ORLANDO, Fla. – The OnePulse Foundation released video over the weekend from October 12th that showed what they say is a man in a wheelchair purposely setting fire to the Interim Pulse Memorial.
The video was recorded on 24-hour surveillance video last month, lasts about 20 minutes and shows where a small fire was set, damaging 3 banners, including one which had pictures of all 49 victims of the 2016 mass shooting.
“We are working with the two families to replace their banners and will also replace the third banner too,” said Scott Bowman, Chief of Communications for the OnePulse Foundation.
“This guy had a lot of nerve to do that and then slowly wheel away in a wheelchair,” Pulse survivor Orlando Torres said.
The incident is raising questions regarding security at the sight, which President Joe Biden designated a National Memorial back in June.
According to Bowman, however, the federal designation “recognizes the Pulse nightclub site as a place of national historical importance and the deadliest attack on the LGBTQ community in American History”.
That designation does not include federal support dollars, Bowman added as the site is not part of the U.S. National Park System. The OnePulse Foundation has for the last two years applied for FEMA grants to help with security on the property, with no avail Bowman said.
“It’s not just a banner, it’s the soul of and inspiration of many of us that suffered and prayed and hoped it doesn’t happen to anyone else,” Torres said.
Because of that, the OnePulse Foundation relies on a local security company that is on sight with a marked car at all times of the day, with security cameras recording 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, Bowman said.
“We went through our internal process and also involved our security and surveillance companies and worked with OPFD before releasing the information to the public,” Bowman said when asked why the surveillance video was not released until a month after the fire.
U.S. Rep. Val Demings, who championed Pulse’s designation as a national memorial, released a statement about the fire. It reads:
“Anyone who vandalized the memorial deserves to be put under jail. The survivors have been through enough pain and suffering. There is no excuse. In 2016, this crime motivated by hate took the lives of 49 people. As Orlando’s former chief of police, the safety of every person in our community has always been my highest priority, and any act of hate against anyone must not be tolerated. I am glad for the work we have done to establish federal recognition for the Pulse Memorial, and will continue to work with all relevant partners to ensure that we honor the victims of Pulse and that every person in our community feels safe living here in Central Florida.”
“I spent three and half hours in that restroom with that gunman and I lost a lot of friends that evening,” Torres said.
The OnePulse Foundation is asking anyone who may recognize the man in the video to please call the OPD information line at 407-246-2470 and reference case number 2021-003-693-96.