Democrat says alert system might prevent attacks
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - The latest on the Florida nightclub shooting.
The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee says he wants to explore the potential for a system that would trigger an alert when someone who was previously on a terrorism watch list wants to buy a gun.
Rep. Adam Schiff of California says an alert would allow law enforcement officials to consider anew whether an investigation ought to be reopened to determine whether the person who had expressed "radical thoughts is at the point of taking those into action."
He spoke with reporters following a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill by Obama administration officials about the investigation into the Orlando gunman.
Schiff declined to provide details about the briefing conducted by FBI Director James Comey and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. But Schiff did say there is no clear answer yet on whether there were additional factors aside an allegiance to Islamic State militants that motivated the gunman, Omar Mateen.
Rep. Mac Thornberry, the Texas Republican who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, said investigators are looking into everything that may have motivated the gunman.
A Missouri county has changed course and lowered its flags in honor of the 49 victims in the shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
Presiding Commissioner Sam Bushman said Cole County's public flags were at half-staff Tuesday despite earlier disagreement with another commissioner.
Flags weren't lowered immediately after President Barack Obama's proclamation to do so. A county ordinance calls to lower flags upon executive orders when military or government officials die or on days such as Memorial Day.
The two opposing commissioners had told the Jefferson City News-Tribune that they're sympathetic to victims. But one worried lowering flags too frequently could take away the honor of the gesture.
Bushman disagreed. Another commissioner later changed his mind.
Bushman says the initial decision wasn't unusual: Flags weren't lowered after attacks in Brussels or Paris.
Vice President Joe Biden says the attack on a gay nightclub in Florida is becoming "clearer and more straight-forward."
Biden said he had been briefed at a national security meeting shortly before making the comments at an unrelated event in New York City.
He said federal officials were "getting to the bottom of the tragedy." He says it is "becoming clearer and more straight-forward than a lot of us even thought."
He did not elaborate on that comment, but said President Barack Obama would say more in the coming days.
Biden also praised the work of the New York Police Department. He says the agency surpasses every other city in the nation in terms of cooperation and intelligence sharing.
The medical examiner in Orlando has started releasing the bodies of the Pulse nightclub shooting victims to their families.
A spokeswoman for the medical examiner in Orlando says at least 20 bodies had been sent to funeral homes by Tuesday afternoon.
The medical examiner and his team were expected to finish autopsies on all 49 shooting victims by Tuesday.
The next of kin of all 49 victims had been notified late Monday.
Autopsies were required for all the victims since their deaths are classified as homicides.
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs says she supports building a memorial in Orlando that is a tribute not just to the victims of the shootings at the Pulse nightclub, but one that honors gay history.
Jacobs, who is the mayor of the county that is home to Orlando, said Tuesday after a county commission meeting that the attack wasn't just the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history but also the biggest massacre of gays and lesbians.
Jacobs says the memorial wouldn't be a plaque but a physical place in Orlando that people could enter and reflect.
The Orange County mayor says the shooting is an opportunity to open the hearts and minds of people whose beliefs or background may have prevented them from embracing members of the LGBT community.
Jamaica's attorney general says a decision to fly the rainbow flag at the U.S. Embassy following the Orlando gay nightclub massacre is an affront to the island's anti-sodomy laws.
On her social media accounts, Marlene Malahoo Forte condemned the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history but says she found the Kingston embassy's decision to fly the rainbow flag "disrespectful of Jamaican laws."
The attorney general described this as her personal view.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Embassy said it is flying the rainbow flag "in solidarity with the victims who were targeted for being members of the LGBT community." U.S. embassies across the globe have also been flying the pride flag following the Sunday violence.
Jamaica has longstanding laws criminalizing gay sex between men. Stigma against LGBT citizens is common.
Walt Disney Company is donating $1 million to a fund established by Orlando officials to help people affected by the nightclub shooting.
Disney officials also said they would match dollar-for-dollar individual contributions by the company's employees to the OneOrlando fund, established by Mayor Buddy Dyer following Sunday's shooting that killed 49 people and wounded 53 others.
Disney has about 74,000 employees in the Orlando area, which is home to its Walt Disney World resort.
Disney employees also have been encouraged to donate blood at five locations on the resort property. The company also is providing complimentary hotel accommodations to family and friends of victims.
The FBI's director has said the agency is trying to determine whether the Orlando nightclub shooter had recently scouted Walt Disney World and other locations as potential targets.
An official says 23 of the 49 victims killed in the massacre at a gay Florida nightclub shooting are Puerto Ricans.
Puerto Rico's justice secretary, Cesar Miranda, hasn't specified how many were born in the U.S. mainland to Puerto Rican parents and how many had moved there from the island.
He issued a statement decrying "all the social problems that led to this massacre: intolerance about gender preferences , discrimination against Latin Americans in the United States and broad access to weapons in that country."
On Monday, Mexico's president said three people killed were citizens of his country.
The tragedy hit the gay and Hispanic communities especially hard. Sunday was Latino Night at the Pulse nightclub.
One of the survivors of the nightclub shooting says she went from having the time of her life with her friends to the worst night of her life in a matter of minutes.
Twenty-year-old Patience Carter talked about the night from Florida Hospital Orlando on Tuesday where she is recovering from a gunshot wound. Carter says she was with a group of friends at the Pulse nightclub when she heard the gunshots on early Sunday.
Carter says one of her friends was killed and another was also shot and has more severe injuries. She described hearing the gunman's calls to 911 in which he said he was shooting because he wanted America to stop bombing his country. She says he spoke in Arabic and pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State.
The gunman was born in New York and his parents were born in Afghanistan.
She also described a person that she didn't know shielding her from being hit as the hostage situation came to a close and the gunman was killed by police.
Before speaking, Carter read a poem that ended with the words: "The guilt of being alive is heavy."
A survivor who hid in the handicapped stall as a gunman attacked a gay Florida nightclub says he had to drag himself out to safety and is just grateful to be alive.
From a bed Tuesday at the hospital that treated him, Angel Santiago Jr. described to reporters how he survived the massacre. He says he got to club Pulse in Orlando about 12:30 a.m. Sunday. About 2 a.m., as the last drinks were served, he and the two friends he was with heard gunshots.
They made their way to the bathroom area and hid in the large stall. Santiago says about 15 people total were in there. He was shot in the left foot and right knee. The group tried to be quiet. He eventually dragged himself, unable to walk, out of the bathroom and toward police. He used his cellphone light to indicate his presence to officers, who soon grabbed him and got him outside.
He says he could see the bullet hole on one of his friends, who also is recovering. He says he never saw the shooter or heard him speak.
He says: "I don't even know how I'm alive today."
President Barack Obama says anti-Muslim rhetoric from presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is "not the America we want."
Obama is arguing that treating Muslim-Americans differently won't make the U.S. safer. He says it will make the country less safe by fueling the notion among followers of the Islamic State group that the West hates Muslims.
Obama lashed out a day after presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump doubled down on his proposal to temporarily ban foreign Muslims from entering the U.S.
Obama says the U.S. was founded on freedom of religion and that there are no religious tests in America.
He says such talk makes Muslim-Americans feel like their government is betraying them.
Obama commented after meeting with his national security advisers on the threat posed by IS. He also was briefed on the investigation into the Orlando nightclub shooting.
A Tennessee lawmaker says his office has received threats for planning to give away the same type of semi-automatic rifle used by a gunman in the massacre of 49 people at an Orlando nightclub.
Republican state Rep. Andy Holt, a staunch gun rights supporter, had offered the AR-15 as a door prize at a fundraiser before the shootings took place. Following heavy criticism in the aftermath of the attacks, he said he would give away a second gun.
State Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini on Monday said that the winner of the raffle could be "the next mass shooter."
Holt said his office was contacted repeatedly by an anonymous caller who said he was armed and threatened to pay the legislative office a visit on Tuesday.
A man who knew the Orlando nightclub shooter as a teenager says the student infuriated his peers by joking about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Robert Zirkle says he and Omar Marteen lived in Stuart, Florida, and rode the same bus, though they attended different schools.
Zirkle says he and his friends were generally on good terms with Mateen until 9/11. Zirkle says Mateen made airplane and explosion sounds and appeared to be joking about the attacks.
Zirkle says, "My group of friends told him it wasn't a joke, and if he didn't knock it off he was going to have problems."
Zirkle is now 29 and lives in Johnson City, Tennessee. He says he would see Mateen when both teens worked at the mall but didn't have much contact after those jobs.
Chick-fil-A employees in Orlando, Florida, were serving food this past Sunday after the massacre at a gay night club, even though the chain is normally closed on Sundays in a nod to the religious beliefs of its founder.
The Facebook page for a local Chick-fil-A says a few employees from at least one Orlando location made food for people waiting in line to donate blood after the massacre that left 49 dead and dozens more injured. Another location noted that it simply responded just like numerous other Orlando businesses and residents.
Chick-fil-A touched off protests by gay rights advocates in 2012 after its CEO Dan Cathy voiced support for "biblical families" and opposition to same-sex marriages. As it seeks to expand its national footprint, the company has tried to draw a distinction between its business and the beliefs of its ownership.
A law enforcement official says investigators who have spoken with the Orlando gunman's wife are looking into whether the two of them were recently at or outside the nightclub he attacked.
The official is familiar with the investigation, but was not authorized to discuss the investigation by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The official says investigators had been told that Mateen and his wife had been at the Pulse nightclub on a prior occasion and were trying to confirm the accuracy of that statement.
The official says the FBI has Mateen's phone and will try to use data from it to see if he had visited the club before.
The official says investigators have not ruled out charging anyone who may have had advance knowledge of the attack.
- Eric Tucker, Washington
The father of the gunman who attacked a gay Orlando nightclub says his son was not gay.
A U.S. official briefed on the case said Tuesday that the FBI is investigating reports that Omar Mateen had been a regular at the nightclub and had used gay dating apps. Investigators are looking into possible motives for the attack and have said Mateen appears to be a "homegrown extremist" who touted support not just for the Islamic State, but other radical groups that are its enemies.
Mateen's father, Seddique Mateen, said he never saw his son exhibit homophobic behavior except for one time in Miami when he saw two men kissing. The father answered questions from reporters on Tuesday at his home in Port Saint Lucie.
He added that his son's second wife, Noor Zahi Salman, returned to their apartment late Monday because she "needed clothes to wear." He said she is in shock, adding that she and his grandson are in Florida, but he didn't say where.
Asked about reports that his son celebrated the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he said that there may have been an incident at school, but he didn't want to discuss it in detail.
The owner of the Orlando nightclub where dozens of people were massacred says her club will be rebuilt as a tribute and will honor those who were killed, wounded or left grieving.
Barbara Poma told the Today show's Matt Lauer (http://on.today.com/1VXgCXj) that she "will not let hate win" in the aftermath of the shootings.
Poma said she named the club Pulse in honor of her brother, who died from AIDS in 1991. The name was a way of keeping his heartbeat alive. She wanted Pulse to be "a safe place" for the gay community.
She says the club will be rebuilt as a tribute to the people who lost their lives, as well as the survivors and their relatives.
She also says she can't stop imagining the terror felt by those inside the nightclub amid the killing.
A city-owned cemetery is donating free plots to the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.
Don Price is the sexton at Greenwood Cemetery in Orlando. He said Tuesday that the city is donating space to any of the victims' families. The cemetery was founded in 1880.
He says two families are already interested and have set up appointments to meet with the cemetery Tuesday.
Price says the county's medical examiner started releasing the first of the bodies Monday night.
A doctor at the hospital treating nightclub shooting victims says that of the six patients who remain in the intensive care unit, one or two are still "profoundly ill."
Dr. Michael Cheatham of Orlando Regional Medical Center says many of those patients are recovering from the mass shooting early Sunday.
But he adds: "The big question is what their long-term outcome will be."
He says he suspects they may survive but will likely have lasting impacts on their health and functionality.
A survivor of the Florida nightclub massacre is giving an emotional thank-you to staff at the hospital that treated him and other victims, and he says the gunman had to be "heartless" and "ruthless."
Angel Colon spoke alongside doctors Tuesday at Orlando Regional Medical Center. Nurse Megan Noblet told Colon that she think he was her second patient of the night as the flood of victims arrived. She described him as brave, and Colon told her and the other staff gathered, "I love you guys."
Asked his thoughts on the shooter, Colon said, "This person had to be heartless. ... This person is just enjoying doing this."
Colon made remarks in both English and Spanish at the news conference. The tragedy hit the city's gay and Hispanic communities especially hard. Sunday was Latino Night at the Pulse nightclub.
A doctor who has been treating the wounded from the Orlando nightclub shooting says he would be surprised if the death toll doesn't rise.
Dr. Michael Cheatham said at a news conference Tuesday that six people are still critically ill at the hospital. He says they are doing everything they can for them and he asked people to pray for them.
Forty-nine people were killed when a gunman attacked a gay nightclub on early Sunday. More than 50 people were wounded in the attack. The gunman died in a shootout with police.
A doctor who treated nightclub shooting victims says the massacre was "the largest disaster that we probably could have imagined."
Dr. Michael Cheatham of Orlando Regional Medical Center says hospital and trauma centers prepare for disasters, but "you can never prepare adequately."
Doctors at a Tuesday news conference praised the work of staff at the hospital, where six people remain "critically ill."
Cheatham says described great support at the hospital, saying there was "never a time we were without anything we needed." He also says the facility escalated rom two operating rooms to six within 30 to 60 minutes to care for the flood of patients.
Doctors at the Orlando hospital that treated nightclub massacre victims are describing a chaotic night of patient after patient arriving for trauma treatment.
At a news conference Tuesday at Orlando Regional Medical Center, doctors described "truckloads" and "ambulance-loads" of patients.
Dr. Kathryn Bondani says the first patient that arrived was relatively stable, and the staff hoped that others would be in a similar condition. But the doctors soon got about five patients in much worse shape.
Dr. Chadwick Smith choked up a bit talking about the night. He described calling in additional staff and telling them, "This is not a drill, this is not a joke."
He says everyone answered "I'll be right there," and dozens of doctors and nurses showed up to help.
A man who survived the nightclub shooting in Orlando says he thought "I'm next, I'm dead" as the gunman fired toward his head.
Angel Colon described the horrific night he survived during a news conference on Tuesday at the hospital. Appearing in a wheelchair with the doctors and nurses who treated him nearby, Colon talked about what happened early Sunday at the Pulse nightclub.
He says the gunman shot a girl next to him and then shot his hand and his hip. He says he pretended to be dead and the gunman kept firing his gun.
Colon says at times the gunman was shooting people who appeared that they had already been killed.
He thanked the hospital staff and said "I will love you guys forever."
A doctor says six people wounded in the Orlando nightclub shooting are "critically ill" at the hospital and another five patients are in "guarded" condition.
Dr. Michael Cheatham of Orlando Regional Medical Center made the announcement at a news conference Tuesday.
Cheatham says 16 patients at the hospital are in stable condition.
The people were wounded when a gunman opened fire at a gay nightclub early Sunday.
Family photos, drawings, blackboard messages, a Quran and books on Islam decorate the apartment where the shooter in the Orlando gay nightclub massacre lived with his wife.
Univision News reported the details and says it visited the home in Fort Pierce, Florida, on Monday when it was unoccupied. Univision reports that it was the morning after the FBI swept the apartment for evidence, and says the home was unlocked and not yet sealed off by crime-scene tape.
The report describes a blackboard message in the kitchen about an appointment at their 3-year-old son's school and a note with an Arabic phrase praising God.
Univision says that on the living room table was a document listing items investigators removed: 9 mm cartridges, an iPad mini, a Samsung phone, a Dell computer, a CD labeled with Mateen's name.
Mateen lived there with his second wife, Noor Salman.
An official says the FBI is investigating reports that the Orlando massacre shooter had been a regular at the gay nightclub he attacked and had used gay dating apps.
The U.S. official had been briefed on the investigation into 29-year-old gunman Omar Mateen. The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday.
The comments follow reports and comments from patrons at the Orlando club Pulse that Mateen was a regular there and tried to pick up men. Previously, his Afghan-immigrant father had suggested Mateen may have acted out of anti-gay hatred, and said his son got angry recently about seeing two men kiss.
-Eric Tucker in Washington
The hospital treating those wounded in the shooting spree at an Orlando, Florida, nightclub that left 49 victims dead plans to hold a news conference where doctors and patients will speak.
According to a news release from Orlando Regional Medical Center, eight surgeons will share their stories from the hours after the shooting began. Two patients will also recount their stories from that night.
The news conference is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.
In addition to the 49 deaths, dozens more were wounded when Omar Mateen opened fire at a gay nightclub early Sunday. He was eventually killed in a shootout with police.
The ex-wife of the shooter at a gay Florida nightclub says the man enjoyed nightlife, but she's not sure if he had any homosexual tendencies.
Sitora Yusufiy spoke to CNN on Tuesday from Denver.
She says: "When we had gotten married, he confessed to me about his past ... that he very much enjoyed going to clubs and the nightlife, and there was a lot of pictures of him. ... I feel like it's a side of him or a part of him that he lived, but probably didn't want everybody to know about."
The comments follow reports from customers at the gay nightclub that shooter Omar Mateen was seen there regularly. One told The Associated Press that Mateen tried to pick up men there.
Asked whether she thinks her ex-husband was gay, Yusufiy said: "I don't know. He never personally or physically made any indications while we were together of that. But he did feel very strongly about homosexuality."
She says it's possible he hid feelings about being gay.
The couple were married in 2009 and divorced two years later. She has said he was abusive.
Three Democrats in Congress say it was "unacceptable" that gay and bisexual men weren't able to donate blood after the shooting at a gay Orlando nightclub.
As hundreds rushed to blood banks after the shooting, rumors spread that no one would be turned away. However, the FDA bars blood donations from men who have had sex with a man in the previous year.
Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley's office issued a statement calling for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to "lift this prejudicial ban." Quigley is the vice-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. California Rep. Barbara Lee and Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin also signed the statement.
They say the Orlando shooting shows "how crucial it is for FDA to develop better blood donor policies that are based on science and on individual risk factors."
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh (jay) Johnson says Republican Donald Trump's proposal for a ban on immigration from countries with terrorist histories is impractical.
While declining to name Trump, Johnson condemned "overly simplistic suggestions" for dealing with the violence.
Appearing on ABC's "Good Morning America," Johnson defended President Barack Obama against Trump's charge that Obama has been too passive on the issue.
Johnson said that "I know from working with him for seven years that the president's No. 1 priority is the protection of Americans."
He added that authorities throughout the government continually reassess whether their strategy to combat this violence needs to be changed.
Johnson told ABC that protecting U.S. from attack is increasingly complicated in an era of "self-radicalization." He said "there's no indication" the Orlando attack was "terrorist-directed."
Officials with an agency that collects blood donations across much of Florida continue to urge people to give blood in the wake of the Orlando nightclub massacre.
Potential donors are asked to make appointments at their local blood banks.
OneBlood officials posted videos on Facebook showing snacks and beverages donated for people waiting in long lines to give blood. Spokeswoman Stephanie Zaurin says donors are coming "in record numbers."
U.S. Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman Tara Goodin said in an email to The Associated Press that the Interorganizational Disaster Task Force met Sunday and ensured that all immediate needs for blood were met.
Goodwin said the agency appreciated the widespread desire to donate blood after the shooting at Pulse. She said scheduling appointments to donate blood "will help replenish the blood supply in an organized manner, without overwhelming the system."
As they got back to work after the Sunday nightclub massacre, TV's late-night hosts faced the challenge of how to acknowledge it.
As in past tragedies, the jokesters shifted gears. Several opened their shows with apologies for departing from their customary monologues, instead voicing shock and sorrow.
"The Daily Show" host Trevor Noah pointed out that President Barack Obama has hosted 12 state dinners but 16 mass-shooting addresses. Noah raised the possibility that, without reasonable gun control, Obama should begin preparing Speech No. 17.
"The Late Show" host Stephen Colbert bemoaned "a national script" that seems to guide a nonproductive response to shootings. He declared that love could help Americans change that script.
Conan O'Brien, while noting that he had made a career-long policy of keeping political opinions to himself, expressed bewilderment that anyone is allowed to buy a semi-automatic assault rifle. He said, "These are weapons of war and they have no place in civilian life."
The office of the U.N. human rights chief is decrying "insufficient gun control" in the United States and urging its leaders "to live up to its obligations to protect its citizens."
In the wake of a gunman's deadly attack on a Florida nightclub, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein criticized "irresponsible pro-gun propaganda" in the U.S. claiming that firearms make society safer, "when all evidence points to the contrary." He questioned the ease with which people in the U.S. can obtain firearms and assault weapons like one used in Sunday's attack.
Citing a U.N. report on firearms in April, Zeid pointed to examples of how control of firearms in many countries led to a "dramatic reduction in violent crime."
Office spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters Tuesday in Geneva: "The problem is the guns."
Jim Van Horn said he was a frequent patron at Orlando's Pulse night club. He said another "regular" at the Florida gay bar was Omar Mateen, the man whose shooting rampage left 49 dead and dozens more wounded early Sunday in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Speaking to The Associated Press late Monday, 71-year-old Van Horn says he saw Mateen trying to pick up men at the club.
Van Horn said he met Mateen once. He said the younger man was telling him about his ex-wife.
Van Horn says some friends then called him away and told him they didn't want him talking to Mateen because "they thought he was a strange person."
Despite Mateen's pledge of support to the Islamic State, other possible explanations emerged, including questions of whether he was conflicted about his sexuality.
His ex-wife said he suffered from mental illness. And his Afghan-immigrant father suggested he may have acted out of anti-gay hatred.
Thousands in Orlando are mourning 49 people killed inside a gay nightclub as federal investigators examine possible motives for the gunman who committed the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
The White House and the FBI said 29-year-old Omar Mateen, an American born Muslim, appears to be a "homegrown extremist" who had touted support not just for the Islamic State, but other radical groups that are its enemies.
Meanwhile, Mateen's ex-wife says he suffered from mental illness. And his Afghan-immigrant father says his son got angry recently about seeing two men kiss.
Meanwhile, thousands gathered Monday night in downtown Orlando for a vigil to support victims and survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting on the lawn of Orlando's main performing arts venue.
(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
6/14/2016 11:29:54 AM (GMT -4:00)