liz Trubeshi (bottom)

Nir Katz (top) and Liz Trubeshi (bottom)

Okay, I get the police’s trying to distinguish this act from a terrorist act by Hamas or Hezbollah or another Palestinian/Muslim radical group. But come on. Are Arabs and Muslims the only ones we’re allowed to call terrorists? Is saying that it’s “not terrorism” supposed to reassure Israeli citizens that this was a targeted attack on gays and not Jews? What about the Jews who were targeted and died in this attack? What about the Jews who marched in the streets last night to mourn their deaths? And what about the Jewish families this morning who now have to bury their children? Don’t they count?

This exercise of trying to say that this was not terrorism cheapens the lives of Nir Katz and Liz Trubeshi, who died in the spray of automatic gunfire at an LGBT community center in Tel Aviv. It insults their families trying to grapple with the reasons their too-young loved ones were singled out for this attack. And it denies the impact that this is having in the LGBT community around the world, let alone the grieving community in Tel Aviv.

We don’t know the attacker’s identity. But we do know that a gunman — dressed in black, wearing a black ski mask and carrying an assault weapon — targeted a place of refuge for LGBT youth who were peacefully gathering for mutual camaraderie and support in the face of discrimination and prejudice. The attacker found them in that refuge and pumped them full of bullets. Yaniv Weisman, chairman of the Israeli Gay Youth organization, said, “Today, someone sent a message that gays in Tel Aviv and Israel are not safe.” That is terrorism. If it isn’t then the word needs to be stricken from the English language, for it will have lost all meaning.

    

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