A Florida man has been arrested and charged with setting a fire that destroyed part of the Pulse Interim Memorial in Orlando, which honors 49 people killed in one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.
Mark Henson, 64, of Orlando, has been charged on Tuesday with felony criminal mischief for vandalizing the memorial by setting it on fire and fleeing the scene, according to the Orlando Fire Department.
In an 18-minute surveillance video posted to the onePULSE Foundation’s Facebook page, a man in a wheelchair is seen using what looks like a lighter to set fired to murals hanging on the memorial’s “offering wall,” the smaller of two parallel walls and the closest facing the street, which features small handmade murals, mementos, and flowers honoring the victims.
In the video, a man in a wheelchair pulls up to the memorial with what looks like a cigarette or lighter just before 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 12.
The arsonist is then seen rolling away as the murals burn for close to 15 minutes before beginning to die out. That video was used, along with witness statements, to arrest Henson, authorities say.
Another person approaches a few minutes later to extinguish the remnants of the fire by stomping out the flames. No one was injured in the fire. The foundation noted that three “Angel” banners were burned, as well as other items honoring those killed — primarily LGBTQ people of color — in the 2016 shooting at the popular LGBTQ nightclub.
This isn’t the first time that the memorial has been vandalized. In May 2020, the logo for Pulse nightclub, which is featured in the middle of the display, was covered over by a sticker from Patriot Front, an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center claims is a “white nationalist hate group.”
Because the memorial sustained more than $1,000 in damage, the criminal mischief charges would be considered a felony, according to The New York Times.
In a statement, the onePULSE Foundation thanked the Orlando Fire Department for making the arrest and expressed its appreciation for first responders.
Brandon Wolf, a gun reform and political activist who survived the shooting, said the damage to the interim memorial was heartbreaking.
“It’s an important place — for me and others,” Wolf told the Times. “I’m grateful to the community members and organizations who were able to find the man responsible for this act of vandalism and have once again embodied this city’s spirit of support and unity.”
In June, President Joe Biden signed a bill to designate the former site of the nightclub as a permanent national memorial. Organizers eventually would like to install a reflecting pool and a museum with vertical gardens, public plazas, and a rooftop promenade at the site.
“Just over five years ago, the Pulse nightclub, a place of acceptance and joy, became a place of unspeakable pain and loss. And we’ll never fully recover, but we’ll remember,” Biden said at the bill signing.
He added that Congress, by passing the bill, had “enshrined in perpetuity a monument to the loss that occurred there, and an absolute determination that we’re going to deal with this every single solitary day.”
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