2 years after Pulse: A new memorial, lawsuits, open FBI investigation
49 people killed, 50 others injured June 12, 2016
ORLANDO, Fla. – Two years ago on June 12 at 2:02 a.m., Orlando was forever changed.
On Tuesday, the city and Pulse nightclub will remember the 49 people who were killed and continue to support the more than 50 others who were shot or injured.
At noon, a bell will toll 49 times at the First United Methodist Church marking the 49 lives taken. Later in the day, a remembrance ceremony and community gathering will happen at the new Pulse memorial beginning at 7 p.m.
There are several locations around Orlando marking the anniversary through art and artifacts. The Orange County History Center will display the crosses built for each victim until Oct. 14. The center is offering free admission through Saturday.
This past year brought several events that made the continuous healing process harder.
Seventeen students and teachers were killed Feb. 14 in a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. The survivors of both the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and Pulse met at the nightclub.
The group of students stopped at the former nightclub turned makeshift memorial on their way home from attempting to ask Florida lawmakers to make policy changes to Florida gun laws and increase school security.
In March, the Pulse gunman’s wife, Noor Salman, was acquitted on federal charges of aiding and abetting Omar Mateen in the terror attack. The trial, held in the federal courthouse in Orlando 2 miles from where the attack took place, required many pieces of graphic evidence to be shown in court to prove that a terror attack had occurred at Pulse.
The evidence also led to answers that some families said were the reason they attended.
Federal prosecutors revealed during closing arguments that Mateen intended to target Disney Springs the night of June 11, but was deterred by law enforcement officers at the Disney property. Cellphone and Google search records revealed that Mateen ended up at Pulse, after searching "downtown Orlando nightclubs" and likely did not know the club catered to the LGBTQ community.
Pulse owner and OnePULSE Foundation founder Barbara Poma and many victims’ families were present for the three-week trial.
The jury’s verdict was met with anger and confusion.
"This verdict cannot and will not divide us,” Poma said after the decision was announced. “The survivors, families, and first responders as well as the community of Orlando and everyone around the world must now focus on the work ahead of us.”
Despite the end of the federal trial, officials with the Federal Bureau of Investigation say the shooting remains an open and active investigation.
A month before the second anniversary of the shooting, the temporary memorial at Pulse opened to the public. It was the first time mourners and visitors had had an official place to leave tokens and write notes at the South Orange Avenue location since the FBI erected a fence around the club hours after the shooting.
The temporary memorial includes new landscaping, benches, walkways and a memorial wall. Poma said many of the supplies were donated after companies learned what the items were for.
Toward the end of 2017, the OnePULSE Foundation began taking public comment in an online poll and through public forums about what the future permanent memorial and museum will look like.
Poma and the OnePULSE board are working with experts from around the country who have planned memorials after mass tragedies in their communities, including Oklahoma City and New York City.
A week before the two-year mark, more than 35 victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre and their lawyers filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Orlando, the Orlando Police Department and the OPD officer working security the night of the shooting.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants -- the city, OPD and Orlando police Officer Adam Gruler -- violated the constitutional rights of those injured and killed in the shooting.
The legal action may take years to make its way through the courts system.
Follow Clickorlando.com coverage of events marking the 2nd year since the Pulse nightclub shooting at Clickorlando.com/Pulse.
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