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Orlando Shooter Looked Into Attacking Disney World Before Choosing Gay Nightclub

Omar Mateen, the shooter who committed the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history early Sunday morning in Orlando, reportedly looked into Disney World as a potential target before settling on Pulse nightclub, People reports.

Mateen and his wife, Noor Zahi Salman, visited Disney World in April—but they weren’t there for the spinning teacups or Cinderella’s Castle. Mateen had apparently been “scouting Downtown Disney and Pulse [nightclub] for attacks,” Salman told federal investigators. Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is the most visited theme park in the world, averaging almost 53,000 guests per day in 2014.

Disney World decided to add metal detectors to the park’s entrances in December, following the San Bernardino attack. The theme park also prohibited the sale of toy guns. Although Disney World’s four major theme parks have stricter security measures, Downtown Disney (recently renamed Disney Springs) does not.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Disney Springs has multiple entry points and no security checks. In addition, many people without bags reported being able to walk into the park without going through the metal detector. Knowing that Mateen scouted out the park as a target only makes these facts more disturbing.

If you decide to visit Disney World sometime this month, you can probably expect longer lines but less people. AL reported that the already long lines at the theme park have grown astronomically since Sunday as the park attempts to step up its security protocols. Almost all visitors are now required to walk through the metal detectors, while every bag will be thoroughly checked and vetted. The theme park hopes that these rigorous procedures will reassure people of their safety in the wake of the Pulse shooting.

Even with tightened security, experts expect lower-than-normal crowds at all of Orlando theme parks in the next few weeks. “People will start thinking twice before booking, you know, attractions or hotels or anything else,” said University of Central Florida dean of hospitality management Abraham Pizam to the Orlando Sentinel. “I do expect to [see] some impact, downturn, in the number of tourists.”

In the days following the Pulse nightclub mass shooting, we can only hope that the public begins to feel more secure doing everyday things again soon—especially as the scary details surrounding the shooter’s motives unravel.

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Bridget Higgins

U Mass Amherst

Bridget is a senior Journalism major focusing on political journalism at UMass Amherst. She interned for the HC editorial team, writes columns for the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, and occasionally gets a freelance article or two on sailing published by Ocean Navigator Magazine. When she isn't greeting random puppies on the street, she loves to cook for her friends, perpetuate her coffee addiction, and spend too much time crafting Tweets. She is also an avid fan of chocolate anything and unnecessary pillows. If you want to know more about Bridget, follow her on Instagram - @bridget_higgins - or Twitter - @bridgehiggins