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‘He Lived In His Truth’: Remembering Those Murdered In Orlando

They ranged in age from 18 to 50. They were dancers and students, a singer and a bouncer, an accountant and an aspiring firefighter — mothers, fathers, teenagers, couples and best friends.


On Sunday morning, a gunman at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Fla., perpetrated the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. He killed 49 people and injured more than 50.

The city of Orlando has released the names of the identified victims, after notifying their next of kin.

“Our City is working tirelessly to get as much information out to the families so they can begin the grieving process,” reads the city’s statement. “Please keep the following individuals in your thoughts and prayers.”

This post will be updated with further information about the victims as we learn more.

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34, Sarasota, Fla.

According to multiple social media profiles, Sotomayor worked as the national brand manager for Al and Chuck Travel, which describes itself as “part of America’s largest gay owned travel company.”

In an interview with The Associated Press, David Sotomayor, who identified himself as Sotomayor’s cousin, said Edward was a “caring, energetic man.”

Christina Copelli, who lives in Vienna, was on three cruises with Sotomayor.

“He was a lovely, kind guy who touched everyone who had the pleasure of meeting him,” she told NPR. “I can’t believe he’s gone.”

Stanley Almodovar III, 23, Clermont, Fla.

Almodovar worked as a pharmacy technician, according to his Facebook profile.

“He made me feel like it was perfectly fine being who I was,” Almodovar’s friend Haze Ramirez told The Two-Way. She says they met at Pulse and “clicked instantly.”

“You would know when Stanley entered a room,” she said. “He can turn my mood by a conversation.”

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22

Guerrero, who had recently begun attending the University of Central Florida, had only recently come out to his family as gay, according to The Associated Press. In a conversation with the news service, his cousin Robert Guerrero said he opened up to his family just before the start of the year.

“He was always this amazing person (and) he was like a big brother to me,” Robert Guerrero told the AP. “He was never the type to go out to parties, would rather stay home and care for his niece and nephew.”

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36, Orlando, Fla.

Ortiz-Rivera was the man everyone in his family asked for design advice, his cousin Orlando Gonzalez told The New York Times.

“He was very artistic,” Gonzalez told the Times. “He was all about interior design.”

The paper reports that the 36-year-old “goofball” — Gonzalez’s words — lived in downtown Orlando with his husband.

Luis S. Vielma, 22, Sanford, Fla.

“Luis was by far the best person I knew,” his friend Will Randle told the Miami Herald. “He inherently made us all better people by simply existing around us. Part of him will always live on in every good decision I make.”

According to his Facebook page, Vielma worked at Universal Studios in Orlando, including on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling mourned him on Twitter.

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22

Peter Ommy Gonzalez-Cruz went by “Ommy,” his aunt told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

“Peter makes a difference everywhere he goes. He was a happy person,” Sonia Cruz told the paper. “If Peter is not at the party, no one wants to go.”

Gonzelez-Cruz went to Pulse with his best friend, Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, she said.

Menendez also died in the attack.

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20

Omar Capo was a passionate dancer, according to remembrances being left for him online.

“May the only time you rest,” Tamandra Diaz wrote, be after you “make some kick ass choreo up in paradise.”

His friend Julius Ortiz was with him at Pulse, but left shortly before the shooting. Ortiz told NPR’s Ari Shapiro that after the shooting began, he sent Capo text after text after text, trying to reach him.

He also remembered Capo helping him out when he was in need.

“When I was in a very hard situation — because with my dad, I was staying with him and he kicked me out — he actually took me in for a little,” Ortiz said.

Kimberly Morris, 37

Kimberly “KJ” Morris was a bouncer at Pulse.

She moved to Orlando this spring, from Hawaii, in order to help her mother and grandmother, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Before that, she played basketball at Post University in Connecticut and worked as a drag king and bouncer at a gay club in Massachusetts, NBC Connecticut reports.

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30

Eddie Justice was an accountant, living in downtown Orlando, who loved to eat and work out, The Associated Press reports. He woke his mother up shortly after 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, with a text message:

“Mommy I love you.” Then: “In club they shooting.”

Mina Justice and her son exchanged messages for nearly an hour, the AP reports. Eddie Justice was trapped in a bathroom at Pulse as the hostage situation began. He asked his mother to call the police, telling her a man was shooting, lots of people were wounded.

“He has us,” he told her. “He’s in the bathroom with us.”

“He’s a terror.”

His death was announced Monday.

Darryl Roman Burt II, 29

Burt was a financial aid officer at Keiser University in Jacksonville, the Florida Times-Union reports.

“He always had a smile on his face and was a very nice guy. He definitely leaves an impression and had a big personality and he is missed,” campus President Lisamarie Winslow told the newspaper.

He was known for his colorful bowties, reporter Jenna Bourne has tweeted.

Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32

A woman who identified herself as Drayton’s aunt posted on Facebook that Drayton had been at work when she was shot.

Melody Maia Monet, a nightclub photographer, posted a photo of Drayton (center) taken on Friday, a day before the shooting.

Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25

Laureanodisla, who studied at the University of the Sacred Heart in San Juan, Puerto Rico, performed in drag as Alanis Laurell. “It is with deepest sorrow that we report that a member of the Drag community has lost their life due to the shooting at pulse night club in Orlando Florida,” states a Facebook post from the community page Drag Around the World. “Alanis Laurell was a[n] amazing performer and a beautiful person inside and out.”

Originally from Puerto Rico, Laureanodisla studied education at the university, according to a Facebook tribute page. He moved to Orlando three years ago to “pursue a career as a dancer and choreographer,” according to the Orlando Sentinel. He’d gone dancing at Pulse with his roommates on Saturday, and his family grew alarmed when they didn’t hear from him after he texted them at 2:07 a.m. ET. “What I have now is a pain beyond repair,” wrote cousin Lucas Daniel Acosta D’oleo.

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35

Born in Puerto Rico, Perez had lived in the U.S. since he was a teenager and worked at an Orlando Perfumania store. “One of the customers Perez charmed at the perfume shop was Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, who would become his longtime partner,” according to the Orlando Sentinel. Both were killed in the attack at the Pulse nightclub.

Perez “was a man full of life and joy who loved his friends and family above all things,” says a GoFundMe page set up by family members to raise money for his funeral.

Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50

Originally from Puerto Rico, Velazquez worked at Forever 21 in Orlando and was a professional Jíbaro folk dancer, according to the Orlando Weekly. A friend told the paper that Velazquez was with friends at Pulse, when “he and others were pushed up against the wall by [Omar] Mateen, who started shooting at the group.”

“My brother will never die,” his sister wrote on Facebook. “He will be in my heart.”

Amanda Alvear, 25

Alvear had gone to Pulse with her friend Mercedez Marisol Flores, and was among those who took refuge in a bathroom during the attack. Alvear posted a Snapchat video that documented the first moments of gunfire erupting at the club. Both she and Flores were killed.

Older brother Brian Alvear told the Orlando Sentinel that his sister had spent the first part of the weekend shopping with his young daughters – “She liked to make them look very good.” Amanda, who wanted to be a nurse, “wouldn’t want anyone to spread hate for her,” he told the newspaper. “She’d rather they spread more love, keep friends and family close, and have a good time doing it.”

Martin Benitez Torres, 33

Torres, a student at Sistema Universitario Ana G. Méndez in San Juan, Puerto Rico, had gone to Orlando to spend time with family. He posted Facebook videos and photos sharing scenes from his holiday.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that he was among several students from his school who were killed in the Pulse attack. “I can’t believe it that my cousin is gone too soon. Going to miss that big smile always happy,” wrote Sonia N. Crapps on Facebook.

“I am a good man,” Torres wrote on his Facebook profile page, “a fighter who gives everything without expecting anything in return, ready to fly high today.”

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37

Wilson-Leon, who grew up in Puerto Rico, had gone to Pulse with his partner, Jean Carlos Mendez Perez. Both were shot and killed at the club.

The two had met a decade ago, when Perez sold Wilson-Leon Cartier perfume at a Perfumania shop, according to the Orlando Sentinel. They fell in love soon thereafter.

A friend in Pennsylvania, Daniel Gmys-Casiano, paid tribute to Wilson-Leon on Facebook as “a wonderful young man full of life, who endured countless days of bullying while growing up, by cruel people calling him all sorts of horrendous homophobic slurs. He was the first person on this earth I came out to, and he always protected and loved his friends. His strength and character was always an inspiration to all of us.”

Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26

Originally from Queens, N.Y., Flores studied literature at Orlando’s Valencia Community College and worked at Target, according to her Facebook memorial page. She’d gone to the Pulse club with her friend Amanda Alvear. Both were killed in the attack.

“I forgive the boy because I cannot take that hate in my life. My life is more important than hate,” Flores’ father, Cesar Flores, told reporters in Orlando.

His daughter “had so many dreams,” Flores said. “We must all come together, we must all be at peace, we must all love each other, because this hatred cannot continue for the rest of our lives.”

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35

Xavier E. Serrano was a professional dancer and performed in shows for Disney Live!. Matt Molandes, a friend of Serrano’s, tells NPR that Serrano helped Molandes accept himself as a gay person. “Coming from a place where I was ashamed to be gay, watching … performers like Xavier helped me come out of my shell,” he says. “Xavier lived in his truth, he was always happy even on days he wasn’t.”

Serrano leaves behind a young son.

Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25

Menendez, originally from Puerto Rico, had moved to Orlando and was working for Speedway convenience stores while he studied health care management at Ana G. Mendez University in Orlando.

Sonia Cruz, the aunt of another victim, Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that Menendez was best friends with her nephew and that the two had gone to the Pulse nightclub together on Saturday.

Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26

Oscar Aracena was partners with another victim of the shooting, Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez. According to a friend of both men, Norkis Fernandez-Valdez, the two had just purchased a home together.

Another friend, Yamil Caraballo, who says he had known Aracena for three years, tells NPR that he was always happy and willing to help others. “He was a great man and loved the Lord with all his heart,” Carabello recalls. “He was amazing.”

Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25

Rios was on vacation in Orlando from Brooklyn, N.Y. In 2015, he enrolled at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, studying social work.

A spokesman for the college, Richard Relkin, said in a press release, “Sadly, his dreams were cut short by this senseless act of violence. The St. Francis College community mourns the loss of one of our own and offers prayers to his family and friends.”

While he was in school, Rios worked at a restaurant at LaGuardia Airport. A co-worker remembered his sense of humor. “He had so much joy in him and was so funny,” Dorys Gonzalez wrote in a remembrance on Facebook. “He was such a good person.”

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio singled out Rios Monday night at the Stonewall Inn vigil in Manhattan.

“We lost a good young man from Brooklyn. A caring and loving young man, he was already serving others. He was attending nursing school while working with our senior citizens as a social worker. This is the kind of good human being we lost in Orlando, someone with a life ahead, making this world a better place,” said de Blasio.

Miguel Angel Honorato, 30

Miguel Honorato was married with three children. The family lived in the Orlando suburb of Apopka, F.L., and according to Facebook he and his brother, Jose Honorato, worked together at FajitaMex Mexican Catering.

Jose Honorato tells the Orlando Sentinel that his brother had gone to Pulse nightclub with three friends, and that all three of them had made it home safe.

Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40

Known to his friends as “Javi”, Javier Jorge-Reyes was originally from Puerto Rico. Jose Diaz, a friend of the victim, tells the Orlando Sentinel that Jorge-Reyes was a salesman at a Gucci store at a mall in Orlando, and that his outgoing personality made Jorge-Reyes good at his job. “He was always positive,” Diaz tells the Sentinel. “He was very humble. He was a lovely friend.”

Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19

Josaphat, still in his teens, is the second-youngest identified victim in the Pulse shooting.

“Like many 19-year-olds, Jason Benjamin Josaphat had many interests and was just starting to chart his path in life, according to his family — he was computer savvy, loved to work out and had an interest in photography,” the Orlando Sentinel wrote.

The Orlando native had recently graduated from high school and started college classes, Josephat’s uncle Christopher Long told the newspaper.

“He was always helpful, always willing to help someone in need,” Josephat’s aunt, Josette Desile, said.

Josephat called his mother from the club after the shooting began, and stayed on the line with her as she called 911.

“She said she heard the shots getting closer,” Desile said.

Cory James Connell, 21

Connell, a student at Valencia Community College, hoped to become a firefighter, his father James told CNN.

Connell was at Pulse with his girlfriend, who was also shot in the attack.

“Cory’s a good guy,” James Connell told CNN after the attack, before the family had learned of his fate. “He loves everybody.”

On Facebook, Cory Connell’s brother Ryan called him “the superhero of our family.” “God just got the best of angels,” he wrote.

Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37

Luis Daniel Conde, 39

Partners Conde and Velazquez were together at Pulse when they were shot.

“Se fueron juntos como la pareja que son,” Facebook user Pipo Pere wrote — meaning “they left together like the couple that they are.”

Another Facebook user, Tulio Lopez, recalled them as “two extraordinary human beings.”

Conde and Velazquez owned a salon and spa together, the Tampa Bay Times reports, and had been business partners for a decade.

“They were both exceptional people,” Conde’s sister Lynette Conde told the paper. “They were always helping each other.”

Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24

Jonathan Camuy worked on the show La Voz Kids, produced in Orlando for Telemundo, NBC Miami reports.

He was a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, according to president Mekhlo Medina. He’d joined the journalism association as a student in Puerto Rico before moving to Florida.

Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32

Christine Leinonen drove to Pulse at 4 a.m., after she heard there was a shooting, the Associated Press reports. Her son, Christopher Andrew Leinonen, had been at the club — and after the attack his friends had posted online that they didn’t know where he was

She stood on the street, sobbing, begging for word of her son.

“These are nonsensical killings of our children,” she said. “They’re killing our babies!”

Christine’s emotional appeal for news of her son aired on TVs around the nation. She said she was proud of Christopher, she told ABC News, saying he won a humanitarian award for founding the gay-straight alliance at his high school. She begged for the world to “try to get rid of the hatred and the violence, please!”

On Monday the confirmation came: Leinonen died in the shooting.

Nightclub photographer Melody Maia Monet shared a photo on Instagram of Leinonen and his boyfriend Juan Ramon Guerrero, who also died in the attack. She took the photo at a different nightclub on Friday, just one day before the shooting.

“I am haunted that I may have taken the last photo of them together,” she wrote. “They were so beautiful.”

Frank Hernandez, 27

His family called him Frankie. Frank Hernandez was at Pulse nightclub in Orlando with his boyfriend when the shooting began. According to the Miami Herald, by the time Hernandez’s teenage sister, Julissa Leal, made the 12 hour drive to Orlando from their childhood home in Louisiana, Hernandez was dead.

“I don’t want to say it, I don’t even want to believe it,” Leal writes on Facebook. “I don’t understand why he had to be one of the many victims who didn’t make it. Why did it have to be him of all people. They took my big brother away from me, they took him away from us.”

Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33

Tomlinson was a lead singer in a cover band called Frequency. Earlier Sunday night, the Orlando Sentinel reports, he was singing at another nightclub, the Blue Martini.

He was “a vibrant and charismatic lead vocalist,” the paper writes.

“Orlando will miss his voice,” friend Jai Saint told People. “The world will miss his voice.”

Paul Terrell Henry, 41

Antonio Davon Brown, 29

Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21

Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32

Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25

Jerald Arthur Wright, 31

Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25

Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25

Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27

Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33

Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49

Yilmary Rodriguez Sulivan, 24

Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28

Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25

Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25

Akyra Monet Murray, 18

Vigils, marches, and rallies are being held across the country Monday evening to remember the victims of the deadly attack in Orlando.

Events were held in New York, Vermont, Florida, California, Alaska, Rhode Island, Colorado, Louisiana, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. Another vigil is scheduled for Tuesday in Atlanta, Georgia.

In New York, thousands gathered outside the Stonewall Inn, the site of a 1969 police raid that launched the modern movement in this country for LGBT activism.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined the vigil and delivered a full throated demand for what he called “sensible gun control.”

“How many people have to die before this federal government comes to its senses? We had Columbine, we had Virginia Tech, we had Sandy Hook, we had San Bernardino, we had Aurora, Colorado! When does it stop? he asked the cheering crowd.

Mayor Bill de Blasio called the attack in Orlando not just an attack on forty-nine Americans. “It was an attack on American values,” he said.

“We do not accept anyone who would sow division and hatred. We do not accept the notion of any of our leaders sowing hatred and division particularly in the wake of tragedy and that means you Donald Trump.”

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit
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