Last night (June 14, 2016) in Orlando:
I headed to the area where the shooting took place, hoping to catch a glimpse of Pulse, but law enforcement had blockaded the streets in the immediate surrounding area. Police cruisers were parked blocking intersections all around the vicinity of Pulse. You can see the road closures on the map here:
News vans of all shapes, sizes and price points were parked up and down S. Orange Avenue between W. Muriel Street and W. Harding Street. Christ Church of Orlando at the corner of Muriel and S. Orange posted signs outside that they were allowing only crisis responders and law enforcement inside. Gawkers walked up and down the surrounding streets, gathering in small groups.
A cameraman from a St. Louis news station told me he’d been there since Sunday night, and while his crew was staying at a nearby hotel, he said many members of the media were camping out in their vans to hold their spot at the scene. While the crime scene is being processed (and the crime scene spans the entire block, basically), no one is getting near Pulse nightclub.
Special Agent Ron Hopper with the FBI said in a press conference today (June 15), “We will leave no stone unturned […] We are combing not just the street but everywhere we think the shooter may have been,” and that echoes what I heard from media producers last night — that law enforcement will find and collect every shell casing — every little thing.
Following that, I went to three strip clubs in the area. The first was Le Palace on the 5500 block of S. Orange Blossom Trail, which, incidentally, is right next door to a shooting range that sports prints of AR-15s on the windows facing the street:
At the door of Le Palace a security guard in a bullet-proof vest, strapped with a gun, checked my ID. I asked him if he always wears this much protective gear or if it was in response to the shooting, and he said that gear was typical — an every night kind of thing. (And no wonder: Le Palace has had its own string of shootings in the last month and a half.) The strip club is on a street that is dark and gritty, no sidewalks, with a string of trailer homes on a side street called Palace Street.
Le Palace is a tiny strip club, basically a long room with a stage and the loudest music I think public health services will allow. (But I’m sensitive to noise, so. Take that as you will.) I met a dancer who said she knew a girl who was shot to death in Pulse, but the music made talking almost impossible, so I got her number so I could talk to her outside the club.
I moved to the next club, Thee Doll House, which also had its own run-in with a shooter in October last year. BUT, it was nicer, bigger, and not as raucous, so I was happy for that. Alas, I was turned away at the door because I was a single female without a male escort.
So I went across S. Orange Blossom Trail to Stars Gentlemen’s Club, which — can you guess? — had a shooting of its own in December last year. It was also a nicer spot than Le Palace, and I was met with the same thing — no male escort, no entry.
A food truck was parked outside Stars, so I stopped to see if I could get a taco (MUST EAT MY FEELINGS) and found out that one of the guys running the truck also knew someone who was shot to death at Pulse, the guy’s former boss at McDonald’s. Victims’ friends are all around here.
In the meantime, a 2-year-old whose family was on holiday from Nebraska was dragged into a Disney lagoon by an alligator.
I bet if you want to come to Orlando, hotel rates are about to drop.