A Nicaraguan man who was arrested last weekend for threatening to get an AR-15 and "kill another 50" people at a gay nightclub in Managua is being forced to publicly apologize to the club's clients and the country's LGBTQ community at large.
A 23-year-old man identifying himself on Facebook as James Voyka Zamora posted the hateful message on social media just prior to the one-week anniversary of the Orlando mass-shooting, which killed 49 and injured 53 more at the Pulse nightclub.
"By any chance does anyone have an AR-15 so I can go into Tabú and kill another 50?," Zamora wrote.
Sandinista police quickly collared the young man and hauled him in for questioning. But they released him 48 hours later, after determining that it was just an empty threat. Zamora was ordered to stay away from the nightclub and post a public apology on Facebook.
"I'm not homophobic and I'm not a terrorist," Zamora told the Nicaraguan daily Hoy, after being released by police. He said his comment was meant to be "sarcastic," and that he planned to delete his Facebook account after apologizing.
Zamora's threat might have been hollow words from a dim-witted putz, but his quick arrest by Nicaraguan police shows that hate talk isn't being taken lightly anywhere in the wake of the Orlando tragedy. Words matter, and people should be held accountable for messages promoting violence and hatred—even if they're uttered in jest.
Zamora's threat may soon fade from the internet, but his words will continue to echo in some people's minds.
"I have heard a lot of people in the LGBTQ community say they are afraid to go to the annual gay pride march next week, especially young people who are just beginning to assume their identities as homosexuals, bisexuals and trans," Nicaraguan LGBTQ activist Elvis Salvatierra, 25, told me.
Salvatierra thinks the cops did the right thing by arresting Zamora, but wishes police had held him in jail longer to send a clear message to others that hatred and threats won't be tolerated in Nicaragua. "I hope stuff like this doesn't keep repeating itself around the world," Salvatierra said.
Teresa López, owner of the Tabú nightclub, also hopes the punishment was sufficient to deter any similar threats against her club. But she seemed a little surprised at how quickly the police were willing to close the books on the case.
López told me she went down to the police station Sunday afternoon to press charges and send the case to trial, but learned that "the government had gotten involved" and Zamora had already been released from jail "on orders from high up."
So all that was left for her to do was sign a mediated agreement whereby Zamora promises to stay away from the club and publicly apologize in a letter posted on Facebook and published in Sandinista media. But López is still waiting for that apology, which was supposed to happen on Monday.
López says her biggest concern is that the attack in Orlando coupled with Zamora's Facebook threat in Nicaragua could stir evil ideas in the minds of "some other crazy person."
She says her club has taken additional security measures to be on the safe side.
"I have doubled security at the club; I used to have two guards at the door, and now I have three additional security guards inside the club," she told me. "We have also been sending messages to our clients explaining the situation to everyone. But our numbers are down. Maybe by 30 or 40 percent."
But Nicaragua isn't exactly living in fear, either.
"The number of people who go to Tabú has dropped, but it's been happening for a while because there is another bar called Jona's that's always packed," says my friend Melvin, who went to Tabú last Saturday night and said the crowd was actually better than usual.
"I talked to a ton of people on Saturday, and nobody mentioned that they were afraid to be there," he said. "Actually, it was the heteros who were expressing the most fear—that's the irony."