Man Fatally Shoots 49 in Orlando Nightclub, Killed by Police

Pulse nightclub logoA man fatally shot 49 people in an Orlando, Florida nightclub on Sunday, June 12th.

According to police, the shooter was 29-year-old Omar Mir Seddique Mateen of Fort Pierce, Florida. Mateen entered the PULSE nightclub at about 2:00 a.m. According to the Orlando Police Department (OPD) in a news release, an Orlando Police Officer who was working at the Pulse Nightclub that night responded to the shots minutes later. The officer and Mateen exchanged gunfire before Mateen continued firing shots in other areas of the club. Police said the incident was a hostage situation at that point.

According to OPD Chief John Mina, authorities decided to enter the club at 5:00 a.m. in order to bring the hostages to safety. Officers safely rescued 30 hostages. SWAT officers and Mateen engaged in gunfire, and Mateen was killed. According to Trevor Velinor, who is the Assistant Special Agent In Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Tampa Field Office, Mateen had bought the firearms legally within a week of the shooting. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is conducting the Officer Involved Shooting investigation. The 11 OPD officers that were involved in the shooting were relieved of duty, which is standard for officers that have been involved in a shooting.

Along with the 49 people that were killed, 53 other people were injured. On Sunday afternoon, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said the following, “This is probably the most difficult day in the history of Orlando.”

The City of Orlando website released the names of the 49 victims on Sunday. The following people perished in the shooting: Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old; Amanda Alvear, 25 years old; Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old; Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old; Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old; Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old; Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old; Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old; Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old; Cory James Connell, 21 years old; Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old; Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old; Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old; Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old; Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old; Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old; Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old; Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old; Frank Hernandez, 27 years old; Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old; Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old; Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old; Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old; Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old; Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old; Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old; Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old; Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old; Kimberly Morris, 37 years old; Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old; Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old; Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old; Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old; Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old; Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old; Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old; Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old; Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old; Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old; Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old; Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old; Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old; Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old; Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old; Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old; Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old; Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old; Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old; and Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old.

President Obama issued a statement after he was briefed about the shooting. His statement may be read in part below:

“THE PRESIDENT:  I just had the opportunity to get the latest briefing from FBI Director Comey, as well as Deputy Attorney General Yates and the rest of my national security team about the tragedy that took place in Orlando.  They’re going to be doing a more extensive briefing around noon — just a little bit after noon over at FBI headquarters.  So I will allow them to go into all the details, but I thought it was important for you to hear directly from me.

First of all, our hearts go out to the families of those who have been killed.  Our prayers go to those who have been wounded.  This is a devastating attack on all Americans.  It is one that is particularly painful for the people of Orlando, but I think we all recognize that this could have happened anywhere in this country.  And we feel enormous solidarity and grief on behalf of the families that have been affected.

The fact that it took place at a club frequented by the LGBT community I think is also relevant.  We’re still looking at all the motivations of the killer.  But it’s a reminder that regardless of race, religion, faith or sexual orientation, we’re all Americans, and we need to be looking after each other and protecting each other at all times in the face of this kind of terrible act.

With respect to the killer, there’s been a lot of reporting that’s been done.  It’s important to emphasize that we’re still at the preliminary stages of the investigation, and there’s a lot more that we have to learn.  The one thing that we can say is that this is being treated as a terrorist investigation.  It appears that the shooter was inspired by various extremist information that was disseminated over the Internet.  All those materials are currently being searched, exploited so we will have a better sense of the pathway that the killer took in making the decision to launch this attack.

As Director Comey I think will indicate, at this stage we see no clear evidence that he was directed externally.  It does appear that, at the last minute, he announced allegiance to ISIL, but there is no evidence so far that he was in fact directed by ISIL.  And there also at this stage is no direct evidence that he was part of a larger plot.  In that sense, it appears to be similar to what we saw in San Bernardino, but we don’t yet know.  And this is part of what is going to be important in terms of the investigation.

As far as we can tell right now, this is certainly an example of the kind of homegrown extremism that all of us have been so concerned about for a very long time.  It also appears that he was able to obtain these weapons legally because he did not have a criminal record that, in some ways, would prohibit him from purchasing these weapons.  It appears that one of those weapons he was able to just carry out of the store — an assault rifle, a handgun — a Glock — which had a lot of clips in it.  He was apparently required to wait for three days under Florida law.  But it does indicate the degree to which it was not difficult for him to obtain these kinds of weapons.

Director Comey will discuss the fact that there had been some investigation of him in the past that was triggered, but as Director Comey I think will indicate, the FBI followed the procedures that they were supposed to and did a proper job.

At the end of the day, this is something that we are going to have to grapple with — making sure that even as we go after ISIL and other extremist organizations overseas, even as we hit their leadership, even as we go after their infrastructure, even as we take key personnel off the field, even as we disrupt external plots — that one of the biggest challenges we are going to have is this kind of propaganda and perversions of Islam that you see generated on the Internet, and the capacity for that to seep into the minds of troubled individuals or weak individuals, and seeing them motivated then to take actions against people here in the United States and elsewhere in the world that are tragic.  And so countering this extremist ideology is increasingly going to be just as important as making sure that we are disrupting more extensive plots engineered from the outside.

We are also going to have to have to make sure that we think about the risks we are willing to take by being so lax in how we make very powerful firearms available to people in this country.  And this is something that obviously I’ve talked about for a very long time.

My concern is that we start getting into a debate, as has happened in the past, which is an either/or debate.  And the suggestion is either we think about something as terrorism and we ignore the problems with easy access to firearms, or it’s all about firearms and we ignore the role — the very real role that that organizations like ISIL have in generating extremist views inside this country.  And it’s not an either/or.  It’s a both/and.

We have to go after these terrorist organizations and hit them hard.  We have to counter extremism.  But we also have to make sure that it is not easy for somebody who decides they want to harm people in this country to be able to obtain weapons to get at them.

And my hope is, is that over the next days and weeks that we are being sober about how we approach this problem, that we let the facts get determined by our investigators, but we also do some reflecting in terms of how we can best tackle what is going to be a very challenging problem not just here in this country, but around the world.

Again, my final point is just to extend our deepest sympathies to the families of those who were affected and to send our prayers to those who are surviving and are in hospitals right now, and their family members hoping that they get better very soon.”

You can read Obama’s full statement, including the Q&A session, here.


Cra-Z-Jewelz Ultimate Gem Jewelry Machine Recall

Cra Z Art logoThe following products were recently recalled by LaRose Industries: Shimmer N’ Sparkle Cra-Z-Art Cra-Z-Jewelz Gem Creations Ultimate Gem Machine, Shimmer N’ Sparkle Cra-Z-Art Cra-Z-Jewelz Gem Creations Gem Charm and Slider Bracelets, and My Look Cra-Z-Art Cra-Z-Jewelz Gem Creations Ultimate Gem Machine. The “Slider Bracelet” in the jewelry making kit has high lead levels. If it is ingested, lead can cause negative health effects. The jewelry machines were sold at Walmart, Kmart, Toys R Us, and more. You can read more about this recall here.

Five People Arrested in Connection with IRS Phone Scam

TIGTA logoOn Tuesday, May 24th, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) J. Russell George announced that five people were arrested as part of a continuing investigation into Internal Revenue Service (IRS) phone call scams.

According to George, the following people were arrested in Miami, Florida, by TIGTA agents on Monday, May 23rd: Roberto Fontanella Caballero, Dennis Delgado Caballero, Yaritza Espinosa Diaz, Jennifer Valerino Nunez, and Arnoldo Perez Mirabal. Their arrests went smoothly. Criminal complaints were filed against each suspect. On May 10th, 2016, criminal complaints were filed against Jennifer Nunez and Dennis Caballero in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. On May 16th, 2016, criminal complaints against Arnoldo Mirabal were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. On May 18th, 2016, criminal complaints were filed against Yaritza Diaz and Roberto Caballero in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.

Each suspect allegedly played a part in schemes in which IRS agents were impersonated and taxpayers were threatened with arrest if they did not pay back taxes they were made to believe they owed. Court documents state that the suspects allegedly got nearly $2 million from over 1,500 victims.

George issued the following statement regarding the arrest of the five suspects, “These arrests indicate that TIGTA is making significant progress in our investigation of the IRS impersonation scam that continues to sweep the country, resulting in reported taxpayer losses of more than $36 million, averaging more than $5,700 in losses per taxpayer… The scammers are relentless and so are we… Our investigators will not rest until we have brought each individual involved to justice.”

Court documents state that the five suspects “knowingly conspired with others to commit wire fraud by falsely impersonating IRS agents and demanding money under such false pretenses.” People who said they were from the IRS called the victims and threatened to arrest them if they did not pay right away. In addition, the callers intimidated the victims in order to get them to wire money via MoneyGram, Walmart-2-Walmart, and more.

George reminded taxpayers that IRS and United States Treasury officials will never demand payments through wire services. George said, “No legitimate United States Treasury or IRS official will demand that anyone make payments via MoneyGram, Western Union, Walmart–2–Walmart, or any other money wiring method, for any debt to the IRS or the Department of the Treasury.” He went on to say, “Nor will the Department of the Treasury demand that anyone pay a debt or secure one by using iTunes cards or other prepaid debit cards… Hang up on these fraudulent callers and go to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) scam reporting page to report the call.”

The suspects’ identities were verified through investigations by TIGTA Special Agents. The Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging led by Chairman Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Ranking Member Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) helped with one of the investigations. Further legal action and prosecution of the suspects will be done by the Office of the U.S. Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice.

The arrests of the five suspects come after a man who was considered to be the “ringleader” of a similar IRS phone scam was sentenced to 175 months in Manhattan Federal Prison on July 8th, 2015. Sahil Patel ran several “call centers” which were located in India. Through the call centers, Patel and others involved in the scam impersonated law enforcement officials in the U.S. and threatened to arrest victims in order to get money out of them. In addition to a prison sentence, Patel had to forfeit $1 million. Patel, along with his co-conspirators, got $1.2 million or more from their victims.

The IRS phone scam has hit our area as recently as April.


Gold Medal, Wondra, Signature Kitchens Flour Recall

Gold Medal Flour logoSome Gold Medal, Wondra, and Signature Kitchens flour has been recalled. These products may be contaminated with E. coli O121. The flour was sold at the following stores: Albertsons, Safeway, Acme, Vons, Shaws, Randalls, and Jewel. Around half of 38 people across 20 states that have become ill due to E. coli reported making something with flour at home before getting sick. You can read more about this recall here.