Las Vegas shooting hits close to home for Pulse victims

Mass shooting victims, Orlando leaders react to massacre with empathy, shock

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist, Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - Orlando awoke to the news Monday that it no longer bears the horrible title of home to the "worst mass shooting in U.S. history" after a lone gunman opened fire on a Las Vegas crowd of 22,000 killing nearly 60 and injuring hundreds of others.

The gunman, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, who killed at least 50 people shot himself before officers entered his Mandalay Bay hotel room, according to Las Vegas police.

The gunman's brother, Eric Paddock, of Orlando, told News4Jax sister station News 6 "there is nothing" he knows of that could have caused his brother to do something so horrible.

The owner of the Pulse nightclub, Barbara Poma, and the onePULSE Foundation were among those to issue statements of condolences and shock Monday morning after hearing the news.

“Finding words to convey the depth of horror we are all witnessing in Las Vegas is just impossible," Poma said. "It is unimaginable that another mass shooting of even greater scope than that of Pulse nightclub could occur again in this country, but indeed, it has.”

The Foundation tweeted a reminder to donate blood, because like after the June 12 shooting in Orlando mass donations were needed as wounded were treated at local hospitals. With more than 400 at Las Vegas hospitals, the need will be even greater.

Pulse shooting survivor Rodney Sumter, a Jacksonville native, was rocked by painful memories Monday morning when he learned of the Las Vegas massacre, his mother told News4Jax.

“To have to relive that mental anguish again today -- to connect the two -- that's something he's really, really having an issue with,” Lenita Sumter said.

Sumter, who lives with his younger brother in Orlando, was shot three times -- once in the back and once in each arm -- during the nightclub terror attack that left 49 dead last year. He is engaged to be married and has two children..

His mother said the emotional toll is still high even more than a year later.

“He's a trooper when it comes down to the physical of it. He’s embraced all the surgerie. He's trying to live each day, but the mental stress of it all it gets to him,” she said.

Lenita Sumter said she and Rodney will continue fighting for stricter gun laws and praying for healing for country.

“Stop talking about gun violence and controlling it and be about it and actually do something about who are we allowing to get guns,” Lenita Sumter said.

Orlando offers expertise on mass shooting response to Las Vegas

"It is our unique responsibility to help them with the information we have," Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said during a news conference Monday.

Dyer said Orlando has offered help to Las Vegas officials in the form of knowledge and personnel to set up a family and victim assistance center for the concert shooting victims.

“Unfortunately, we have gained some expertise in what is required of the victims assistance Center and family assistance center and notification of next of kin in a situation like this,” Dyer said. “We have offered that if they would like any of our personnel that participated in the aftermath activates to fly out and assist them we are certainly willing to put them on the next plane available.”

Dyer said he considered Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman a good friend and personally reached out to her to offer help.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina said law enforcement in Las Vegas had previously heard their presentation about the Orlando Police Department's response to the June 12 mass shooting at Pulse nightclub.

Mina has shown the 78-slide PowerPoint presentation to police groups across the globe, analyzing what the agency did well and what could have been done differently.

"I hope that our lessons learned did help them save lives," Mina said. "That they learned from what we experienced here."

Mina applauded Las Vegas officers response. They had a "very difficult, complex" situation to respond to because of the shooter's elevated position inside a nearby hotel, 32 stories up, Mina said.

Mina also issued a statement, after hearing that an off-duty Las Vegas police officer was killed in the shooting.

“We are thinking of all those affected by the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas,” Mina said. “This community, and the men women of OPD, know all too well the anguish that is gripping the residents, visitors and law enforcement community in Las Vegas.”

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings and Mina both encouraged people to come forward if they see something out of the ordinary.

"We encourage citizens to continue providing information to law enforcement about suspicious persons prone to violence," Demings said. "We are only as good at stopping such attacks as the information that we receive from the public."

Shooting 'hitting close to home' for Central Florida

Dyer said waking to the news of the tragedy brought him back to Orlando's own horrific event just more than a year ago.

"There is no doubt that the Las Vegas tragedy will impact those in Orlando impacted by Pulse," Dyer said.

The mayor said, just like when the Pulse shooting death toll doubled, he was taken aback when the Route 91 Harvest festival fatality number jumped from 20 dead to more than 50.

"It did take me right back there," to Pulse, Dyer said.

Dyer reminded Central Florida that the Orlando United Assistance Center hotline, at 407-500-HOPE is open 24 hours a day if they need someone to talk to.

"This is hitting very close to home for many in Central Florida. We know what it’s like to endure such tragedy, and it’s at this time it’s important to remember that support is available," Orlando United Assistance Center spokeswoman Ashley Blasewitz said.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs also reacted to the shooting with a statement of solidarity with Las Vegas.

“Stay strong, Las Vegas,” Jacobs said. “We are with you in spirit, prayer and deed throughout your journey. Together with our 49 Pulse Angels we weep for your loss and pray for your strength.”

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