Orlando nightclub shooting: Locals express shock and sadness

Many in southwest Ohio mourned the lives lost and those injured in a downtown Orlando gay nightclub shooting on Sunday, the worst mass shooting spree in this nation’s history.

Several dozen people attended a news conference at Courthouse Square in Dayton, where leaders from the LGBT community and a City Commission representative encouraged people to remember the victims and their families and support one another.

“Dayton City Commission was shocked and saddened by the attacks,” said Kery Gray, the Dayton City Commission executive assistant, during the news conference. “… The City of Dayton has chosen to be a welcoming city because we believe our strength comes in our diversity and that every facet of our community is an important part in making up the jewels of the Gem City.”

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A gunman used an assault rifle and a handgun to open fire inside an Orlando gay nightclub known as Pulse early Sunday before killing at least 50 and injuring an estimated 53 people, according to Associated Press reports.

The gunman, who was identified as Omar Mateen of Port St. Lucie, Fla., was killed by SWAT team members after a three-hour standoff. He opened fire on the more than 300 in the club.

Mateen, 29, had worked as a security guard. His ex-wife said his family was from Afghanistan but that her ex-husband was born in New York. His family later moved to Florida.

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The AP reported Mateen purchased at least two firearms legally within the last week or so.

“The City of Dayton stands with the people of Orlando and the LGBT community across the nation and world on this really tragic unnecessary act of violence,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley during an interview. “We recognize that this kind of thing can happen anywhere at any time. So, we have to work to make sure this stops happening and stops becoming a regular occurrence in our country.”

The City of Orlando identified the following victims on Sunday: Stanley Almodovar III; Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz; Juan Ramon Guerroro; Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo; Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera; and Edward Sotomayor Jr.

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Brian Miller, a Cincinnati doctor who was born and raised in Franklin, knew Sotomayor because he took two cruises organized by a company Sotomayor worked for, called North American Drag Stars at Sea cruises. Miller said he and his partner first took one of the cruises three years ago and went on another in January, when he last saw Sotomayor.

When he first heard of the mass shooting, Miller said he felt “a great loss, sadness. I have a fear in my mind because I go out to LGBT clubs frequently, drag shows. And this is Pride Month – it’s in June.”

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Rickey Swanson arranges a bouquet of flowers at a memorial with 50 candles for at least 50 people gunned down at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., during the Gay Pride Parade in West Hollywood on Sunday, June 12, 2016. (Mindy Schauer/The Orange County Register via AP)

Bruce Lindsey, general manager of the MJ’s on Jefferson club in downtown Dayton, said he knew performers who worked at the Orlando nightclub.

“It just broke my heart,” Lindsey said. “I haven’t been able to stop crying all day long every time I think about the people.”

Lindsey said he hopes Sunday’s incident doesn’t change how MJ’s on Jefferson and other clubs are forced to operate.

“I just hope that people don’t get it in their minds to try to copy that,” he said. “We’re very exposed here. We try to be out in the open. We wouldn’t have to move our clubs back into the alley like we used to have to.”

» RELATED: Orlando nightclub shooting is the deadliest mass shooting in American history

Greg Semon, a Miami Valley Hospital doctor and member of the gay community, moved to Dayton from Orlando about a year ago. A friend of his in Orlando was injured in the shooting but has been treated and released from the hospital, he said. He said he has been in contact with doctors and nurses at the Orlando hospital and spoke with them about how they’ve come together to support each other.

“It’s a horrific tragedy,” Semon said. “… We all need to come together and show love for each other.”

Semon also worked as a trauma surgery fellow at Orlando Regional Medical Center, where most of the victims of the shooting are being treated.

» RELATED: #PrayForOrlando: Twitter offers support, shares frustration after Orlando nightclub shooting

On Sunday several people and organizations used social media to post messages of unity and support for the LGBT community and those who were injured or killed.

“It’s unfathomable that today 50 plus lives are over … leaving behind families, dreams, aspirations, pets, friends husbands, wives … what will it take?” wrote the Rubi Girls, a Dayton-based comedic drag troupe. “The RUBIGIRLS proudly stand with Pulse, Orlando, and the the LGBT community around the world.”

Attacks on soft targets like a nightclub have been seen more recently in the U.S., said Glen Duerr, a Cedarville University assistant professor of international studies.

“Usually major governments, sports stadiums stuff like that are very well protected,” he said. “But a nightclub, a transit hub for these sorts of soft targets, tend to be hit by terrorists. One of the main goals is to incite fear and often to change public policy so targeting an LGBT nightclub was part of that strategy.”

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Americans need to continue with their normal day-to-day lives, but also be on the lookout, Duerr said.

“That vigilance looking for law enforcement, looking for suspect activities, looking for the sight of weapons,” he said. “Things like that, those are big things.

“We have to live our lives, but unfortunately accept a level of risk.”

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