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Three years ago a gunman (Omar Mateen) opened fire at the gay nightclub in Orlando (Pulse) on Latin night killing 49 people. That was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history at the time. The gunman, who pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State, was killed in a shootout with police after the attack. Members of central Florida's congressional delegation are now introducing legislation that would designate the nightclub where the attack happened as a national memorial. According to New York Times, U.S. Reps. Darren Soto and Stephanie Murphy, both Democrats, said at a ceremony outside the former nightclub that the designation will preserve and protect Pulse for future generations and give it the federal recognition it deserves.
A nonprofit has been established by a Pulse Owner, Barbara Poma, in order to raise funds for a memorial and museum at the site, scheduled to open in 2022. As Fox News reports, Darren Soto said the national memorial designation would allow the Pulse site to become part of the national park system while still allowing for the nonprofit to maintain control over it. Also backing the bill is U.S. Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla. "This is an important step in preserving an LGBT historic landmark at a time when many of these sites are being destroyed," Soto said. What happened at Pulse was a horrific attack on innocent people and it should raise awareness of growing homophobia all around the world.
The ceremony in front of the club was interrupted briefly by the mother of Christopher "Drew" Leinonen, who was killed at the nightclub, when owner Barbara Poma came to the speakers’ podium. Christine Leinonen shouted at Poma, blaming her for inadequate security at the nightclub. Two police officers escorted her out of the ceremony where she talked with two state lawmakers and a city commissioner. Leinonen and other victims' relatives and survivors filed a federal lawsuit claiming the city and police didn't do enough to try to stop the shooter. Authorities say that an extra-duty police officer working at the nightclub fired at Mateen outside Pulse but did not pursue him inside. The lawsuit was dismissed but the survivors and family members are appealing.
Leinonen and other families have also sued Poma and her husband for negligence and wrongful death in state court; that lawsuit is pending. "My son's blood is on her hands, and she's walking around like she's the hero," said Leinonen, who spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2016, as Fox News reports. "This is Orlando. This is where everyone wants to be in a fairy tale. Well, guess what? My son wasn't in a fairy tale. My son was in a real-life horror movie."