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Charlotte community responds to Orlando killings with prayers, support

ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 12: Orlando police officers seen outside of Pulse nightclub after a fatal shooting and hostage situation on June 12, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. The suspect was shot and killed by police after 20 people died and 42 were injured. (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 12: Orlando police officers seen outside of Pulse nightclub after a fatal shooting and hostage situation on June 12, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. The suspect was shot and killed by police after 20 people died and 42 were injured. (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Charlotte community has responded with prayers and support after a gunman killed 50 people at an Orlando nightclub and wounded 53 others.

Clergy, elected officials and advocates for the local gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community condemned the shootings, now believed to be a case of domestic terrorism in support of the radical Islamic State group.

Democratic state Rep. Tricia Cotham summed up the feelings of many people in a message sent from her cellphone: “Devastated. Angered. Saddened. Outraged. Heartbroken.”

But the bloodshed and losses were perhaps most devastating for members of the LGBT community, which is often a target of attacks.

“The LGBT community has historically faced adversity across the nation and world, and because of that we are resilient and we will continue to stand strong against violence and hatred,” Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro said.

The shootings occurred during Latin night at Pulse, a nightclub that caters to a gay clientele.

The gunman, Omar Mateen, 29, of Port St. Lucie, Fla., called 911 to state his sympathy for ISIS before he was shot dead by police who entered the club in an armored vehicle.

The shooting occurred during the celebration of Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims.

President Barack Obama has designated June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.

“The fact that this horrific event occurred during Pride month – a time in which our community remembers our past and celebrates our future – only solidifies our resolve to call to action an effort which will end these senseless acts of violence,” said a statement from Charlotte LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

Gov. Pat McCrory reached out to Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Sunday to offer condolences and “any assistance we as a state can provide.”

“The shooting that occurred in Orlando was a tragedy, and something that should never take place in our country,” McCrory wrote in a statement. “Those who died were innocent victims of an inexcusable act of violence.”

Members of the Charlotte Latin Pride committee will hold a memorial at 6 p.m. Sunday at the Charlotte Pride offices, 1900 The Plaza.

A prayer vigil for the victims and their families is scheduled for 9 p.m. Sunday at Davidson College Presbyterian Church, 100 N. Main St., Davidson. The event is open to the public.

A public candlelight vigil is planned for 8:30 p.m. Monday at The Bar at 316, at 316 Rensselaer Ave.

The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team sent chaplains to Orlando “to assess where and how to best offer emotional and spiritual care,” according to its Facebook page.

“My prayers are with the many victims and family members who lost loved ones in the senseless shooting – now being called an act of terrorism – at a gay nightclub in Orlando early this morning,” Franklin Graham, BGEA president, wrote in a statement. “Life is precious, and we only have one chance to live our lives here on this earth.”

The response to the massacre in North Carolina and across the United States shows America’s true values, U.S. Sen. Tom Tillis, R-N.C., said in a statement.

“We are reminded of the true character of our nation and its people, witnessing the courage and bravery of law enforcement officials and first responders, as well as the generosity of everyday Americans who have already formed long lines to donate blood to help save the lives of victims,” he said.

Southern Evangelical Seminary President Richard Land issued a reminder that America’s constitution offers religious freedom but also calls for lawful behavior.

“America is a nation of immigrants, and she welcomes people who want to become Americans, which includes accepting our laws and freedoms and a commitment to not seek the overthrow of our political system by violent means,” Land said, quoting President Theodore Roosevelt.

Officials at the Islamic Center of Charlotte are working with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police to tighten security after the attacks, said Jibril Hough, a spokesman for the center, which provides prayer services for about 600 Muslims in Charlotte.

“Anytime something like this happens – in America or halfway around the world – the ones who don’t understand who we are, they tend to take their frustrations out on us,” Hough said. “We’re the focal point of what they don’t understand.”

But Hough condemned the violent attacks and said the accused killer violated the laws of Islam.

“Islam does not permit homosexuality, but by the same token Islam does not permit taking innocent lives,” he said. “Killing innocent people is one of the greatest sins that you can commit.”

Karen Sullivan: 704-358-5532, @Sullivan_kms

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