Law enforcement is on high alert in some areas of the country as a result of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub on Sunday morning.
The shooting at Pulse Orlando, located at 1912 South Orange Avenue, killed 50 people and wounded 53 others. Certain streets in the surrounding area were still in shut-down Sunday afternoon as police continued their investigation.
Over at The Mall at Millenia, a Macy’s sales associate said there was an increased presence of local police at the mall’s entrances. This person said the mall is about five miles from where the shooting occurred.
In addition, according to the Orlando Sentinel, the area’s tourist attractions were on “high alert,” with Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld putting up metal detectors at their gates.
Further afield, the New York Police Department said it is “closely monitoring” the developments in Orlando, and said it is in contact with the local law enforcement authorities in Florida, as well as with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The NYPD said it has placed its Patrol and Counter-terrorism resources as well as other personnel, such as its emergency services unit, “on alert pending further information.” It also plans an increased police presence at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender institutions and other venues, not just in Manhattan, but also in the outer boroughs.
In Los Angeles, the L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies also were on high alert at the L.A. Pride parade in West Hollywood Sunday, although no changes had been made to its tactical planning since additional security had already been planned for the event.
The tragedy has been labeled the worst mass shooting in U.S. history by President Obama, who described it as “an act of terror.”
Obama said the massacre is 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, in a house of worship, or in a movie theater or in a nightclub.”
Prior to the shooting at Pulse, the shooting with the highest death toll in the U.S. was at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In his address Sunday afternoon, Obama said, “This could have been any one of our cities.”
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., along with his Prosecutors Against Gun Violence cochair Mike Feuer, said Sunday, “We stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Orlando and the LGBT community worldwide as we mourn the lives lost in this unconscionable attack. Now is the time for our legislative leaders to show resolve. Congress must move immediately to remove assault weapons from the hands of the next would-be terrorist.”
As Orlando police continued their investigation, Kaley and Michigan Streets — the two main cross-streets a few blocks away on both ends of South Orange Avenue — were cordoned off from traffic. Individuals in the area said Sunday afternoon that some stores on South Orange were closed due to the shutdown of the main street area.
The Sodo Shopping Plaza on South Orange Avenue and Grant Street was open for business. Although the main entrance is on the closed section of South Orange, a sales associate who answered the telephone at the Target store located in the center said shoppers can get to the shopping plaza through a back road via South Division Avenue. “We have some shoppers here, not as much as usual,” she said. She described the Plaza’s location as about a “quarter of a mile from the nightclub, maybe less.”
The gunman has been identified as Omar Mateen. U.S. officials said he is a 29-year-old U.S. citizen. His family is from Afghanistan. The nightclub was opened in 2004 by Barbara Poma and her friend Ron Legler to promote awareness of the area’s LGBT community. Poma’s brother died from AIDS.
Social media feeds reflected the outpouring of sympathy following the mass shooting. On Twitter, the Empire State Building said Sunday, “In sympathy for the victims of last night’s attack in Orlando, we will remain dark tonight.”
Lady Gaga tweeted: “I pray for all the victims’ families during this shooting epidemic. That their pain be met with compassion and support from the world.” And Madonna tweeted: “You CANNOT use the name of God, or religion, to justify acts of violence, to hurt, to hate, to discriminate.
The Tony Awards, held Sunday night, tweeted that this year’s awards “are dedicated to those affected by the events in Orlando.”
Ricky Martin, who in 2014 collaborated with A Different Fur for an exclusive collection of men’s apparel and accessories, tweeted, “I am gay and I am not afraid. Love conquers all.”