Nightclub Massacre: Some Patrons Upset at Not Getting Funds

By MIKE SCHNEIDER, Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Some Pulse nightclub patrons are upset that they aren’t receiving money from a $29.5 million victims’ compensation fund since they were outside the club when the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history began, newly released emails show.

In one email sent to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, a Pulse patron said he and his boyfriend were in the valet area outside the gay nightclub when a gunman began his attack last June 12 at the club entrance. The patron said they were traumatized but aren’t getting compensation from the OneOrlando Fund because it requires patrons to have been inside to be eligible for funds.

The fund was set up to help out the families of the 49 deceased and the patrons who were inside. It’s distributing money for 305 claims.

“Although it’s impossible to accurately or adequately assess any one individual’s degree of trauma or stress experienced due to the massacre, I think we can all agree that being 10 feet away from the building’s front door after having spent several hours in the company of 49 people who are now dead IS TRAUMATIC,” David Jourdenais wrote the mayor.

That email and others belonging to Dyer and his chief of staff, Frank Billingsley, were obtained through a public records request.

A spokeswoman for the mayor, Cassandra Lafser, said Tuesday that the standards remain unchanged. She said an additional $1 million has come in since the original distribution, and the fund’s board will reconvene to figure out how to distribute the rest of the money.

Other emails show that Orlando city officials are making plans for the anniversary of the massacre, including seeking prominent performers for a possible concert. In a memo, an official wrote that artists are interested in performing but may have scheduling conflicts, according to the emails.

Pulse owner Barbara Poma said in an email to city officials that she wanted to start a dialogue about planning for the anniversary. “I look forward to working together to create a day that will reinforce the strength, compassion and love that has made OrlandoStrong,” Poma said in an email.

Last June, Omar Mateen was killed by police after opening fire at the Pulse nightclub in the rampage that claimed the 49 lives and another 53 wounded. Mateen professed allegiance to the Islamic State group.

The emails also describe the commitment city officials were making toward establishing a memorial at the club — before a deal for the city to buy the nightclub was nixed. Pulse’s owners ultimately decided not to sell the nightclub to the city even though a contract had already been signed by the owners.

Poma said at the time she couldn’t walk away from the property, feeling a personal obligation to make sure a memorial was created at the club she had opened to honor her gay brother, who had died from complications from AIDS.

Emails received by the mayor and chief of staff show how residents had mixed feelings about the city offering to spend $2.25 million on the property, more than half a million dollars above its appraisal value. Some others, however, praised the city for moving ahead with a memorial, which was awaiting approval from the city council before the deal fell apart.

City officials received unsolicited design plans for the memorial from architects and designers around the world.

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Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter: http://twitter.com/mikeschneiderap. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/Mike-Schneider.

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