It had been such a good night. Christina Grimmie had just finished doing what she loved best – performing – at a Friday evening show, playing with her friends in Before You Exit at the Plaza Live. Grimmie, an outgoing 22-year-old singer, YouTube star and former contestant on The Voice, was now doing what any down-to-earth musician would do following a concert: hanging out in the lobby, talking to fans and signing autographs. Spirits were high.
At some point during the meet-and-greet, however, 27-year-old Kevin Loibl approached Grimmie seemingly out of nowhere, produced a handgun and shot her. Her brother, Marcus Grimmie, tackled Loibl. As they struggled, Loibl shot and killed himself. He had traveled from St. Petersburg just to do this, say Orlando police, and had gained entry to the Plaza Live with two handguns and a large knife concealed on his person.
And in that one brief, violent flash on the night of June 10, Grimmie's life was over, her voice sadly silenced. Hurting someone, killing someone, while they are sharing their art, attempting to communicate and connect through music, stings particularly.
Grimmie came to the world's attention during her stint on the televised singing competition The Voice in 2014. She immediately stood out with her version of Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" and was quickly added to judge Adam Levine's team. She lasted the season, and ended up with a strong third-place finish. On the strength of her voice performance, Grimmie inked a major label deal with Island Records – after both Levine and Lil' Wayne offered to sign her – and released the single "Must Be Love."
Though The Voice raised her profile considerably, Grimmie had been making music long before reality television beckoned. She began posting videos of herself singing on YouTube as early as 2009, and quickly became a YouTube sensation. Soon thereafter she was opening for Selena Gomez; appearing on Ellen, the American Music Awards and Radio Disney; and releasing several albums and EPs independently, all before The Voice. Grimmie had just self-released a four-song EP earlier this year called Side A.
Gomez gave a tearful dedication to her onstage in Miami before launching into a cover of Hillsong Worship's "Transfiguration": "One thing about Christina and her family is that she holds her faith so closely to her. And I think it's not about a religion and it's not about anything or good deeds. It's just that she had faith, and I don't really understand how this really happened, but I would like to dedicate this next song to her."
Many questions linger about Loibl and his motives. Despite early rumors that Grimmie's killer was an ex-boyfriend, Orlando Police Chief John Mina says, "There is no indication that he knew her. We're looking into that to try to find a motive for the crime." Mina further stated that it appeared Loibl traveled to Orlando specifically to commit this crime and had made return arrangements, but would not go into detail. Police have apparently searched Loibl's home, but have not released their findings.
The crucial question of how Loibl was able to get into the Plaza Live with so much weaponry may be coming into focus. Rumors that key Plaza Live staff were fired just days before the show were confirmed in a statement by former Plaza Live general manager Kirk Colvin on Monday, June 13. Colvin said: "After the shooting of Christina and the endless media attention I'm compelled to release a personal statement. ... My heart goes out to the family of Christina, who was a wonderful, talented up-and-coming artist.
"It was not publicly known that the entire management team was replaced by the Orlando Philharmonic board on June 1 for the stated reason 'to go in a different direction,' and I believe the replacements hired were completely inexperienced and ill-prepared to manage the Plaza. ... Sadly this tragedy occurred the very first concert managed by the new staff."
The Plaza Live announced they will reopen Tuesday, and go ahead with Thursday's scheduled performance. They released a statement on their website Monday, June 13, outlining their steps for moving forward: "We continue to grieve the loss of talented young artist Christina Grimmie as well as the many lives so tragically lost early Sunday morning at Pulse. General Manager Jim Heffelfinger said in light of the terrible events over the weekend, reopening of the Plaza Live will be delayed until Tuesday [but] Thursday's performance by Yacht Rock Revue will go on as scheduled. We continue to work with Orlando Police in this ongoing investigation and whom we have invited to evaluate our security practices and protocols."
Much more on this story as it develops.