- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A mid-Missouri county switched course Tuesday, lowering its flags in honor of the victims of the deadly shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

There was initial disagreement among Cole County commissioners over lowering the flags, which President Barack Obama called for Sunday out of respect for the 49 victims of what was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. But Presiding Commissioner Sam Bushman told The Associated Press that Cole County’s seven to eight flags at public buildings were lowered to half-staff Tuesday.

A county ordinance calls to lower flags upon orders from the president or governor when military or government officials die, as well as on days such as Memorial Day.

“We feel for those families who have lost loved ones and are very compassionate toward those families,” said Commissioner Kris Scheperle, who initially opposed lowering flags but switched his decision Tuesday. “We just want to make sure that we’re lowering the flag for proper procedure.

Scheperle said he changed his mind “due to the negative attention that’s been brought to Cole County.” He said his initial opposition wasn’t related to the fact that the shooting occurred at a gay nightclub.

Bushman said he wanted the flags lowered after reading about the shooting in a newspaper Monday and said local residents who were upset that flags were at full-staff called and emailed him. But he said the initial decision to keep flags at full-staff wasn’t unusual: flags weren’t lowered after the deadly attacks in Brussels, San Bernardino, California, or Paris.

Bushman said Cole County, which is home to the state Capitol in Jefferson City, is not “just a hick, redneck county.”

“We’re not bigots,” Bushman said, later adding that, to him, “this is the biggest tragedy since the Twin Towers. That’s why I felt we should do it.”

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