ORLANDO, Fla. (CBSNewYork/AP) — President Barack Obama privately met with survivors of the Orlando nightclub shooting and the families of the victims on Thursday.
As CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported, Obama was accompanied by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., on Air Force One. Obama was greeted on the tarmac by Vice President Joe Biden, Gov. Rick Scott, and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who immediately showed the president an “Orlando United” t-shirt.READ MORE: 2 Teenagers Injured In Shooting At Staten Island Sweet 16 Party
Obama arrived in the afternoon at the Amway Center, where the NBA’s Orlando Magic play. He spent several hours meeting in private to offer condolences.
Obama said the victims’ families “could be our families” and “are part of the American family.”
The president said the families’ grief is “beyond description.”
“We’re going to have to do more to prevent these kinds of events from occurring. It’s going to take more than just our military,” Obama said, an apparent reference to proposals for stricter gun-control laws. That was after he laid flowers at a makeshift memorial during an afternoon visit to the grieving city.
“We can’t wipe away hatred and evil from every heart in the world. But we can stop some tragedies. We can save some lives,” he said.
Obama thanked first responders and spoke about the need to stand with Orlando’s gay and lesbian community.
“Our hearts are broken, too,” Obama said.
Obama also pledged to destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and al Qaeda, and pointed out the most recent attacks like Orlando and San Bernardino were not conducted by sophisticated cells, but by deranged individuals.
Brittany Woodrough was one of the hundreds of people who waited outside the Amway Center in the 95-degree heat, hoping to see the president.
She called 19-year-old Jason Benjamin Josaphat, one of the victims, a close friend.
Woodrough said she prays for his family and can’t believe that she lost a good friend. She says Obama’s visit makes it real.
“It means a lot. Another way to bring our community together and know our community is more than just Orlando, Florida,” resident Morgan Jones said.
Forty-nine people died when gunman Omar Mateen attacked the Pulse nightclub early Sunday and 53 were wounded.
The medical examiner who oversaw the 49 autopsies said he kept their bodies separate from the gunman’s body in a different building. Dr. Joshua Stephany said he didn’t do it because of any requirement, but because he thought it was the right thing to do.
Of the wounded, 28 people were still hospitalized late Thursday, six of them in critical condition, CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported. Of the wounded, 28 people were still hospitalized late Thursday, six of them in critical condition.
As President Obama arrived in Orlando, grainy cellphone video surfaced showing the fear and horror inside a Pulse nightclub restroom.
A dozen patrons were squeezed in to a single stall and are seen sharing a glass of water. Mateen was just a few steps away.
Survivor Miguel Leiva, who took the video, knew it was crucial to keep calm and quiet.
“Any noise he heard, he was going in that direction and just shooting people and killing them,” Leiva said.
The SWAT team rescued the group after breaching a wall with a front-end loader. Mateen was shot dead soon afterward.
Among the last people to get out was Angel Colon, who has shot five times.
He was visited in the hospital by his hero, Orlando police Officer Omar Delgado, who rescued him.
As Orlando residents continue to try to cope with the horror, and comfort dogs have been brought in to help them.
“I am seeing a lot of people being able to touch our dogs and say, ‘Phew, everything is going to be OK,'” dog trainer Katelyn Moorhouse said.
One group even has a miniature horse that will travel to hospitals to comfort survivors.
On Wednesday, a visitation was held for one of the victims of the massacre, 40-year-old Javier Jorge-Reyes.
Dozens of people gathered across the street to show support. Those who knew him called him a fun, free spirit. One person held a sign that said “Orlando loves you.”READ MORE: Bodycam Video Shows Moments Before NYPD Lieutenant Was Shot In Ankle Apprehending Suspect In The Bronx
Meanwhile, FBI investigators are methodically piecing together Mateen’s movements leading up to the deadly shooting rampage inside the Pulse nightclub early Sunday morning.
As CBS2’ Carlin reported, investigators are looking for anything in Mateen’s past to explain what led him to radical Islamic propaganda and anti-gay hate.
Public school records from Florida paint Mateen as a troubled child and difficult student, disciplined repeatedly for fights and other rule violations.
In the weeks leading up to the massacre at the Pulse gay nightclub, the radicalized Security Guard tried to buy body armor at Robbie Abell’s gun shop, and was told the store didn’t sell it.
Mateen then came back and requested ammunition, Abell told CBS News.
Abell said his employees were so concerned, they called the FBI. But Federal Authorities said the gun store was not able to provide them with a name.
Facebook is also being asked to provide the Senate Homeland Security Committee with information on Mateen’s online activity.
The committee has sent Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg a letter, saying that during the attack, Mateen made several Facebook posts and searches.
In an ominous Facebook post minutes before the attack, the shooter wrote: “You kill innocent women and children by doing U.S. airstrikes. Now taste the Islamic State vengeance.”
Mateen also talked about the “filthy ways of the West.”
The FBI is also trying to establish how much Mateen’s wife may have known about the attack. CBS News sources say Noor Salman knew her husband was planning an attack and also drove with him to stake out the gay club.
“At the end of all of our interviews, however long that takes, if someone is able to be charged in this investigation, we will bring them to justice,” said Ron Hopper with the FBI.
Salman texted “I love you” to Mateen during the attack.
CBS News previously reported Salman was with Mateen when he bought ammunition. Investigators believe the wife drove with Mateen to case the nightclub before the attack.
Investigators believe it is likely that Salman knew about Mateens intentions and said it was likely she would face charges.
Mourning for the victims of the Orlando massacre continued around the country Thursday.
On Thursday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ordered all state government buildings to fly flags at half-staff on Friday in honor of the victims.
In his executive order, the Republican says the attack was purposely directed against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and “represents a deliberate and callous assault on the freedoms we cherish as Americans.”
Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., set off a firestorm when he said that Obama is “directly responsible” for the mass shooting because he’s allowed the growth of ISIS on his watch.
McCain took to Twitter to clarify, saying he misspoke and wasn’t referring to the president himself, but rather his national security decisions.
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