Valley memorials for Orlando shooting victims draw thousands

Posted at 10:21 AM, Jun 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-13 12:37:21-04

Two events Sunday night paid tribute to those injured and killed in an Orlando nightclub during a mass shooting.

One, held downtown at the Phoenix Pride LGBT Center, featured speeches by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and local faith and LGBT organizations.

The mood was somber, but the crowd was energized as the speakers shared messages of unity and acceptance. 

One man, Keith Serrano, told ABC15 that the tragedy has hit him hard and he can relate knowing that the attack happened at a gay nightclub, which should be a safe place for the LGBT community. 

“It’s sad, you know. We can be as easily as targeted every day. I am her best friend, and she could easily lose me because I’m gay," said Keith Serrano. 

A Muslim woman said she attended the candlelight vigil because she wanted people to know that today's violence is not representative of her faith.

"Very heartbroken. Very heartbroken. I have a brother who is gay, I had an uncle who was gay. It could've been one of them. I feel like I'm in a marginalized group, and I wanted to show support for another marginalized group," said Alia Thompson of Peoria. 

Organizers said now is not the time to be silent. 

“Right now is not the time for our community to hide, it’s a time for our community to come together and stand with each other against horrible acts like this," said Justin Owen, executive director of the Phoenix Pride LGBT Center. 

Fifty people died in the shooting, which police said was carried out by Omar Mateen. Mateen was killed by police who responded to the scene early Sunday morning.
Mateen reportedly called 911 during his attack on the club, pledging his allegiance to ISIS, which is known for targeting gay men for beatings and murder in territory it controls in the Middle East.
His parents were born in Afghanistan, and he attended religious services at a Florida mosque.
The Baitul-Aman Mosque, in Chandler, held a prayer service Sunday for the victims. Leaders condemned the violence and extremism, and said there was more they could do to educate Americans about Islam's true values.
"We need to do our job better,” Latif Ahmed, spokesperson for the Phoenix chapter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community said. "We haven't done our job to bring our fellow Americans along and letting them know what Islam is all about."
Several gay bars in central Phoenix have expressed their grief on social media. 
Stacy Louis, who owns Stacy's at Melrose, says he will host a vigil as well but does not plan on boosting security.
Phoenix police say they are not aware of any credible information that the shooting in Orlando would have an impact locally.
However, police encouraged the community to be vigilant in reporting suspicious behavior.