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Pulse shooting remains a grim moment in LGBTQ+ history 8 years later

orlando florida lgbtq pulse nightclub mass shooting memorial mourners
Mia2you/Shutterstock; Chris_Harris/Shutterstock

Forty-nine people were killed that night.

It has been eight years since aFlorida man swearing allegiance to ISIS entered an Orlando nightclub and killed 49 people. Most victims in thePulse shooting were LGBTQ+, Latino or both, and the crime remains the deadliest attack on queer individuals in American history.

In the eight intervening years, Orlando has come together in historic shows of unity and suffered incredible disappointment with the collapse of plans for a memorial museum. Survivors, meanwhile, have soldiered forward with memories of a night dancing that ended in tragedy and trauma.

What happened

Gay night club Pulse hosted its weekly Latin Night, which kicked off the evening of June 11, 2016. LGBTQ+ Hispanics and their friends and allies danced in the Orlando establishment. But Fort Pierce man Omar Mateen would cut the evening short. After first going to Downtown Disney, which he had visited with his family a week prior during Gay Days, he left that location and drove closer to Downtown Orlando. He ended up going into Pulse, having a short conversation with a security guard, and then returning to his car to retrieve a Sig Sauer GCX assault rifle and a Glock semi-automatic pistol.

According tosecurity footage later made public, Mateen returned to the nightclub at 1:53 a.m. on the morning of June 12, 2016. He immediately began shooting victims. He entered at a moment when a police officer stationed at Pulse was dealing with another incident in the parking lot, but the shooting immediately led to SWAT teams, Orlando Police, and Orange County sheriff’s deputies storming the club, but left after Mateen called into police claiming he had bombs in the building. Police left the building and entered an hours-long standoff with Mateen. That ended after 5 a.m. when police set off a controlled explosion near a bathroom where Mateen was holed up. Police then shot and killed the Pulse shooter.

The shooter killed49 people: Stanley Almodovar III, Amanda L. Alvear, Oscar A. Aracena Montero, Rodolfo Ayala Ayala, Antonio Davon Brown, Darryl Roman Burt II, Angel Candelario-Padro, Juan Chavez Martinez, Luis Daniel Conde, Cory James Connell, Tevin Eugene Crosby, Deonka Deidra Drayton, Simón Adrian Carrillo Fernández, Leroy Valentin Fernandez, Mercedez Marisol Flores, Peter Ommy Gonzalez Cruz, Juan Ramon Guerrero, Paul Terrell Henry, Frank Hernandez, Miguel Angel Honorato, Javier Jorge Reyes, Jason Benjamin Josaphat, Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, Christopher Andrew Leinonen, Alejandro Barrios Martinez, Brenda Marquez McCool, Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, Kimberly Jean Morris, Akyra Monet Murray, Luis Omar Ocasio Capo, Geraldo A. Ortiz Jimenez, Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, Joel Rayon Paniagua, Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, Enrique L. Rios, Jr., Jean Carlos Nieves Rodríguez, Xavier Emmanuel Serrano-Rosado, Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, Yilmary Rodríguez Solivan, Edward Sotomayor Jr., Shane Evan Tomlinson, Martin Benitez Torres, Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, Juan Pablo Rivera Velázquez, Luis Sergio Vielma, Franky Jimmy DeJesus Velázquez, Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon and Jerald Arthur Wright.

Another 53 were injured.


In the years since Orlando has been united and divided in the wake of the crime. Federal prosecutors later pursued charges against Noor Salmon, Mateen’s wife, but a jury ultimately determined she wasnot guilty of aiding or abetting the shooting. The trial thus served only as a public release of information gleaned by an FBI investigation. Christopher Hansen, another survivor, has started a nationReflections on Resilience movement encouraging others who faced hardships to find strength. Still other survivors, like Angel Colon, have controversially become involved in the so-calledpost-gay movement.

Meanwhile, plans for a Pulse memorial have been mired in financial difficulty and malfeasance. The onePulse Foundation, formed shortly after the shootingdissolved in November shortly after it announced it would not move ahead with plans for a museum at the Pulse site. Those developments happened months after the foundation parted ways with Barbara Poma, the Pulse owner who later came on as a salaried executive director for the foundation, but the relationship deteriorated over negotiations on the sale of the club.

Orlando united?

Ultimately, the City of Orlandopurchased the club, years after declining to do so, and announced plans for a passive memorial on the site. The city has since launched acommunity engagement effort hiring Dr. Larry Schooler to head that process.

The city continues to remember Pulse each year, and this past weekend held a 4.9K community run to honor the victims of the attack. “Now eight years since the Pulse tragedy, our community recognizes that each of the 49 victims were individuals, with their own lives and dreams,” Dyer posted on social media on the anniversary of the shooting. “Orlando will never forget them and will continue to make sure we respond to what happened on June 12, 2016, with love and kindness.”

Even Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has a poor record on LGBTQ rights, issued an order to fly flags at half mast in Florida, and issued a statement that recognized the attack on the queer community. “A shooter claiming alliance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant committed a horrific act of terrorism against the LGBTQ and Hispanic communities at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando,” hisorder reads.

Some survivors, like Brandon Wolf, have gone on to engage in politics. He is now the national spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, which willhost an online Pulse Remembrance event today with gun control group Gifford and Orlando Congressman Maxwell Frost. Wolf will be part of the discussion.

The event at the time was the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, but the death toll would be overtaken less than two years later by a shooter in Las Vegas. Debate continues to rage about Mateen’s motives for the attack. But the shooting remains the deadliest victimization of LGBTQ+ victims in American history.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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