Arrest made in small fire at memorial for nightclub shooting

Nov 10, 2021, 9:01 AM | Updated: 10:06 am

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A man has been arrested for setting fire to some banners at a temporary memorial honoring the 49 victims who died in a massacre at a Florida gay nightclub five years ago, and one of the survivors played a role in catching the suspect.

The Orlando Fire Department said in a news release that Mark Henson, 63, is facing a charge of felony criminal mischief. No one was hurt by the small fire which was set Oct. 12.

The arrest was made several days after a foundation responsible for the temporary memorial posted security video showing a man in a wheelchair setting fire to an outdoor wall on which banners, photos, messages and flowers are posted in memory of the victims who died at the Pulse nightclub.

After the video was posted, Pulse survivor Orlando Torres started driving around downtown Orlando in search of the suspect. He said he spotted Henson near Pulse on Tuesday afternoon, matching a logo on the back of Henson’s wheelchair to one he saw in the video, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

“I broke out my camera and started taking pictures of him to make sure I had the right guy,” Torres told the Sentinel. “Then I called the police.”

Gunman Omar Mateen killed the 49 victims at the nightclub during a three-hour standoff with law enforcement on June 12, 2016. He eventually was killed by SWAT team members. Mateen pledged fealty to the Islamic State group in talks with hostage negotiators and 911 operators during the standoff.

At the time, the Pulse massacre was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. However, another mass shooting the next year along the Las Vegas Strip became the deadliest when 58 people were killed.

Pulse owner Barbara Poma established the foundation with a goal of opening a permanent memorial and museum in the nightclub’s neighborhood.

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Arrest made in small fire at memorial for nightclub shooting