Vigils will continue to be held in communities across North America on Tuesday, including here in London, to honour the victims of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Twenty-nine year old Omar Mateen, an American born Muslim, killed 49 people and wounded 53 more when he opened fire inside Pulse, a gay night club in Orlando, early Sunday morning.
The White House and the FBI have said Mateen appears to be a “homegrown extremist” who had touted support not just for the Islamic State, but other radical groups that are at odds with each other.
Regular customers at Pulse, one of most popular gay nightclubs in Orlando, are quoted as saying they’ve seen seen Mateen a number of times. They said he would often drink in the corner alone, and sometime become loud and belligerent.
When Mateen opened fire early Sunday morning, it interrupted an evening of drinking, dancing and drag shows at the Pulse, a club known for tolerance for all people.
Authorities say Mateen emerged, carrying an AR-15 and fired relentlessly, 20 rounds, 40, then 50 and more. In such tight quarters, officials said the bullets could hardly miss and he shot at police and took hostages.
Law enforcement officials say Mateen made a 911 call from inside the club and he expressed his allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It’s not known if ISIL planned or even knew of the attack before it happened.
When the gunfire in the club finally stopped, 49 people were dead and the police SWAT team had shot and killed Mateen. Earlier reports said 50 victims had been killed, but Mateen was mistakenly included in the figure. Reports say at least 53 other people were injured, many of them critically.
Ed Henson owns the gun store where Mateen bought the weapons he used in the attack. Hensen said Mateen passed a full background check and legally purchased a long gun and a handgun about a week ago on separate days.
Henson believes that had Mateen not purchased the guns from his business, he would have bought them somewhere else.
President Barack Obama spoke at a conference Sunday afternoon and called the shooting an “act of terror” and an “act of hate.”
He stated that the FBI is investigating the incident as an act of terrorism and that no effort will be spared to determine whether the shooter was affiliated with terrorist groups.
The president called the situation a “sobering reminder” that an attack on any American is an attack “on all of us.”
Sunday night’s Tony Awards paid tribute to the victims with a moving opening monologue by host James Corden.
“All we can say is you are not on your own right now,” Corden said. “Your tragedy is our tragedy.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of the hit musical Hamilton, read out a sonnet as he accepted his Tony for best original score that directly addressed the tragedy.
“Love is love is love is love is love. It cannot be killed or swept aside,” he said with his voice breaking.
Thousands gathered Monday night in downtown Orlando for a vigil on the lawn of the city’s main performing arts venue. Many held up candles and cellphone flashlights as the names of the 49 victims were read out loud.
Here in London, a candlelight vigil is planned for Tuesday night to honour the Orlando victims. The event will be held at Aeolian Hall, is free of charge and open to everyone.
“We’re really hoping that people can come and just really connect and chat and we’re going to have some food and drinks just so that people can really come together and lean on each other through this tough time,” said Pride London Festival President Andrew Rosser.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with the service scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.