This weekend will go down in history in the USA, but not for the best reasons. President Obama confirmed today that the mass shooting in Orlando is the worst in US history. At the time of this writing there are 50 dead with the very strong possibility that the toll will rise. More than 50 are seriously injured, some critically. The mayhem was caused, as near as can be determined, by a single shooter who entered a gay nightclub, Pulse, near Orlando’s downtown area just as the club was preparing to close around 2 AM.
The shooter, identified as Omar Mateen, a US born citizen of Afghani parents, was killed after police swat team members entered the building following a standoff. By that time he had exacted havoc inside the club, killing and wounding more than a 100 people who had come to the club to have a good time. In the aftermath as police and FBI sought information about Mateen, they received evidence that he had placed a call to 911 during which time he apparently pledged allegiance to Daesh, better known as ISIS. A news agency associated with that terrorist group has identified Mateen as an ISIS fighter but did not claim responsibility for the attack. Mateen’s father said his son was disgusted by public displays of affection by gay individuals and said further his son was.not motivated by religion.
With the evidence available so far, it is more than reasonable to categorize the mass shooting as both hate crime and domestic terrorism. Many questions are yet to be answered. Perhaps one of the most significant is a determination of Mateen’s act as inspired by or directed by Daesh.
Mateen had been employed by a security firm with Homeland contracts. He possessed security and firearms licenses. ATF investigations have confirmed that Mateen legally purchased two weapons, a handgun and an AR15 type long gun within the past ten days or so. FBI has confirmed that Mateen came to their attention twice in recent years. He was interviewed on both occasions and on both occasions the file was close for lack of substantive evidence that he was involved in terrorist actions.
The big question, no doubt on the minds of many people, is this: was he an imminent threat for conducting a terrorist act? The answer appears to be an unequivocal Unknown, thus NO. That circumstance is perhaps the most difficult situation facing intelligence and police authority around the world. Single individuals acting in privacy to plot some kind of act against soft targets are nearly impossible to identify and track.
FBI and Police spokesmen reiterated time and again today that the best solution is for citizens to report suspicious behavior so that it can be checked out. Only in this kind of watchfulness can the forces, which are intended to protect us, have any chance at all of actually preventing soft target attacks. Soft targets themselves need to be more proactive. For example, metal detectors at the front door, indeed at every access point would make a significant difference.
I’d like to make an observation here, not directly connected to the shooter and his actions. I am a former broadcast journalist, mea culpa perhaps. As I watched media coverage of the mass shooting I once again became disturbed by the way in which media jumped very quickly to conclusions on the flimsiest threads of factual evidence. The mere whisper of a factual idea seems to send reporters these days into a rush to judgment. That is not how I was taught to report the news. Facts must be checked and doubled checked before being reported. Opinion is to be left to editorialists and not to be included in the reporting. I saw very little of that discriminating attention in today’s reporting. I am saddened that journalism has sunk to such levels.
Those of you who read my blog also know that I am a novelist. I’ve written The Chechen’s Revenge, where the terrorist was identified partly because of chance, partly because of minute mistakes that added up to viable conclusions. That’s close to reality. Investigations take time and patience. Small details must be collected and assembled into a whole. In my second novel, A Prairie Vendetta, murder will occur, perhaps more than one. It is certain that the main antagonist, one Francois LaMontagne will be seen by Chief Investigator Sean-Guy O’Dwyer-Lariviere as a likely multiple murderer. How will he be caught? Well I can’t tell you. That would be a spoiler. Stay tuned as I’ve still got lots of writing to do yet. I’ll let you know when its done.
Thanks for your support friends. Good reading.
Ron Stotyn, PhD