Police urge folks to report suspicious activity

DOVER — In the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, Delaware’s senior senator urged Americans to come together, issued criticisms of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump and said the United States and its allies are making great progress in the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group.

Delaware State Police, meanwhile, said in a statement released Sunday night there are “no known existing credible threats to Delaware” and called on citizens to be aware of their surroundings and report anything suspicious.

In Dover for a previously scheduled engagement, Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat, held a news conference Monday in front of Legislative Hall.

Speaking for about 20 minutes and taking several questions, he touched on a variety of topics relating to the Orlando nightclub shooting, which took the lives of 49 victims, plus the gunman.

The shooter, identified by authorities as Omar Mateen, was born in New York and had been investigated by the FBI, officials said. The Islamic State, or ISIS, praised him Sunday in a statement, although President Barack Obama said Monday “there is no evidence so far that he was in fact directed by” ISIS.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., addresses members of the media Monday in front of Legislative Hall. Behind him, the America flag flies at half-mast to honor those killed in Orlando Sunday. (Delaware State News/Matt Bittle)

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., addresses members of the media Monday in front of Legislative Hall. Behind him, the America flag flies at half-mast to honor those killed in Orlando Sunday. (Delaware State News/Matt Bittle)

Sen. Carper said officials were still trying to determine if the shooter was on an FBI watch list and expected an answer within a day or two. Americans should be “very mindful of the threat of copycats,” he said, and Muslims should “be part of the team that’s speaking out and saying to young people, ‘Don’t do this.’”

Although he did not refer to him by name, Sen. Carper said Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, is helping ISIS recruit extremists with his repeated calls for banning Muslims from the United States.

“There’s hundreds of thousands of folks here who are Muslims, who are as devout in their faith as the rest of us are in our faith,” he said.” “Their faith has nothing — nothing — in common with the kind of hatred of 9/11 or the kind of hatred in Orlando, and if we want to make sure that those hundreds of thousands — maybe millions — of people who are of the Muslim faith in this country are part of the solution, what we need to do is make it clear that we want them to be part of that solution, to reach out to them an invite them to be part of this partnership.”

Sen. Carper claimed the United States and its partner nations are winning the fight against ISIS and by doing so causing fewer Americans to join.

Many of the people who sign up and participate in acts of terrorism are “losers” desperate for a taste of success, he said, quoting New York Times columnist Tom Friedman.

“They’ve never succeeded at anything in life, they don’t have much in career opportunities, in many cases never held the hand of a woman, never had a date in some cases, never been married or deemed to be marriage material, and having spent much of their adult lives in that situation, they’re looking to make it big, and this is one of the ways that they can do it, and they want to be seen as part of a winning team,” Sen. Carper said.

The senator also advocated for additional gun control measures: barring anyone on the no-fly list from obtaining a firearm and requiring anyone buying a gun at a show to undergo a background check.

“Maybe an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” he said.

Local repercussions

State police are working with the federal government and are not aware of any threats to Delaware or any ties the Orlando shooter had to the state.

Delawareans should “avoid the tendency to ignore what could be information critical to law enforcement efforts to prevent a crime or terrorist act,” spokesman Sgt. Richard Bratz said.

They are also urged to develop a plan for escaping in advance should an incident occur. Information can be found on the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s website.

Anyone who observes suspicious activity can call police, 911 or the Delaware Anti-Terrorism Tip Line at 1-800-Force12. A report can also be submitted online.

Since the killings, there has been an outpouring of support, both locally and nationally, for members of the LGBT community. The attack took place at a gay club and appeared to have been at least partially motivated by hatred, according to reports.

The Department of Health and Social Services also released information Monday, encouraging anyone impacted by the attack to reach out for assistance.

Local resources for members of the LGBT community include Equality Delaware and Camp Rehoboth.

In the General Assembly, a previously introduced bill imposing additional firearm restrictions waits for a vote in the Senate after passing the House of Representatives, although it is unrelated to how the shooter apparently obtained his guns.

The bill deals with background checks, which are required for all gun purchases in Delaware. Currently, a gun can be sold if no response is received from the FBI within three days. The proposal would extend the time limit to 30 days.

It passed solely on Democratic support in the House in April.

Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, posted on Facebook Sunday he is “heartbroken by the senseless violence.”
In the comments below his statement, people both called for stricter gun control laws and criticized the governor for his November announcement he was willing to accept Syrian refugees, a decision some see as a safety risk.

Air Force spokeswoman Laura McAndrews said she was unaware of any increased security at Dover Air Force Base in light of the attack.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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