Vancouver community grieving for victims of mass shooting at gay nightclub in Florida

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June 12, 2016

 By LORA GRINDLAY

When news of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history reached Spencer Chandra-Herbert early Sunday morning, the MLA was moved to tears.

“My God, I don’t know what to say. I am thinking of the victims, their partners, their families and their loved ones,” said the Vancouver-Burrard MLA.

“It is making me cry.”

A gunman armed with an assault-style rifle and a handgun killed at least 50 people inside a crowded nightclub in Orlando, Florida early Sunday.

People wait outside the emergency entrance of the Orlando Regional Medical Center hospital after a shooting involving multiple fatalities at Pulse Orlando nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack) ORG XMIT: FLPE117
People wait outside the emergency entrance of the Orlando Regional Medical Center hospital after a shooting involving multiple fatalities at Pulse Orlando nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)  : 

At least 53 others were taken to hospital in critical condition. The death toll was expected to climb. It is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The gunman, who was identified as Omar Mateen, was also killed in a gunfight with police.

The shootings took place at a gay night club called Pulse when more than 300 people were inside.


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Chandra-Herbert, who is gay, was in Quesnel when he heard the news and had spent the day before at a Gay Pride celebration in that town.

“To hear something like this is like a punch in the gut and then some,” he said. “You think you have come so far and then this…

“It reminds us that in the blink of an eye everything can change.”

Chandra-Herbert said he was thinking of his own community, and how violence and threats used to be more common against gay people. He believes news of the deaths will make people feel more on edge about their safety.

A candlelight vigil to mourn the victims in the shooting will be held tonight at the Vancouver Art Gallery at 8 p.m.

Multiple news outlets reported that the Florida shooter had called 911 shortly before the attack and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. Those reports cited unnamed law enforcement officials.

On Sunday, the Islamic Society of British Columbia issued a statement condemning the mass shooting.

“The Islamic Society of British Columbia wishes to state its unequivocal condemnation of the senseless and horrific violence as we mourn the loss of lives in yet another mass shooting in the City of Orlando, Florida.

“We extend our deepest sympathy to the families of the victims and pray that the Most Compassionate God grants complete recovery to the injured and bless them with patience and strength.

We condemn the horrible violence in Orlando, Florida and stand in solidarity with all communities and our nation for peace and harmony for all and at all times.”

It was signed: “Administration of Masjid Al-Hidaya.

Participants show their support for victims of the Orlando shooting during the 2016 Gay Pride Parade on June 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.
Participants show their support for victims of the Orlando shooting during the 2016 Gay Pride Parade on June 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. MARK RALSTON / AFP/Getty Images

Meanwhile, the father of the man named as the shooter in the massacre, says he’s in shock and that he wasn’t aware of anything his son might have been planning.

Mir Seddique is the father of Omar Mateen of Port St. Lucie, Florida. Seddique told NBC News that his son got angry when he saw two men kissing in Miami a couple of months ago and thinks that may be related to the shooting.

Seddique says: “We are saying we are apologizing for the whole incident. … We are in shock like the whole country.”

The father also says the incident has nothing to do with religion.

Officials say the shooter was among the 50 killed, and that they’re investigating whether the incident was an act of terrorism.

lgrindlay@postmedia.com