Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 6.13.16 – Prayers for Orlando

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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry, Ryan Ray and Jim Rosica.

ANOTHER NIGHT OF DRINKING AND DANCING, UNTIL THE SHOTS BEGAN via Tamara Lush, Jason Dearen and Michael Schneider of the Associated Press

Like young people in clubs the world over, Jon Alamo met up with some friends, and then some more friends. He danced in Pulse’s main room, where people swayed to the beat of salsa music. Then Alamo drifted into the club’s two other rooms, which grooved to more of a hip-hop vibe. He remembers hearing Rihanna’s “Work,” one of his favorite songs, and grinding to it on the dance floor.

It was supposed to be just a night of dancing and drinking, of looking good and gleefully partying into the early morning hours. It was Latin night at Pulse, one of Orlando’s top gay venues, and two drag performers were scheduled to perform, one of them a big draw for appearing on a season of the TV show “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

“I was in the zone,” Alamo recalled. “I wasn’t even paying attention — just dancing.”

 The 22-year-old clothing store sales clerk had arrived at the club at 10:30 p.m. Saturday, clad all in blue from his button-down shirt adorned with palm trees to his loafers. About three and a half hours later, the gunshots began and the first of at least 50 people began to die.

Residents of the Delaney Court condos next door to Pulse first heard the shooting about 2:03 a.m. Marlon Massey was watching the movie “Creed” when he heard “pop, pop, pop!” He checked his phone for the time: The shots went on until 2:05 a.m.

A uniformed Orlando Police officer working at the club off-duty had heard gunshots himself and spotted Omar Mateen outside the club. He fired his gun at the 29-year-old one-time security guard from Port St. Lucie, Florida, and two other officers quickly joined in. Mateen was not armed lightly: Police said he had an AR-15 assault-type rifle, a handgun and an explosive device.

Undeterred, he re-entered the club.

Inside, those on the dance floor weren’t sure if what they heard was just part of the DJ’s set.

“Everyone was getting on the floor. … I thought it was just part of the music, until I saw fire coming out of his gun,” patron Rose Feba explained to the Orlando Sentinel.

Mina Justice was sound asleep when she received the first text from her son, Eddie Justice, who was in the club.

“Mommy I love you,” the first message said. It was 2:06 a.m.

“In club they shooting.”

It was around this time that Alamo wandered back into the main room.

“He was holding a big weapon,” Alamo said. “He had a white shirt and he was holding the weapon … you ever seen how Marine guys hold big weapons, shooting from left to right? That’s how he was shooting at people.”

Alamo dashed toward the back of one of the smaller dance rooms, and said people then rushed to an area where two bouncers had knocked down a wooden fence to create an escape route.

“My first thought was, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to die,” Alamo said, his voice very quiet. “I was praying to God that I would live to see another day. I couldn’t believe this was happening.”

At 2:09 a.m., Pulse posted a chilling, hurried message on its Facebook page: “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running.”

Brand White and his cousin were on the dance floor in the main room when White’s cousin yelled to him, “B, it’s a guy with a bomb!” Before he knew it, White was hit in the shoulder.

“All of a sudden it just started like a rolling thunder, loud and everything went black,” White wrote in a Facebook message to an Associated Press reporter from his hospital room Sunday. “I think I was trampled.”

He didn’t recall leaving the club, but he remembered the state he was in: “Covered head to toe in blood.”

“I remember screaming and mass chaos,” he wrote. “There were hundreds of people there.”

He made it to the hospital, where he got a blood transfusion. As Sunday wore on, his cousin remained missing.

Brett Rigas and his partner also were dancing in the main room when they heard the crack of gunfire. “About 70 bullets,” Rigas described in a terse Facebook message.

He was shot in the arm and a man next to him was struck in the leg before police entered the room.

“I was behind the bar with four other people under the well. They called out to us and had us run out,” he said.

Rigas saw dead bodies as he barreled out of the club. In the rush to escape, he became separated from his partner, who remained unaccounted for.

Three patrons, including a performer, ran to the nearby home of club regular David “Brock” Cornelius. Cornelius had gone to a different bar Saturday night and wasn’t yet home, but he texted them his garage code and they hid in his house.

Police said a dozen or so other patrons took cover in a restroom.

At 2:39 a.m., Eddie Justice texted his mother from the bathroom, pleading for her to call police:

“Call them mommy


He’s coming

I’m gonna die.”

Justice asked her son if anyone was hurt and which bathroom he was in.

“Lots. Yes,” he responded at 2:42 a.m.

The last text she received from Eddie was at 2:50 a.m. She still hasn’t heard from her son.

“All I heard was gunfire after gunfire,” Brandon Wolf, who was in a restroom hiding, told the Sentinel. “Eventually, I thought you were supposed to run out of ammunition. But it just kept going and going,” he said.

What happened in the three hours after the shooting broke out and the gunman was killed was not immediately clear.


A STRANGER WAS BLEEDING IN THE PARKING LOT. THIS MAN SAVED HIS LIFE WITHA  SHIRT AND A BEAR HUG via Sarah Parvini of the Los Angeles Times – After the initial barrage, (Josh) McGill and his friends fell to the floor and crawled — first to the patio area where they had stood moments before, then to the fence and the parking lot beyond. Once he and his friends made it out to the parking lot, they ran toward the police perimeter a few hundred feet away. But before they could make it, more shots cracked through the screams. McGill jumped out of the way, in case there was crossfire. He huddled behind a car, and eventually crawled underneath it. His friends kept going.

Before he again tried to move toward the police, he noticed a man stumbling toward him, covered in blood. “Can you help me?” the man pleaded. McGill grabbed the stranger and pulled him behind the car. “I think I got shot,” the man said. McGill searched the man’s body and quickly found two bullet wounds — one in each arm. “Don’t worry, I got you,” McGill said.

… We just need to make it to the perimeter,” McGill said, trying to encourage the stranger to move. But the man’s back was hurting and he couldn’t walk alone; that’s when McGill saw the man’s back, covered in blood from yet another gunshot wound. When they finally managed to reach an officer at the perimeter, they were assured that a police car was coming to take them to the emergency room. McGill’s job, the officer told him, was to lay down in the back of the car. “We will lay him on top of you, and you bear hug him,” the officer said.

… McGill made promises he didn’t know he could keep. He swore the man would be OK, that everything was turning out fine. He held him as tightly as he could.

When they got to the hospital, doctors wheeled Rodney inside. “Words cannot and will not describe the feeling of that. Being covered in blood,” McGill said. “Trying to save a guy’s life that I don’t even know.”

Sunday afternoon, McGill returned to the hospital, needing, he said, to visit the man whose life he’d held in his arms in the back of a car. But the doctors turned him away.

— “Pulse DJ saved lives behind his booth as gunfire tore into club” via Asawin Suebsaeng of the Daily Beast

ORLANDO’S DARK DAY: THE SHOCK SET IN EARLY via Hal Boedeker of the Orlando Sentinel – Orlando TV stations started relaying the chaotic news early Sunday. If you were up at those hours, you’ll never forget the terror and tears about what we would learn later was the worst mass shooting in U.S. history … We learned more when officials answered questions shortly after 7 a.m. Sunday and revealed that about 20 were dead, 42 were hospitalized and that 30 had been freed from a hostage situation. The FBI said the shooting suspect may have had leanings to radical Islam. In a 10 a.m. news conference, the count was raised to 50 dead and 53 injured. People gasped when Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer read the revised figures. You’ll never forget that, either. The TV stations did a public service in those early hours and cleared their Sunday morning schedules to cover the story. The Orlando mass shooting became the top story on cable news channels; CNN, MSNBC and Fox News Channel offered a string of analyses. One CNN analyst said a three-hour hostage situation was not typical of a terrorist attack. Another CNN analyst said it was important to step back and let law enforcement do its work. Later, CNN analysts agreed that the suspect seemed to be a lone wolf inspired by ISIS. For Orlando, it’s a local story. Blood donations are needed, the FBI wants to talk to club patrons, and the region has to get through a terrible day — one we’ll never forget.

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ORLANDO SENTINEL EDITORIAL: UNITED TO HEAL FROM NIGHTCLUB SHOOTING Full editorial here – We will not — we must not — let Sunday’s heinous act of brutality and cowardice define our community. As terror has struck other cities around the world in recent months — Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino — our shock and anger have been mixed with a growing sense of unease. Orlando, as one of the world’s most popular and iconic destinations for travelers, and a community that proudly cherishes its diversity, has long been considered a high-value target for would-be terrorists. Now it appears our worst fears have been realized. Whatever conclusions investigators might reach, the loss of at least 50 souls, and the wounding of dozens more innocents, is an unbearable blow for any community. We join with the families, friends and neighbors of victims in mourning them. An outpouring of love and support from Central Florida is the bare minimum due them. Beyond offering our abundant prayers and sympathy, we must ensure that those who survive — who will forever carry the scars from the trauma — know that they are not alone today, tomorrow or in the months and years to come. Let our community define itself by our unequivocal response: United.

BUDDY DYER: COMMUNITY WILL GRIEVE ‘MOST DIFFICULT DAY’ IN ORLANDO’S HISTORY via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – “This is probably the most difficult day in the history of Orlando,” Dyer reflected in the latest of multiple news conferences Sunday. “Our community will be grieving today, the next few days, the next few weeks and the next few months. We need to support each other. We need to love each other, and we will not be defined by a hateful shooter. We will be defined by how we support each other.” Dyer, Gov. Scott … Pam Bondi and others all talked about expecting the love and resilience of Orlando and Florida residents to quickly overcome the horror of the massacre. Orlando City Commissioner Tony Ortiz said it’s already happening, with clear, widespread efforts of support through Orlando churches, organizations and others. “You should see how the blood banks are packed,” Ortiz said. “That shows you that the community, when things get tough, they get tough.”


CONGRESS STUNNED BY ORLANDO SHOOTINGS via Burgess Everett, John Bresnahan and Seung Min Kim of POLITICO – House Speaker Paul Ryan was briefed by Obama administration officials, and CIA Director John Brennan is scheduled to testify in an open hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. That panel will also hold a closed briefing Tuesday afternoon. Many lawmakers said they were seeking more information about the horrific shootings and Omar Mateen, who officials say shot more than 100 people … some members of Congress began a public search for Mateen’s motivations in the immediate hours after the shootings. Sen. Ben Sasse said the city appears to be the “latest front” in terrorist attacks by “violent Islam.” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes … said intelligence officials are trying to determine whether Mateen had any links with other alleged terrorists or groups. “I am not jumping to any conclusions, but from my experience, this look likes radical Islam,” Nunes said. Others immediately trained their focus on how guns are obtained by mass shooters. Sen. Chris Murphy said, “Congress has become complicit in these murders by its total, unconscionable deafening silence.” The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence singled out Florida’s gun laws as doing “nothing to prevent these types of tragedies” and said the immediate task at hand should focus on what “Florida lawmakers and Congress should be doing to keep guns out of dangerous hands.”

RICK SCOTT ORDERS FLAGS FLOW AT HALF STAFF IN MEMORY OF ORLANDO via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – Scott’s statement: “This is clearly an act of terror that happened in Orlando this morning. It sickens me and makes me angry. Of course, this is a time of great tragedy, and in every tragedy, there is a flood of sadness, confusion and despair. But, this is an attack on our people. An attack on Orlando. An attack on Florida. An attack on America. An attack on all of us … We are a great state. We are a diverse state and we have wonderful people here in Florida that will respond with dignity, strength and fortitude in the days ahead … To the people who did this or may be thinking about doing something similar: you don’t want to commit an act of terror in our state. In Florida, our justice system is swift and our penalties are severe. We are at a 45-year crime low and proud to be a safe state for our 20 million residents and 100 million tourists … While our hearts are broken for the injuries and the loss of life that occurred here early this morning, I have every confidence that the Orlando community will come together and heal. We are a strong and resilient state. We have declared a state of emergency in Orange County to ensure all resources are made available to handle this tragic incident. We will also devote every and all available resources to help the city of Orlando heal.”

ORLANDO LGBT LEADERS STAND IN SOLIDARITY AGAINST VIOLENCE, BIGOTRY, HATRED AFTER SHOOTING via Larry Griffin of Orlando Rising – Led by Equality Florida Transgender Inclusion Director Gina Duncan, the 30-minute news conference saw a series of the community leaders thanking the larger Orlando community for support and decrying bigotry, fear and hate. LGBT Center President Tim Vargas, visibly emotional, called the day “surreal and unbelievable … What we’re here to do is start healing … And help those people start healing in their time of need. Through the next 24, 48 hours, as more victims’ names are released, we just ask that the community stand in solidarity. Reach out, hug your loved ones, because nothing matters more than that right now.” Rev. Nancy Wilson with Metropolitan Community Church, who was also a member of President Barack Obama‘s Faith Council for the White House, led a short prayer to begin the conference, and when she stepped up to speak, she used her time to denounce gun violence. “How obvious can it be that we have to ban assault weapons in our country? President Obama said today that in this event, terror and hate crimes met each other in a powerful way. In many ways, this is our Charleston, for the LGBT community.”

MASSACRE SPURS GRIEF AND FEAR FOR LGBT COMMUNITY via David Crary and Phung Le of the Associated Press – The gay, lesbian and transgender community has seen violence before, from Harvey Milk to Matthew Shepard, and an ever-lengthening list of transgender women. But never anything like this. In a separate incident Sunday, a heavily armed man was arrested in Southern California even as Mateen’s attack was ongoing, telling police he was on his way to attack a gay pride parade. Twenty-year-old James Wesley, of Indiana, had assault rifles, ammunition and chemicals that could be used to make an explosive, according to police, who said there was no evidence of a connection to the Orlando massacre.

Investigators were still trying to determine Mateen’s motives. He pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a 911 call before the shooting, according to according to a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. But LGBT activists had no doubt that their community was the intended target. “Our practices and institutions may change in light of this tragedy — LGBT gathering places may have more security now,” said Rev. Alisan Rowland, pastor of the LGBT-welcoming Metropolitan Community Church of New Orleans. “But we will never, ever go away. We will never be cowed.”

TENSION OVER LGBT ANGLE TO ORLANDO MASSACRE via Nahal Toosi of POLITICO – The attack saw a collision of a number of sensitive issues in U.S. politics — gay rights, terrorism, Islam, gun control and hate crimes — that have often put Democrats and Republicans at odds. (Republican statements also avoided discussing gun control.) That the attack occurred in June, the LGBT community’s pride month, which sees celebrations held around the world, added to the tensions. Republicans in particular have struggled to deal with gay and lesbian issues as that community has gained acceptance in recent years. The Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage has prompted a backlash among many conservatives in the GOP base who say their religious liberty is under attack as a result. Some Democrats also called for tightening gun control laws, a prospect that is dim considering the lack of will among Republicans who control both chambers of Congress.

GAY MEN LIMITED AS BLOOD DONORS FOR ORLANDO CLUB VICTIMS via Jennifer Kay of the Associated Press – Hundreds lined up to give blood in Orlando to help the victims of the massacre at a gay nightclub, but major restrictions remain for gay men wanting to give blood themselves. The response overwhelmed OneBlood donation centers, where officials asked donors to make appointments and continue donating over the next several days. While many Facebook and Twitter posts from individuals and at least one gay advocacy group in Florida said no one would be turned away and all blood would be screened, OneBlood denied any change in policy. “All FDA guidelines remain in effect for blood donation. There are false reports circulating that FDA rules were being lifted. Not true,” OneBlood tweeted. In December, the Food and Drug Administration lifted a three-decade-old ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. But the lifetime ban was replaced with a new policy barring donations from men who have had sex with a man in the previous year. In a tweet, Pulse staff encouraged donations of water, juice and snacks for people waiting in long lines to donate blood in Orlando.

PULSO ORLANDO A POPULAR LGBT CLUB WHERE EMPLOYEES, PATRONS ‘LIKE FAMILY’ via Steve Rothhaus of the Miami Herald – “Pulse is like a family. Everybody who works there is treated equally. Treated like brothers and sisters. When somebody is hurting or in need, we always look out for each other,” said Benjamin Di’Costa, 25, a former Pulse dancer who later lived in Broward County and now works as an HIV counselor in Chicago. The nightclub, which caters to a younger clientele, is about a half-mile from Orlando’s downtown area, Di’Costa said. “This is one of the No. 1 destinations for LGBT people to attend in the summertime,” he said. “Mostly people from Central Florida, some people come from Tampa to Orlando.”

“A lot of my friends are entertainers at the club. I come from the family of bartenders and DJs and dancers and they all work at Pulse,” Choy said. “It’s one of the few high-end gay clubs. Orlando doesn’t have that many gay clubs. Pulse is one of the high-end ones that offers great entertainers, many from RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Di’Costa and Choy both described Pulse as being a cozy club with two main rooms. Patrons enter and either turn left to a smaller performance space with dancers and drag shows, or right to a larger dance space that connects to an outdoor patio behind the club.

CAIR FLORIDA: ‘WE CONDEMN THIS MONSTROUS ATTACK’ via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – The Florida Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations: “We condemn this monstrous attack and offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed or injured,” said Rasha Mubarak, the Orlando regional coordinator for CAIR-Florida. “The Muslim community joins our fellow Americans in repudiating anyone or any group that would claim to justify or excuse such an appalling act of violence.” CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization … the group said its Muslim and interfaith leaders planned to hold a news conference to condemn the shooting.

LOVE IS PERFECT MESSAGE ON DAY OF HORROR via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics – The sermon Sunday morning in my house of worship was about love … In light of current events that seems odd, doesn’t it? We woke to the news that a gunman with apparent ties to radical Islam murdered at least 50 people during a shooting rampage in Orlando. Pastor Patina Ripkey acknowledged the horror 90 miles to the east. And then spent the next half-hour on the biblical concept of servant leadership-motivated love. Maybe that was the perfect message on a day of horror. The urge after something like this is always to strike back so it never happens again. It’s a futile gesture. If there was a way to stop the insanity that played out in Orlando though, we would have found it by now. Tougher gun laws wouldn’t have stopped the carnage … Closing the borders wouldn’t have mattered … Pointing fingers does no good either, although there was plenty of that anyway. Some folks find it impossible to resist making political points from a tragedy. So why talk about love on a day like this … I think we saw why. As word spread what had happened, people wanted to do something, anything, to help.

SPORTS WORLD REACTS via Luke Meredith of the Associated Press – Many prominent athletes took to social media to express themselves in the wake of the incident. Shaquille O’Neal, who began his storied career with the Orlando Magic and is the most prominent star to ever play in the city, tweeted “My thoughts & prayers go out to my Orlando LGBT community brothers and sister during this senseless act of violence. Love is Love!” Current Magic guard Shabazz Napier also chimed in, tweeting “What has to plague the mind of any person to commit such heinous crimes? Life is so beautiful but we always tear it apart. #PrayforOrlando.” Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in NFL history, wrote a short essay on Instagram, stating in part that “50 people lost their lives because of a hateful coward with a gun. Let this hateful act of terror of the #LGBTQ community be a wake up call for America. Men and women of all races, ages, and sexual orientation are being slaughtered because of hate crimes. How many more must die from a hate crime? We need to create awareness to ALL that hate is not the foundation of our nation. Friends DO NOT let this coward put fear into your hearts!!!”

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ISIL TAKES CREDIT FOR MASS SHOOTING IN ORLANDO via POLITICO – The Islamic State’s official media arm, Amaq News Agency, issued a statement taking credit … “The armed attack that targeted a gay nightclub in the city of Orlando in the American state of Florida which left over 100 people dead or injured was carried out by an Islamic State fighter” …  According to a report by NBC News citing “law enforcement sources,” the gunman responsible for the shooting pledged allegiance to ISIL leader Omar al-Baghdadi in a phone call to 911. NBC named the shooter as 29-year-old Florida resident Omar Mateen, and said he had mentioned the Tsarnaev brothers — the men responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings — during the 911 call.

U.S. OFFICIALS: NO EVIDENCE OF DIRECT ISLAMIC STATE LINK TO SHOOTING via Jonathan Landay and Mark Hosenball of Reuters – Three U.S. officials familiar with the investigation into the massacre said that no evidence had yet been found showing a direct link with Islamic State or any other militant group. There is “no evidence yet that this was directed or connected to ISIS. So far as we know at this time, his first direct contact was a pledge of bayat (loyalty) he made during the massacre,” said a U.S. counter-terrorism official, referring to a 911 call the suspect made on Sunday. A U.S. intelligence official said it was not unexpected that Islamic State would claim responsibility given that the group has been suffering serious losses of fighters and territory in Iraq and Syria. “The fact that a website connected to Daesh applauded it doesn’t mean anything,” said the U.S. intelligence official, using an Arabic language acronym for Islamic State. “They are losing on their home turf, and it’s not surprising if they’re looking for some kind of twisted victory.”

FBI ‘ASSESSED’ ORLANDO SHOOTER TWICE BUT LET HIM GO via Pat Beall, Lawrence Mower and Christine Stapleton of the Palm Beach Post – The FBI twice interviewed Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen for possible ties to terrorism and twice found nothing to substantiate the ties … That’s not unusual … speaks to the balancing act the FBI must maintain between upholding the rights of U.S. citizens while keeping all other citizens safe. FBI agents are under tremendous pressure to both thoroughly investigate potential terrorists and come to a conclusion quickly, said Jeffrey Danik, the former head of the West Palm Beach FBI office who also worked counter-terrorism cases in Saudi Arabia. Almost all terrorist complaints start as “assessments,” not formal cases, and that’s likely what happened with Mateen, Danik said. With assessments, agents are not allowed the bureau’s full legal resources to investigate someone because of concerns of violating the person’s rights. They’re also monitored by a supervisor every 30 days.“The bureau’s bureaucracy does not let you keep open an assessment for very long,” he said. “They’re under the gun to get the assessment closed. You do all the baseline collection — check his phone number, ‘OK we don’t have his phone connected to Osama bin Laden.’ You might check a few other things, to see if his name is in FBI files.” Unless there were signs the person had committed a crime or was going to commit a crime, the assessment would not evolve into a formal case, and it would be closed.

EX-WIFE OF SUSPECTED ORLANDO SHOOTER: ‘HE BEAT ME’ via Adam Goldman and Julie Tate of The Washington Post – The ex-wife of the 29-year-old man suspected of killing 50 people in a Orlando nightclub early Sunday said that he was violent and mentally unstable and beat her repeatedly while they were married … she met Mateen online about eight years ago and decided to move to Florida and marry him. At first, the marriage was normal, she said, but then he became abusive. “He was not a stable person,” said the ex-wife, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she feared for her safety in the wake of the mass shooting. “He beat me. He would just come home and start beating me up because the laundry wasn’t finished or something like that.” Mateen’s ex-wife said his family was from Afghanistan, but her ex-husband was born in New York. His family later moved to Florida. “He seemed like a normal human being,” she said, adding that he wasn’t very religious and worked out at the gym often. She said in the few months they were married he gave no signs of having fallen under the sway of radical Islam. She said he owned a small-caliber handgun and worked as a guard at a nearby facility for juvenile delinquents. The ex-wife said her parents intervened when they learned Mateen had assaulted her. Her father confirmed the account and said that the marriage lasted only a few months.

COWORKER: OMAR MATEEN HOMOPHOBIC, ‘UNHINGED’ via Anthony Westbury, Nicole Rodriguez, Elliot Jones of USA TODAY – A former Fort Pierce police officer who once worked with Mateen said he was “unhinged and unstable.” Daniel Gilroy … said Mateen frequently made homophobic and racial comments. Gilroy said he complained to his employer several times but it did nothing because he was Muslim. Gilroy quit after he said Mateen began stalking him via multiple text messages — 20 or 30 a day. He also sent Gilroy 13 to 15 phone messages a day, he said. “I quit because everything he said was toxic,” Gilroy said Sunday, “and the company wouldn’t do anything. This guy was unhinged and unstable. He talked of killing people.” Gilroy said this shooting didn’t come as a surprise to him.

TEXAS LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR DELETES BIBLE TWEET AFTER SHOOTING via The Associated Press – Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has deleted a tweet quoting the New Testament that he posted after the deadly Orlando nightclub shooting. Hours after the … shooting at a gay nightclub that left at least 50 people dead, Patrick sent a tweet from his personal account: “Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” The tweet received harsh criticism online and Texas’ Democratic Party has called on the Republican Patrick to apologize. The tweet was sent at around 7 a.m. and deleted four hours later. Patrick’s campaign spokesman, Allen Blakemore, strongly denied the tweet was in any way related to the Orlando shooting. He said Patrick is out of the country and often pre-schedules social media postings quoting Scripture. Patrick is a staunch social conservative who opposes gay marriage and anti-gay discrimination protections.

ORLANDO ATTACK PUSHES GUN CONTROL AND TERRORISM INTO FOREFRONT OF PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Demands for a swift political response in Tallahassee and Washington were met with equally pitched alarm over the attacker’s ties to terrorism, and as Sunday wore on, familiar and conflicting stances emerged between Democrats and Republicans. “This is the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United States and it reminds us once more that weapons of war have no place on our streets,” Clinton said … Trump, pressed for an aggressive approach to fighting terrorism and redoubled his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country. His response feeds into a view that he says what many people think but will not say, that Muslims are dangerous and politically correct responses don’t keep us safe. “When will this stop? When will we get tough, smart & vigilant?” Trump posted on Twitter. “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!” That dynamic — calls for new laws versus an all-out war on terror — will intensify in the coming days, reviving the discussion that followed the last mass shooting, in San Bernardino, California, in December. A day after that tragedy, the Senate defeated a measure to expand background checks on people who purchase firearms, underscoring the political muscle of the National Rifle Association. It is against those odds that advocates for restrictions will try again.

TRUMP: I WAS RIGHT via Marissa Schultz of the New York Post – In the wake of the mass shooting in Orlando, Trump took to Twitter to say he was “right” about warning about the danger of radical Islamic extremists — but didn’t want his supporters to pat him on the back. “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!” tweeted Trump, who has called for a ban on Muslims from entering the U.S. and the destruction of ISIS. Trump took credit as law enforcement indicated the shooter … had been on the FBI’s radar as an ISIS sympathizer.

JOE BIDEN, DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ CANCEL FUNDRAISER AFTER ORLANDO SHOOTING via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – In the wake of the slaughter in Orlando … Wasserman Schultz canceled her high-profile Sunday fundraiser in Miami with Vice President Joe Biden. “The thoughts and prayers of Americans today are focused on the victims and the families in Orlando and the devastating act of hate and terror,” said her spokesman, Ryan Banfill. “And out of respect to those who were killed and injured — and to their families — we are just not going forward with the event right now.”

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CLINTON LAUNCHES FIRST GENERAL ELECTION AD via Annie Karni of POLITICO – In the one-minute-long spot, footage of Clinton looking presidential as she reviews a stack of briefing papers and descends from a plane that looks like Air Force One is spliced with clips of Trump inciting his crowds at campaign rallies. … In a voice-over, Clinton says voters face a choice about who we are as a country and asks, “Do we respect each other? Do we help each other? Do we stand together?”

IN TAMPA, TRUMP RIPS CLINTON, REPUBLICAN CRITICS via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – Appearing in crucial Florida for the first time since clinching the Republican presidential nomination, Trump attacked … Clinton … but also indulged in plenty of score-settling with Jeb BushMitt Romney and other GOP critics. Trump didn’t directly refer to the firestorm over U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, but told the Tampa crowd, “I love the Mexican people. I have so many Mexicans working for me.” He also declared: “I am the least racist person that you’ve ever met, believe me.” Trump urged Republicans — whom he often referred to as “they” — to unite behind his candidacy. “We have a war to win against a very crooked politician named Hillary Clinton, OK? I don’t want to waste a lot of time trying to defend ourselves against these phony people. … The Republican Party really should get their act together, they have to come together. We’ve got to win. And if for no other reason, the Supreme Court, remember that,” Trump said. “We have to get tough. We have to stop being so politically correct. The Republican Party, the Republican Party and our leaders, we’ve got to get down to business. I mean, I’ve had more opposition from the Republican Party than I do from the Democrats. It’s crazy. With that being said, I think it’s coming together.” Trump said Republicans who don’t get behind him will pay a price at the polls.

FURIOUS GOP DONORS STEW OVER TRUMP via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO – At an exclusive Park City retreat, some of the Republican Party’s top financiers lashed out at their nominee … [PaulRyan, who has endorsed Trump despite criticizing his behavior, joked during his presentation … that in a recent conversation with magician David Copperfield, he said that he wished he could make himself disappear.

PAM BONDI’S OFFICE LOOKED AT – BUT DID NOT INVESTIGATE – TRUMP’S TIES TO QUESTIONABLE BUSINESS OWNERS via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Internal documents from her office show red flags were at least visible, raising fresh questions just as Bondi plans to appear with Trump at a rally in Tampa. Emails [show] Bondi’s staff was aware of a “clear link at some point” between Trump Institute and a Boca Raton business that had come under state investigation. In 2001, the AG’s office, then overseen by Democrat Bob Butterworth, opened an investigation into Proven Methods Seminars/National Grants Conferences, “which at one time appears to have been using the name ’Trump Institute’ out of Boca Raton through a licensing arrangement with Trump,” special counsel Mark Hamilton wrote in an Oct. 14, 2013, email to Bondi’s communications team. Bondi’s staff at the time was trying to sort out the ties amid questioning from reporters whether she would join New York’s probe into Trump University. Bondi chose not to pursue action or join a New York State investigation because few complaints from Floridians came in under her watch. It’s a confusing backstory.

SPOTTEDDavid Jolly’s “Stop Act” in an endorsement in a Washington Post editorial titled “This would be a nice first step on campaign finance reform” … The problem, the editorial says, was that a freshman representative wanted and expected to do his job. The Stop Act could help all of Congress to start doing theirs.

U.S. SENATE TRACKER: Jolly will be in Hernando County. Republican Todd Wilcox will be in Orlando and Fort Myers.

HAPPENING TODAY: Republican state Rep. Matt Gaetz hosts a fundraising reception to support his bid for Florida’s 1st Congressional District. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at the Capital Grille, 2223 Northwest Shore Blvd. in Tampa. RSVP with Lavana Hardy at or 813-714-7017. Scheduled to attend are House Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran, former House Speaker Will Weatherford, State Sen. Jeff Brandes and state Reps. Dana YoungJamie Grant and Chris Sprowls.

FUNDRAISING CONNECTIONS GIVE FRANCIS ROONEY LEG UP IN CONGRESSIONAL RACE via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News – Before Rooney the businessman became Rooney the ambassador, he donated $82,000 to the campaign of the man who would give him the job: President George W. Bush. Rooney, his wife and his companies also gave $25,000 to the national Republican Party, which was helping Bush’s 2004 re-election effort … “You don’t become Ambassador (to the Holy See) unless you are a top tier fundraiser,” said Rockie Pennington, a Republican political consultant out of Tallahassee. “They don’t just pass those things out like jelly beans. That is a coveted position, and you would only get it if you were a top Bush supporter.” Rooney’s connections will make raising money for his campaign to succeed U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson that much easier, Pennington said, because he will have an “electronic Rolodex” on speed dial that he’s used to help other candidates get elected. And if those people trust Rooney to the point where his reputation will garner checks for other candidates, they’ll certainly trust him enough to underwrite his own candidacy. “They will help him quickly,” Pennington said.

ROD SMITH RAISES $168K IN MAY FOR SD 8 BID via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – The Alacuha Democrat raised $168,695 in May. Smith raised $52,695 for his campaign fund, and an another $116,000 was raised by “Independent Leadership for Florida,” the political committee backing Smith’s Senate District 8 bid. The May numbers bring his total fundraising haul to a combined $624,780.

MATT HUDSON, KATHLEEN PASSIDOMO BOOST CAMPAIGN COFFERS IN MAY via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Hudson raised $24,945 in May. “Making the Right Call for Florida,” the fundraising committee backing Hudson’s campaign, took in an additional $9,000 in the one-month fundraising period. His campaign has more than $360,000 cash on hand. His political committee has raised $851,026 since it was created in 2013. The committee has spent $205,272 since 2013, and has more than $645,000 cash on hand. Passidomo … raised $38,015 in May. Top donors to her campaign included Automated Health Care Solution, Palm Beach Kennel Club, the Florida OB/GYN PAC, and the Florida Optometric PAC. Each of those organizations gave Passidomo’s campaign $1,000. “Working Together for Florida PAC,” the political committee backing Passidomo, earned $7,500 in May, bringing its total fundraising haul to $158,000. The political committee has more than $132,000 cash on hand. Since opening her campaign account in November 2014, Passidomo has raised $424,351. Her campaign has more than $283,000 cash on hand.

— “Naples Mayor Bill Barnett endorses Passidomo in SD 28 race” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics

FRANK ARTILES, NOW OFFICIALLY ON 2016 BALLOT, BRINGS IN $134 K IN MAY SENATE FUNDRAISING via Ryan Ray of Florida Politics – Artiles brought in another massive fundraising haul during the May reporting period, raising $92,801 last month through his campaign account and another $42,000 through an associated political committee called “Veterans for Conservative Principles.” That brings his overall fundraising total to some $341,000 for his Senate District 40 account … His war chest now contains around $272,000 in cash on hand in his campaign account and an additional $73,000 through his political committee. The Republican lawmaker is forgoing another term in his House District 118 seat to challenge Democrat Sen. Dwight Bullard in the redrawn SD 40 seat, which contains parts of Miami-Dade County … Besides Artiles’ tough challenge, however, Bullard faces another obstacle in 2016 — a primary challenge from recent GOP convert Ana Rivas Logan, who joined the race June 1.

BOB CORTES BANKS $20.5K FOR MAY IN HOUSE DISTRICT 30 RACE via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political Observer – He’s raised $145K for the campaign and crosses the $150K mark for the campaign with in-kind contributions. His opponent, Attorney Ryan Yadav, raised $2K last month for about $19K for the campaign. He’s running a largely self-funded campaign with $75K in loans made to his campaign. He’s currently running unopposed in the Democratic primary.

ROSS SPANO LEADS ALL CANDIDATES IN FUNDRAISING IN HD 59 RACE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Spano, running for re-election … raised $20,250 in May, and has now raised more than $121,000 in his campaign coffers. Spano will face the winner of the Aug. 30 Democratic primary between Rene Frazier and Naze Sahebzamani. Frazier, who has received financial support from the Florida Democratic Party in her race, raised $11,798 in May, and has raised $94,389 to date. Sahebzamani raised $1,792 in May, and has raised $26,811 to date.

— “Consumers for Smart Solar forks over $6.5M in ad buys last month, contributions slow” via Florida Politics

— “$31K May haul for Travis Hutson for SD 7 re-election bid” via Florida Politics

— “Dennis Baxley leading SD 12 rivals in fundraising” via Florida Politics

SAVE THE DATE: State Rep. Kathleen Peters is holding a fundraiser Tuesday, June 21, in her re-election effort to House District 69. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at the Green bench brewing Company, 1133 Baum Ave. N. in St. Petersburg.

SAVE THE DATE: State Rep. Paul Renner of House District 24 and Sen. Travis Hutson of Senate districts 7 will be holding a joint fundraising reception Thursday, June 23, in support of their re-election efforts. Event begins 4 p.m. at the Olive Garden at Palm Coast Landing, 5294 FL-100 in Palm Coast. Suggested minimum contribution is $40 per person ($20 to Renner; $20 to Hutson). RSVP to Katie Ballard at or 954-803-3942; Breanna Jordan at or 203-313-4695.

A HEARTLESS DECISION BY ST. PETE COULD CHANGE WORKERS’ COMP IN FLORIDA via John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times – The Supreme Court specifically ruled that a law imposing a time limit on temporary benefits was unconstitutional, and one justice suggested the Legislature had passed so many other laws limiting benefits that the entire system is now rigged in favor of businesses … this will almost certainly cause workers’ comp insurance premiums to rise for businesses throughout Florida. All because St. Pete chose not to pay Brad Westphal benefits even though he was clearly unfit to return to work … This story goes back to 2009, when Westphal was part of a team responding to a routine fire call in a home. Westphal suffered a fluke, but catastrophic, injury that has since led to five back surgeries, three knee surgeries, partial paralysis in his left leg and constant pain. The problem in 2012 was that the city’s hand-picked doctor would not clear Westphal to return to work, but also would not rule he was eligible for permanent disability benefits. Since the state had changed the maximum time limit on temporary benefits from five years to two, Westphal was caught in limbo. He had no benefits, and yet could not work. Facing financial crisis, he raided his savings and retired early to draw a pension. “The city followed the law as it existed at the time,” said Jeannine Williams, chief assistant city attorney, who was not part of the original case. While the city had the law on its side, it showed no evidence of compassion. Or moral responsibility.

FLORIDA A&M PRESIDENT COULD BE FORCED OUT BY NEXT YEAR via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – Florida A&M University President Elmira Mangum, who was hired to steer the school after the fallout of the death of a school marching band member, may soon be out of job. Trustees at the university … refused to vote on whether to extend Mangum’s current three-year contract, a decision that means she must leave by April 2017. Mangum’s two years at FAMU have been turbulent and marred by power struggles with trustees as the former Cornell University official grappled with the politics and practices of running a public university in Florida … After the vote, Mangum said she would not resign and said she remained hopeful that trustees would ultimately decide to keep her in her position. “If they want to move Florida A&M University forward, I am hoping they will stay with my administration,” Mangum said. After the attempt to oust her last fall failed, some of the trustees involved resigned and others were not reappointed, which resulted in turnover among more than half of the board. But recently there has been more strife, including a lawsuit over an effort by the administration to nullify a student election and a letter this week from former FAMU presidents asking that the board not renew Mangum’s contract. Trustees … heard from a long line of faculty members, graduate students and alumni who appeared divided over Mangum’s future.

FLORIDA ZIKA VIRUS UPDATE via – As of Friday, there were three new travel-related cases, including two in Miami-Dade and one in Pasco counties. Eight cases are still exhibiting symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms associated with the Zika virus last between seven to 10 days. There are now 137 total cases in Florida; by county (number of cases): Miami Dade (53), Broward (19), Orange (11), Palm Beach (8), Osceola (6), Alachua (4), Lee (5), Pinellas (4), Brevard (3), Hillsborough (4), Seminole (4), Polk (3), Collier (2), Clay (2), Pasco (2), St. Johns (2), Volusia (2) and a single case each in Escambia, Martin and Santa Rosa with 38 cases involving pregnant women. The DOH recommends women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant postpone travel to Zika affected areas. The department also urges Floridians to drain standing water weekly, no matter how seemingly small. A couple drops of water in a bottle cap can be a breeding location for mosquitoes. Residents and visitors also need to use repellents when enjoying the Florida outdoors. Florida currently has the capacity to test 5,987 people for active Zika virus and 1,732 for Zika antibodies. The number for the Zika Virus Information Hotline is 1-855-622-6735.

BILL NELSON FILES NEW BILL AIMED AT GIVING MORE MONEY TO LOCAL MOSQUITO CONTROL BOARDS TO FIGHT ZIKA via Andrew Pantazi of the Florida Times-Union – For months, Nelson has been pleading with his colleagues in the Senate and the House to approve funding to fight Zika. Originally, the request was for $1.9 billion. That was changed to $1.1 billion in the Senate. Then the House proposed using money set aside for the fight against Ebola, about $622 million. “Not only am I frustrated, I’m outraged,” Nelson said about the House proposal. Nelson filed a new bill to grant $130 million to local mosquito-control boards. The Strengthening Mosquito Abatement for Safety and Health Act, or SMASH, is also sponsored by Sens. Angus King and Richard Burr … The bill heads to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. “There is only one thing we can do, and that is mosquito control,” he said. “Until we get a vaccine, or until we find a way to keep the mosquito from replicating, mosquito control is what it is.” Following Tropical Storm Colin, Nelson said, mosquitoes can flourish in Florida. “Therefore the opportunity for this becoming a pandemic is huge,” he said.

BEARS ROAMING NEIGHBORHOODS FUEL HUNT CONTROVERSY AS DECISION COULD COME LATER THIS MONTH via Teresa Stepzinski of the Florida Times-Union – Florida black bears are on the move — meandering through Northeast Florida neighborhoods recently including a scared and agitated 350-pound bruin relocated safely by state wildlife biologists after it took refuge up a tree for several hours at a townhome complex on Jacksonville’s Southside. It was among four bears reported during a three-day period in Clay or Duval residential areas from June 2-4. Such incidents and others like them statewide are almost certain to be at the forefront of contentious discussion in 10 days when the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission considers whether to authorize a statewide bear hunt this fall.

FLORIDA POLICE SEEK MOTIVE FOR KILLING OF ‘THE VOICE’ SINGER via Mike Schneider and Frazier Moore of The Associated Press – Christina Grimmie was a vivacious, outgoing singer whose career was born on social media and propelled toward the big time by television. She didn’t consider herself a famous person, not like the judges on “The Voice,” where she competed, but she had a following that was as enthusiastic about her music as she was. Kevin Loibl wasn’t like her. While she was a YouTube star, he seemed to be a shadow of Grimmie’s online presence. He left little trace online. The two apparently had no personal connection to one another until Friday night when police said Loibl traveled 100 miles from his home in St. Petersburg to an Orlando concert venue. There, he shot Grimmie as she was signing autographs for fans after performing. He then fatally shot himself after being tackled by Grimmie’s brother, Marcus. Grimmie died several hours later … Millions of people, far more than those who loved her for her music, were shocked and saddened by her death. “She was doing a meet-and-greet, just signing autographs and selling merchandise. This white male approached her and opened fire, striking her,” Orlando Police Chief John Mina said … “There is no indication that he knew her. We’re looking into that to try to find a motive for the crime.” Detectives were searching Loibl’s cellphone and social media accounts looking for clues as to a motive, Mina said, but they weren’t aware the suspect had stalked Grimmie.

TAMPA BYPASSED IN APPROVED U.S. FLIGHTS TO CUBA via The Associated Press – Airlines — American, Frontier, JetBlue, Silver Airways, Southwest and Sun Country — were approved by the Department of Transportation for 155 roundtrip flights per week. They’ll fly from five U.S. cities to nine cities in Cuba other than Havana. U.S. law still prohibits tourist travel to Cuba, but a dozen other categories of travel are permitted, including family visits, official business, journalist visits, professional meetings and educational and religious activities. The Obama administration has eased rules to the point where travelers are now free to design their own “people-to-people” cultural exchanges with little oversight. Most of the airline service is expected to begin this fall and early winter … The routes approved … were not contested because there was less interest among U.S. airlines in flying to Cuban locations other than Havana. The routes include service from Miami, Chicago, Philadelphia, Minneapolis and Fort Lauderdale. The Cuban destinations are Camaguey, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo, Cienfuegos, Holguin, Manzanillo, Matanzas, Santa Clara and Santiago de Cuba.

‘WAR ON PUBLIC RECORDS,’ WARNS TOP SCRIBE CAROL MARBIN MILLER via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – There is a war on against Florida’s open records law and the press and public are losing, investigative reporter Miller warned newspaper journalists … the Florida Legislature is brazenly passing far too many exemptions; and government bureaucrats and top officials are getting far too emboldened in refusing records requests, even if they’re not justified by those exemptions, because the press is no longer capable of being aggressive enough in protecting rights to public records. “The people and agencies and departments we all cover know this is our Achilles’ heel,” she said. “We cannot hold public officials accountable, we cannot do our jobs, without access to the records that tell how they do their jobs.” Officials, she said, are getting brazen about stonewalling, price-gouging and “making up exemptions” — “much of the time they just dare us to sue them … They know that the big newspapers can’t afford to do this very often, and the small ones can’t afford to do it at all … There is a war on [Florida Statutes Chapter] 119 right now that we’re losing.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to our friends Sally BradshawMike Fasano, Matt Lettelleir, Rick Minor, and Darden Rice. Celebrating today is Sen. David Simmons and one of the best, Allison Carvajal.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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