Farmington vigil honors Orlando shooting victims

Organizers say Farmington's first-ever Pride Walk on Saturday on morning will continue as planned, with an added police presence

Noel Lyn Smith
Rakeen Tahe holds a candle on Monday at Orchard Park in Farmington during a vigil to remember the victims of a mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

FARMINGTON — Community members gathered this evening at Orchard Park to pray and express love, support and solidarity for those killed and injured in a mass shooting over the weekend in Orlando, Fla.

About 100 people attended the candlelight vigil, which was organized by Identity Inc. and the Farmington LGBT Pride Committee.

As the sun set, people's faces were illuminated by candlelight as they listened to messages and songs of hope and support.

Shaun Yazzie, of Rock Point, Ariz., draped a variation of a rainbow flag over his shoulders. He said he attended the vigil to honor his "brothers and sisters."

"Together, we stand as one. To hear this sad story that shocked America, it’s ridiculous someone would do such a thing," Yazzie said.

At a vigil on Monday evening at Orchard Park in Farmington, community members write messages of support for the victims of a mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

Authorities say gunman Omar Mateen opened fire inside a popular gay nightclub early Sunday morning, killing 49 people and wounding 53 others. Mateen, 29, was killed in a shootout with police, according to published reports.

Media outlets have reported that in conversations with authorities before the shooting, Mateen claimed allegiance to the Islamic State and made reference the Boston Marathon bombing. Other reports quote Mateen's father as saying his son made negative comments about homosexuality.

Farmington's vigil was one of many that took place throughout the country. MP Schildmeyer, chair of the Farmington LGBT Pride Committee, said local churches, as well as residents, donated dozens of candles for the vigil.

"The only thing that will overcome hate is love," she said before the vigil started.

Minutes before the event began, Blanco resident Theresa Yeager quietly stood near the park gazebo before joining the group once she lit her candle.

"It seems there's more things that separate us than unite us at times. I think these kind of things make you feel united. There are people who care," Yeager said.

Farmington's first-ever Pride Walk will continue as planned at 10 a.m. Saturday, starting at West Main and South Lake streets, said Judy Palier, president of Identity Inc. in a phone interview today.

She said the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community will not give in to fear by postponing or canceling the parade, which is part of the fifth annual Pride Celebration.

"We have received support from the community and are grateful for the support from friends and allies," Palier said.

Schildmeyer echoed that sentiment.

"It's so essential that the parade go on as planned to show our solidarity with the victims and families and survivors of Orlando because, if we don't, then terror and hate would have won," she said.

Allen Hicks, left, and Lance Kesterson close their eyes on Monday at Orchard Park in Farmington during a candlelight vigil to remember the victims of a mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

After news of the shooting broke on Sunday, Palier said she spoke to Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe about security concerns at the local parade. The police department has been "absolutely wonderful" in providing assistance, she said.

In a phone interview today, Hebbe said the department had already assigned officers to monitor traffic at the event. But, in light of the Orlando tragedy, more officers will be added to look for potential threats and respond to any problems.

"I think the organization wants to make sure folks are safe, and we want to make sure folks are safe," Hebbe said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.