Stonewall Memorial Grows in Wake of Deadly Orlando Terror
As the NYPD beefs up security in the city, particularly at LGBT facilities, following the deadliest mass shooting in the nation’s history Sunday, city residents are mourning the lives lost in what federal investigators say was an act of terror.
Police have stepped up their presence at key locations throughout the city as a precaution.
Mayor Bill de Blasio called the attack an act of terrorism and an act of hate against the LGBT community.
“Terrorists want us to change our lifestyle. They want to make us back away from our values. They want to undermine our democracy. We cannot be intimidated. New Yorkers should go about their business knowing that the NYPD is protecting them,” de Blasio said.
“This department, this city administration is committed to ensuring that we’ll do everything in our power to ensure, particularly in this very special month for them and the events that are coming up, parades and other events, that we will be there for them,” said Police Commissioner William Bratton.
Police are also planning to increase security for pride celebrations taking place this month.
The department has been focusing much of its security details on LGBT locations, including the famous Stonewall Inn, where many have been gathering to mourn the victims.
A vigil outside the West Village bar is currently ongoing. De Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo are both in attendance.
A memorial to the victims is also outside the West Village bar.
Mourners are stopping by to drop off flowers and write tributes outside of what is a landmark for LGBT rights.
The messages include well wishes to the victims and vows to take a stance against gun violence.
“People in my community were killed just for being who they are and loving and wanting to get together, and it’s just a way of saying how much I care and how much it moves me,” said one person at the memorial.
“I can’t be here tonight for the vigil, so I wanted to put some flowers on the site before leaving for Washington,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, whose district covers parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. “I’m going to reinstate the assault weapons ban. We passed it in ’94. It was in place for 10 years. It worked. Let’s put it back.”
Authorities worked overnight to remove dozens of bodies from Pulse Orlando, the popular gay bar where 49 people were killed and more than 50 others were injured by the lone gunman.
Authorities say the families of all 49 victims killed have been notified.
The suspect was identified as Omar Saddiqui Mateen, 29, of Port St. Lucie, Florida.
Reports say Mateen was born in Queens and that his parents are Afghan immigrants.
He moved to Florida in 1991.
The Associated Press reports court documents show in 2006, Mateen filed to legally change his name from Omar Mir Seddique to Omar Mir Seddique Mateen.
The documents did not say why he changed his name.
According to FBI Director James Comey, Mateen was inspired by extremist information primarily through the Internet, but was not part of any network and did not receive direction from outside the U.S.
The FBI says he called a 911 operator during the incident and claimed solidarity with the Islamic State group, the Boston Marathon bombers and a Florida man who died as a suicide bomber in Syria.
Federal officials say they investigated Mateen in 2013 after co-workers reported he claimed to have ties to terrorist groups, but it was closed after 10 months.
“We then interviewed him twice. He admitted making the statements that his co-workers reported, but explained that he did it in anger because he thought his co-workers were discriminating against him and teasing him because he was Muslim,” Comey said.
Speaking to reporters in Colorado, his ex-wife says he physically abused her and that he was mentally ill.
“When he would get in his tempers, he would express toward things, towards everything. So in that respect, you know, yeah, but it was the moments when you see his emotional instability, turning totally different,” she said.