PEMBROKE — For Robeson County native Marlo Fulmore, a shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida hit close to home.
Fulmore’s long-time friend, Shane Tomlinson, was one of 49 people killed at Pulse nightclub during the nation’s deadliest mass shooting on Sunday.
“I’d known him for about 15 years,” Fulmore said to attendees at a vigil Wednesday at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. “He was an aspiring singer; very talented. It’s shaken me to the core and reminds me that ignorance is still prevalent.”
Tomlinson, 33, was a native of Concord and attended East Carolina University. After graduating in 2003 with a degreee in business, he moved to Atlanta, Ga. and then to Orlando, Fla. to perform with his band, Frequency. The band mostly performed at weddings, local festivals, and clubs in the Orlando and Tampa region.
Tomlinson had close ties with the singer Brandy, who shared condolences for Shane and the other victims on Twitter after the shooting. ECU scheduled its own vigil for him Tuesday night in Greenville.
Fulmore met Tomlinson in Charlotte and said he would often travel to Fayetteville to visit. Fulmore, who works at COMtech in Pembroke, said he was on his way to a work site when he got the message that Tomlinson had been killed.
Tomlinson had performed hours before he was killed at Blue Martini Orlando where his band was scheduled to perform three additional gigs in the comings weeks. The Blue Martini is just south of the Pulse nightclub.
Around 2:02 a.m. on Sunday, Omar Mateen, 29, entered the nightclub with a handgun and semi-automatic rifle. He injured an additional 53 people and was killed by police in a shootout.
Also killed in the attack was Tevin Crosby of Statesville.
The vigil, sponsored by Spectrum, an LGBT+ support group at UNCP, paid tribute to Tomlinson and the 48 other victims by reading their names aloud and allowing UNCP staff, students and community members to share their thoughts on the tragedy.
“The shooting in Orlando, it hurt us very deeply,” said Mary Trull, treasurer of Spectrum. “As a member of the LGBT community, it could have been me or my friends. It’s a safe haven for us, it’s very open.”
Trull explained that she and her partner frequent Ibiza, an LGBT-friendly nightclub in Wilmington. Her partner’s mother, she said, used to be comfortable dropping them off there, but now feels uneasy in the wake of the attack in Florida.
Trull said she has been touched by the support shown around the country, but hates that some justify the killings by saying the victims were “in a gay nightclub.”
“I’m mourning these people I never knew because they are like a member of the family,” she said. “These are our brothers and sisters.”
Robert Canida, Spectrum advisor and director of Diversity and Inclusion at UNCP, organized the vigil through a campus-wide email to students and faculty.
“We have to stand as a community to let communities of hate and prejudice know that they can’t win,” he said. “It’s important for us as a community … to stand with those families, friends and acquaintances of the victims whose lives were lost.”
Gabrielle Isaac can be reached at 910-816-1989. Jack Frederick is a correspondent for The Exchange.