Long Beach Leaders Speak Out; Vigil is Planned for Tonight in Wake of Deadly Orlando Gay Nightclub Shooting

Security has been heightened in the region and Long Beach leaders have taken to Twitter, Facebook and email to pour out grief regarding the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting that occurred in the early hours of Sunday morning. The shooting killed 50 people and wounded 53, making for the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, according to the New York Times

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The death toll exceeded the next deadliest mass shooting in America—the 2012 massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, which left 26 people dead.

Long Beach leaders have planned a vigil at 7:30PM tonight at Harvey Milk Park, and the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) has stepped up security measures around gay clubs and Muslim mosques, according to officials and Mayor Robert Garcia. The LGBTQ Center will be open at 2:00PM for crisis counseling for any individual who needs to talk to someone, according to their Facebook. 

The LBPD issued a statement regarding the heightened security surrounding the event. 

"Although there is no credible, specific threat to the City of Long Beach, our personnel remains in contact with regional and federal partners.  Our personnel  will maintain at a heighten state of situational awareness and remain vigilant of our communities," a release stated. " We are working closely with the citizens of Long Beach and business partners."

The shooting occurred the same weekend as LA Pride. The parade was reportedly almost called off, but proceeded with heavy security, according to the Los Angeles Times. This morning, just following the shootings, police arrested an armed man headed to LA Pride in Santa Monica, who was reportedly armed with guns, ammunition and explosives, the Times said. 

The man was identified as 20-year-old James Wesley Howell of Indiana. He reportedly told officials he wanted "to Harm Gay Pride event." Investigators at a Sunday afternoon press conference said they didn't believe the event was connected to the Orlando shooting.  

President Barack Obama took time Sunday to address the incident in a televised segment for the country, declaring the incident an “act of terror.” Officials are reportedly investigating the incident under the theory that it was inspired by the Islamic State.

“What is clear is that he was a person filled with hatred," said Obama of the shooter.

Members of the Long Beach community spoke out regarding the shooting Sunday morning.

"The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach is deeply saddened at the horrific news of the Orlando shooting at Pulse, a popular LGBT bar," said the LGBTQ Center in a statement. "This act of anti-LGBTQ hate violence stole the lives of over 50 people and left many seriously injured. Our hearts are with the friends and loved ones of those who are mourning today. As many of us are celebrating Pride month, we must remember that there is still hate and discrimination against many races, ethnicities, sexual orientations and gender identities. During this time we must remain unified. We must not allow those that are filled with hate to drive a wedge into our communities. This is a time for us all to come together and the LGBTQ Center is available to support those in need during this difficult time."

“I am horrified by this shooting and senseless act of mass murder,” wrote Mayor Garcia on Facebook. “I am so angry and my heart breaks for the victims and their families.”

"I have no words to describe how devastated I am by the horror in Orlando,” said Long Beach's Congressman Alan Lowenthal in a statement. “My heart goes out to the families and friends of those killed and wounded. This cannot continue. No one, outside the military, should have access to military-style weapons. We have to take action. We are better than this."

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, who represents parts of Long Beach, issued a tweet of concern for the victims and loved ones affected by the Orlando shooting.

Assemblymember Patrick O'Donnell tweeted his concern as well. 

"Our hearts go out to the victims and survivors in Orlando, an attack not just on our LGBT brothers and sisters, but on all of us,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted on Sunday. “[...]LAPD is coordinating with local and federal partners, and will be increasing patrols, as well as visible and plainclothes presence at critical locations. We are in communication with our partners at the LA Sheriff's Department and across law enforcement and will provide all support needed to ensure the safety and security of everyone attending today's events. And, as always everyone should remember, 'If You See Something, Say Something.'”

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) issued a tweet in solidarity with the LGBT community, declaring its commitment to securing parade.



“On behalf of the men and woman of the Santa Monica Police Department we send our heartfelt condolences to the community of Orlando, Florida,” wrote the Santa Monica Police Department on Facebook.

This election season’s candidates took to their platforms to issue their thoughts on the matter.

“Horrific incident in FL. Praying for all the victims & their families. When will this stop? When will we get tough, smart & vigilant?” Donald Trump tweeted. “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!”

 

"I join Americans in praying for the victims of the attack in Orlando, their families and the first responders who did everything they could to save lives,” said Hillary Clinton in a statement. “This was an act of terror. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are hard at work, and we will learn more in the hours and days ahead. For now, we can say for certain that we need to redouble our efforts to defend our country from threats at home and abroad. That means defeating international terror groups, working with allies and partners to go after them wherever they are, countering their attempts to recruit people here and everywhere, and hardening our defenses at home. It also means refusing to be intimidated and staying true to our values.”

This report was updated at 4:22PM with additional details regarding the man detained with weapons in Santa Monica. 

This report was updated at 5:23PM with a statement from the Long Beach Police Department. 



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