ORLANDO, Fla. – The Central Florida community sadly knows all-too-well the pain and hurt that many people are enduring in Colorado Springs after a mass shooting over the weekend at Club Q, a gay nightclub.
News 6 saw people dropping off flowers at the Pulse Memorial in Orlando on Monday, and many showed up just to grieve and console each other.
The fatal shooting killed five people and injured 17 others. A patron at the bar managed to stop the shooting when they grabbed the gunman’s firearm, hit him with it and pinned him down until police arrived.
Online court records showed that 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich faced five murder charges and five charges of committing a bias-motivated crime causing bodily injury in the attack at Club Q. He remained hospitalized with unspecified injuries, police said.
Each day brings new tears for Christine Leinonen. Her only son, Christopher Andrew Leinonen, was one of the victims killed back in 2016 in the Pulse Massacre. She said learning about the recent mass shooting at Club Q brought back painful memories.
“I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy to have them go through a mass shooting,” Christine Leinonen said. “All my son wanted to do, all the kids wanted at Club Q in Colorado, all they wanted to do was to be happy.”
It’s a pain that still hurts, and many in Central Florida are familiar with it.
“There’s isn’t any reason why we can’t stop these mass shootings,” Leinonen said. “The cruelty of my son having to be shot to begin with and then lying at the dance floor bleeding to death, and no one was there to help him.”
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Brandon Wolfe, a Pulse survivor, also works for Equality Florida, a group that advocates for rights for the LGBT community.
“I long for the day that I don’t wake up to panicked text messages or phone calls, desperate to find out if our friends were among those now laying under white sheets (on) the floor of a safe space,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe said he and many others were reaching out to LGBT organizations in Colorado to offer them support and resources, but he said there’s more to be done in the long term.
“The problem is that we have empowered hatred toward the LGBTQ community,” Wolfe said. “Step two is to figure out how we need to push back against this dehumanizing rhetoric that brings us to this place.”
We’re getting statements and responses from local organizations and elected leaders about the tragedy in Colorado.
“It is unbelievable that another senseless mass shooting has occurred in America. We offer our prayers to the victims’ families and the entire Colorado Springs community as they traverse their recovery phase,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said. “Just today, I recognized Dr. George Wallace, CEO for the LGBT+ Center of Orlando (The Center) as the 2022 Orange County Mayor’s Citizen of the Year for the myriad of services offered by The Center Post Pulse Night Club Massacre in Orlando.”
Mayor Buddy Dyer also expressed his thoughts on Twitter over the weekend:
As we learn more about the horrific tragedy at the nightclub, our city sends its love and support to Colorado Springs today. I also know this is heartbreaking news for members of Orlando’s LGBTQ+ community and so many others here. Please know our entire community is here for you.— Mayor Buddy Dyer (@orlandomayor) November 20, 2022
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s office said the Chief of Staff reached out to the staff of Colorado Springs to offer condolences, as well as any assistance they would need after the tragedy.
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