The worst mass shooting in U.S. history — the massacre of at least 50 people and dozens more injured at a gay Orlando nightclub early Sunday — has created shock waves in Manatee County.
Since authorities have said the attack by a gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun is considered an act of domestic or international terrorism, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office will be in a heightened state of alert Monday and step up security patrols at a half dozen sensitive areas in the Manatee area, Sheriff Brad Steube said Sunday.
“After 9/11 we identified targets in our community,” Steube said Sunday afternoon. “If we get information that this is related to terrorism, those targets we have identified will get more scrutiny.”
The targets include Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, Port Manatee, the Lake Manatee dam and the Florida Power & Light plant in Parrish, Steube said.
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After 9/11 we identified targets in our community. ... If we get information that this is related to terrorism, those targets we have identified will get more scrutiny.
Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube
Steube also said that on Monday a meeting will take place with his staff to determine if there are any nightclubs in Manatee that also require additional security.
“I am not sure we have a gay nightclub in Manatee, but I know that will be a topic of discussion for us as we go forward and learn about the motive behind this tragedy,” Steube said.
The Orlando Police Department had not requested help from Steube as of Sunday — perhaps because the suspect in the Orlando attack was killed by law enforcement when a SWAT team went in to rescue hostages — but the local sheriff’s office will help if asked, Steube said.
“I don’t have all the facts yet,” Steube said. “But you wonder what goes through someone’s mind. You wonder what kind of hatred will drive someone. All we can say now is that this is a terrible tragedy.”
Blood banks call for donations
The OneBlood donation center at 216 Manatee Ave. E., opened for regular hours at 7 a.m. and was remaining open well past its normal Sunday closing time of 2 p.m. to accommodate a long line of donors, a staff member said at 4 p.m.
The SunCoast Blood Bank, which shipped units of O negative blood, the univeral donor type, to Orlando on Sunday will open all of its local donation centers at 8 a.m. Monday, two hours earlier than usual, said Jayne Giroux, a SunCoast spokeswoman.
Also, Giroux confirmed that Don Doddridge, the chief executive officer of OneBlood, reached out to SunCoast’s CEO, Scott Bush, and asked if SunCoast could make the O negative contribution, Giroux said.
There are more than 50 patients with gunshot wounds in Orlando hospitals, Giroux added.
I really wanted to do something productive in light of the negativity in Orlando.
Lyn Ols, blood donor
“A gunshot wound takes up to 40 units of blood, and over the course of several days gunshot victims can lose blood,” Giroux said.
At the OneBlood center, Lynn Ols, 52, of Sarasota, a nurse, was one of about 20 people waiting patiently for their turn to give blood while watching the news coverage of the Orlando shootings.
“I really wanted to do something productive in light of the negativity in Orlando,” she said.
Ols said that while she’d never given blood before and wasn’t even sure of her blood type, the events in Orlando were the catalyst for her to come to the center.
“I know how bad they need blood,” she said. “And when you need it, I said, ‘Well, I’m a nurse, take it.’ People need to give blood. They do.”
Christopher Hurd, 57, also of Sarasota and sitting next to Ols, said he felt it was important to give blood for the victims in Orlando, many of whom are in critical condition.
“This is the worst tragedy in our country’s history,” he said. “In terms of guns, mass shootings, we have to come together as people. We’re human beings and we have to do what we’re called to do.”
He added, “I just didn’t think today was a beach day.”
Also sitting and watching the coverage were Evan Edwards and his girlfriend, Caitlyn Korte, both 18 and living in Venice for now, but both are moving to Orlando soon to attend college. Korte will be going to the University of Central Florida, and Edwards will be attending Valencia College.
They came all the way up to Bradenton, Edwards said, because when he awoke and heard the news and the need for blood, he began making phone calls to find an open blood bank. “She said, ‘We have to go,’” he said, pointing to his girlfriend.
“I’ve been donating before this,” he said, noting that even if the blood doesn’t go to a victim in Orlando it will help someone.
“We felt really connected to it,” Korte said.
Blake Medical Center on alert if needed
Blake Medical Center, which is a trauma center, has not been asked to send trauma surgeons to Orlando but will if needed, said Melissa Morgan, a Blake Medical Center spokeswoman.
“We haven’t received any requests for assistance thus far,” Morgan said Sunday. “If they need our help we will do what we can to lend assistance.”
Morgan, who has family in Orlando, said she saw an alert on her phone early Sunday.
“It’s horrible,” she said.