Orlando gay nightclub shooting victims: Who they were

All victims have been identified.
By Andrew V. Pestano Follow @AVPLive9 Contact the Author   |   June 13, 2016 at 7:32 AM
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ORLANDO, Fla., June 13 (UPI) -- The city of Orlando has released names of many of those killed in the Pulse nightclub massacre, the deadliest shooting in U.S. history.

"On this very difficult day, we offer heartfelt condolences to today's victims and their families," the Orlando city government said in a statement on Sunday. "Our city is working tirelessly to get as much information out to the families so they can begin the grieving process. Please keep the following individuals in your thoughts and prayers."

Police identified Omar Seddique Mateen, 29, as the gunman who carried out the attack with an assault rifle and a handgun, beginning at about 2 a.m. Sunday. The onslaught lasted until about 5 a.m., resulting in a hostage situation. Mateen, who died in the shooting, purchased the firearms legally in Florida within the past week despite previously being investigated by the FBI over "alleged possible terrorist ties" since 2013.

Pulse, which describes itself as "the hottest gay bar" in Orlando, had been hosting a "Latin flavor" event Saturday night. Forty-nine people died and 53 were hospitalized.

The City of Orlando began releasing the names of victims Sunday after notifying next of kin.

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34

Sotomayor was a 34-year-old tour leader for the agency Al & Chuck Travel, which caters to the gay community. He was known for being caring, energetic and for donning top hats, often black, which earned him the nickname "top-hat Eddie."

"Eddie was one sweetheart and I will miss talking and working with him. That smile and top hat is burned in my memory," Nikki Stjames, a friend of Sotomayor's, posted on social media.

Stanley Almodovar III, 23.

Rosalie Ramos described her 23-year-old son, Almodovar, as a big-hearted, happy man. He studied pharmacy at Anthem College and was working as a pharmacy technician.

Almodovar's aunt Yoly described her nephew as "an amazing person with a good soul" and a promising future. His birthday was later this month.

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20.

At 20 years old, Ocasio-Capo was one of the youngest victims identified in the massacre. He was a dancer and a barista. He grew up in Nashville, Tenn., and moved to Orlando to pursue a career in acting and dancing. He worked at a local target and Starbucks while he pursued his dream.

"He was always just loving and kind," Daniel Suarez-Ortiz, a friend of Ocasio-Capo, said. "The reason why he moved to Orlando was for his acting and dancing career, and it hurts that he is not able to do that anymore."

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32.

Guerrero and Leinonen had been dating for nearly two years and lived together. The couple killed at the Pulse nightclub will have a joint funeral service.

Guerrero, 22, worked as a customer service representative for a credit union while studying at the University of Central Florida. He recently finished his freshman year.

Although Guerrero was initially afraid about coming out as gay to his family earlier this year, Robert Guerrero, his cousin, said his family accepted both he and Leinonen.

"As long as he was happy, they were OK with it," Robert Guerrero told WESH. "He was never the type to go out to parties, would rather stay home and care for his niece and nephew."

Leinonen went to SeaWorld Orlando on Saturday before going to Pulse later that evening. The 32-year-old earned bachelor's and master's degrees in psychology at the University of Central Florida

Leinonen's mother, Christine Leinonen, said her son was a gay-rights activist who started a gay-straight alliance group during high school and recently won the Anne Frank Humanitarian Award for his work in the gay community.

"I've been so proud of him for that," his mother said. "Please, let's all just get along. We're on this Earth for such a short time. Let's try to get rid of the hatred and the violence, please."

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36.

Abismel Colon Gomez, a former roommate of 36-year-old Ortiz-Rivera, said she was surprised Ortiz-Rivera went out.

"I am really in shock that he was in the club, because he was not usually a club scene person," Gomez told the Orlando Sentinel. "The only reason he went was because there was a house-warming party for our friend."

The house-warming party on Saturday moved onto the Pulse nightclub to celebrate on Latin Night. Ortiz-Rivera moved from Puerto Rico to Florida to seek a better life.

"My heart breaks," Gomez said. "We have seven friends who were there, and already we know three are dead."

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22.

The 22-year-old victim, known as Peter Ommy by his friends and family, worked for UPS in Orlando. He spoke English and Spanish.

His cousins wrote short messages of mourning on Twitter including "Rest in peace to my wonderful cousin" and "May you rest easy in Heaven."

Luis S. Vielma, 22.

Vielma worked as an attraction operator at the Universal Orlando theme park and had aspirations of becoming an EMT. He "was always a friend you could call" and was "always open and available," co-worker Josh Boesch told the Orlando Sentinel.

"He was a true friend," Glomba wrote. "A funny, sweet, nerdy guy without a mean side. He just wanted to make people smile."

Vielma worked on the former Disaster! attraction and he recently began working on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride.

"Luis Vielma worked on the Harry Potter ride at Universal," Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling wrote in a tweet. "He was 22 years old. I can't stop crying."

Kimberly Morris, 37.

Morris moved from Hawaii to Orlando about two months ago to help her mother and grandmother who live in Orlando. Morris loved to be active, was passionate about basketball and enjoyed MMA fighting.

The 37-year-old worked as a bouncer for Pulse, where she felt she belonged.

"She was so excited," Starr Shelton, an ex-girlfriend, told the Orlando Sentinel. "She'd just started working there and told me how she was thrilled to get more involved in the LGBT community there."

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30.

Justice, a 30-year-old accountant, texted his mother from within the Pulse nightclub as the massacre took place.

"Mommy, I love you," he wrote in one of the messages to Mina Justice. "In club, [they're] shooting."

His mother replied, asking him if he was alright. He told her that he was trapped in the bathroom and asked her to call the police.

"I'm gonna die," Justice said via text at 2:08 a.m. The mother and son shared a few brief messages until about 2:50 a.m. when she asked if the gunman was in the bathroom with him.

"He's a terror," Justice wrote. "Yes," was his final text message.

Justice liked to make everyone laugh. He enjoyed eating and working out.

Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25.

The 25-year-old Puerto Rican moved to Orlando about three years ago to pursue a career as a dancer and choreographer.

"He was very talented," Ana Figueroa, a cousin who lives in Orlando, said. "He started dancing when he was about 10 years old. It was his passion."

Laureano Disla went to the Pulse nightclub with two roommates who were injured. Figueroa was asked by her cousin if she wanted to join him at for Latin night at the club, but Figueroa said she was too tired -- telling Laureano Disla maybe some other night.

"I want people to remember Anthony as someone who was very happy and very kind," Figueroa said. "This is just devastating for our family and his friends."

"When I saw your name on that list, my heart sunk," a friend posted on his Facebook wall. "You didn't deserve it."

Jean Carlos Mendez-Perez, 35. Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37.

Mendez-Perez, from Puerto Rico, moved to the United States when he was a teenager. He worked in a Perfumania store at the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets.

Loved ones said he enjoyed looking, smelling and feeling his best. Claudia Agudelo, a coworker, said he was the best salesperson she ever met.

"He laughed with the people and would make jokes," Agudelo said. "He was always happy."

Mendez-Perez met his partner while working at Perfumania. He sold him a fragrance and the two later saw each other at a nightclub. The pair would later fall in love and become a couple.

His partner, Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, was also killed in the Pulse massacre.

Born in Puerto Rico, Wilson-Leon moved to the United States not knowing the English language well.

"He was my hero," said Daniel Gmys-Casiano, a friend for nearly 20 years. "He's been dealing with hate all his life. We all have. I have. He never retaliated with hate. He was a very loving person. He was strong. He would stand to protect his friends."

Gmys-Casiano described Wilson-Leon as a protector, confidant and hero.

Wilson-Leon's cousin, Siclaly Santiago-Leon, said she was heartbroken, devastated and broken over the couple's death.

"I love you my love, Dani. I love you my love, Jean," she wrote in a Facebook post. "You are together. Rest in peace. Kisses always."

Amanda Alvear, 25.

Alvear posted a short video on the Snapchat application when the shooting began at Pulse nightclub. In the video, gunshots are heard intermittently drowning out the nightclub's music. She looks at the camera and looks away as if confused.

Alvear, 25, transformed her life over the past two years by losing about 180 pounds through exercise and gastric bypass surgery. She worked as a pharmacy technician and had aspirations to become a nurse so she could help people.

Her brother Brian Alvear, said she spent Friday and Saturday spoiling her nieces -- Zatanna, 8, and Bella, 12 -- by buying them clothes.

"She was a fashionista. She liked to look good, and she wanted my girls -- her girls -- to look good," Brian said. "She liked to make them look very good."

Her brother said she liked going to gay and lesbian clubs because they were fun, safe places where she could be herself.

"She wouldn't want anyone to spread hate for her," Brian said. "She'd rather they spread more love, keep friends and family close and have a good time doing it."

Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31.

Born in Venezuela, Carrillo Fernandez lived in the United States for the past eight years -- eventually becoming a U.S. citizen. He worked as a manager of a fast food restaurant.

The 31-year-old recently purchased a home with his partner, Oscar Aracena-Montero, another victim of the Pulse nightclub massacre.

Oscar Aracena-Montero, 26.

Aracena-Montero returned to his Kissimmee home from a vacation to New York and Canada shortly before going to Pulse nightclub with his friends.

The 26-year-old moved from the Dominican Republic to Central Florida with his father when he was a child.

"Oscar was a very sweet guy. Very sweet to everybody," Yamilka Pimentel, a cousin, said. "Every time he met somebody they would like him a lot. He was the type of guy who goes along with anybody."

He went to the club with his partner, Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, who was also killed.

Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33.

Ayala, 33, from Puerto Rico, worked as a biologic assistant for a OneBlood donation center in Kissimmee, Fla., and was known for his compassion and dedication to his work. He would be celebrating the one-year anniversary of owning a home on Wednesday.

"He loved to dance salsa and all kinds of Latin dancing," Johnny Rivera Muñiz, a friend, said, adding his late friend didn't often go out. "He didn't even drink because he had a long drive home and always wanted to be safe."

Akyra Monet Murray, 18.

Photo via Facebook

Akyra was a basketball star who scored more than 1,000 points in her sporting career at West Catholic Preparatory High School in Philadelphia. She graduated third in her senior class last week and previously signed on to play ball at Pennsylvania's Mercyhurst College.

To celebrate her graduation, the 18-year-old took a trip with her cousin to Orlando to visit her brother. Akyra died during the Pulse massacre on Sunday.

"Losing Akyra is heartbreaking," her high school coach, Beulah Osueke, said in a statement. "This is a very difficult day, not just for the Murray family but for the West Catholic family and all that were touched by Akyra's warmth and magnetic embrace."

"She carried herself with such dignity," West Catholic Principal Jim Gallagher said. "She's going to be missed immensely."

Franky Jimmy De Jesus Velazquez, 50.

DeJesus worked for the young women's clothing store Forever 21 as a visual merchandiser.

"All he did was work, help people. His family loved him," friend Wanda Soto said, adding that two of his best friends were at the club with him but that they survived. "Wherever Jimmy would go, Jimmy had people loving him.''

"Jimmy De Jesús, I love you, and I'll still carry you in my heart," Soto said, adding that she can't believe her friend is gone.

De Jesus' family plan to take his body back to his native Puerto Rico for funeral services.

"The last time I was able to see my brother was last year when I came to spend Thanksgiving in Orlando," Bernice De Jesús said, translated from Spanish. "He was always telling me, 'I love you.' I still cannot believe what happened. He was a happy person, very humanitarian, always there when you needed him."

Martin Benitez Torres, 33.

The 33-year-old recently moved from Puerto Rico to Orlando but he was studying to become a pharmacy technician at Ana G. Méndez University's Tampa campus.

"Going to miss that big smile always happy ... I can't believe that my cousin is gone too soon," Sonia N. Crapps, a cousin and Orlando resident wrote on his Facebook page. "He was amazing person inside & outside. I am so tired of people killing other people like our family & friends."

Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26.

Flores went to the Pulse nightclub with her friend, Amanda Alvear -- another victim of the massacre.

"Two beautiful souls have been taken way to soon," Ashley Velez, a mutual friend, wrote on Facebook. "You girls will be missed."

Flores, 26, was studying literature at Valencia College and was interested in party planning. She was a New York City native.

"It is not fair that such a horrific act of hate would take the life of a beautiful soul," Cesar Flores, her older brother, said in a statement. "No words can describe the pain my family is going through."

Her brother said he would forgive the gunman for what he did.

"I forgive the boy because I cannot take that hate in my life. My life is more important than hate," Flores said. "It hurts so much ... She had so many dreams."

Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25.

Silva moved from Manati, Puerto Rico, to Orlando several years ago. He studied healthcare management at Ana G. Mendez University's Orlando campus and worked at a Speedway convenience store.

"This is news you just don't want to wake up to, but it has been confirmed that our cousin was victim of this shooting," Maribel Silva, Silva's cousin, wrote on her Facebook wall. "Near or far, we are blood and loss like this is difficult to swallow. Love and prayers to you all."

Maricelly Alomar, Silva's counselor, said the 25-year-old victim of the shooting "carried a positive and contagious attitude towards life."

"He was a dedicated man, with great dreams of helping people in need, and the desire of becoming a health care professional," Alomar said.

Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25.

Rios was a social worker. He left his New York City home to spend the weekend in Orlando to celebrate his friend's birthday.

His mother, Gertrude Merced, said she wants to bring her son's body to Brooklyn. She hoped to raise $4,000 through a GoFundMe page to bring her son home. The family collected more than $27,000 in just one day.

"My family is torn apart and all I would like is to have my son with me so he can [have] the funeral he deserves," Merced wrote. "My son was a good kid. He was just having a great time on his vacation, until this deranged man came in and shot the place up."

Rayvon Murray Johnson used to work with Rios at New York's LaGuardia Airport.

"Was such a funny and cool dude. He used to tell me, 'don't let world hold you back from your dreams,'" Johnson wrote on Facebook. "My heart is heavy, sleep well my brother."

Miguel Angel Honorato, 30.

A 30-year-old father of three was among those killed in the massacre. Honorato, a soccer fan who supported the LIGA MX Mexican soccer team Club America, managed a Mexican restaurant in Sanford.

His brother, Jose Honorato, received messages of condolences on Facebook ever since news broke of his brother's passing.

"I am so sorry for your loss he was an amazing loving caring person and will always be missed! May God bless you and your family," one person wrote in a comment on Jose's Facebook page a under recently-uploaded picture of the brothers. "My condolences Jose for you and your family may god give you strength and resignation."

Jonny Reyes, a colleague, said Honorato was "excellent person, boss and friend.ʺ

Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40.

Javier Jorge-Reyes was a 40-year-old native Puerto Rican who his friends called Harvey George Kings, a translation of his name from Spanish, or Javi.

"He liked to go out ... He was proud to be Latino, super proud," Jose Diaz, a friend from Tampa, said. "He was always positive ... He was very humble. He was a lovely friend."

Jorge-Reyes worked as a supervisor in Orlando's Mall at Millenia Gucci store. The company expressed condolences on a Facebook post.

"Our special thoughts are with Javier Jorge-Reyes, who lost his life, and all of our colleagues in Orlando," Gucci wrote.

Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19.

Jason Benjamin Josaphat recently began studying computer science at Valencia College after graduating high school. He loved to work out and was interested in photography.

While people were dying all around him inside the Pulse nightclub, Josaphat called his mother. She told him to escape while she called 911. He did not survive.

Josette Desile, Josaphat's aunt, described her nephew as "always helpful" and "always willing to help someone in need."

Christopher Long, Josaphat's uncle, said his parents were very proud of their son.

"Everybody is just very, very hurt ... You never think it would be you until it is, until it happens to one of your family members," Long said. "Right now, the whole family is grieving."

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35.

Serrano was the 35-year-old father of a 5-year-old boy. He was a dancer who moved to Florida from Puerto Rico 10 years ago and performed at local theme parks, including Walt Disney World and the Norwegian Cruise Line.

He recently began working at the Aldo shoe store chain at the Orlando International Premium Outlets because the schedule would be more suitable for a parent.

"He was always energetic and always had a smile on his face that made you smile too," Wilma Lozano, the mother of Serrano's son, said in a statement. "And if I was down, he knew how to made me smile and get back up."

The father and son enjoyed spending time at the swimming pool, watching movies and playing video games.

Cory James Connell, 21.

Connell was at Pulse nightclub with his girlfriend, Paula Andrea Blanco. The couple were leaving as the gunman entered. His girlfriend survived but Connell did not.

Working at a local Publix and as an assistant coach for Orlando's Women's Football Alliance, Connell was described by his teachers as the "sweetest kid ever."

Connell was a "superhero" who was a "family man through and through," according to his brother Ryan.

"The world lost an amazing soul, today," Ryan Connell wrote on Facebook. "God just got the best of angels."

Juan P. Rivera Velazquez and Luis Daniel Conde

Velazquez and Conde were more than just partners, they were business partners. Velazquez, a 37-year-old hairstylist, and Conde, a 39-year-old makeup artist, owned a salon together in Kissimmee called Alta Peluqueria D'Magazine.

The couple were together for 16 years. They died together in the Orlando massacre.

"They just wanted to say 'hi' and spend time there ... Juan was always just focused on his job, and Luis was more the jokester. He was always smiling and making people laugh," Alexandra Ale, a patron of the couple's salon, said. "They would just lift you up and make you feel good about yourself ... It's not going to be the same without them. They were the life of any moment. We lost good individuals who would have contributed more to this world."

Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33.

Tomlinson was a singer who performed with his band Frequency hours before he was one of the 49 people who were killed in Orlando. The 33-year-old is described as a vibrant and charismatic person. He was the lead vocalist for the band and would perform at nightclubs and weddings.

"Not only was he a great person, he was a tremendous talent, a role model for all in the music business ... Someone who strived to be the best and made everyone around him better," Dennis Bailey, president of the management firm that worked with the Frequency band, said. "This was a senseless and horrific event that took his life and the lives of other innocent people ... We can only pray that something is done to prevent these types of things from happening again."

Tomlinson graduated from East Carolina University with a degree in communications. His voice was described as smooth as he would sing songs from the 1970s through modern times.

"I've never met anyone like him," Carey Sobel, an Orlando resident who hired Frequency to play his upcoming wedding, said. "He was really special."

Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25.

Martinez, a 25-year-old Mexican national, worked for APDC Services, a staffing company partner of Kissimmee's Reunion Resorts, for about seven years. His coworkers described Martinez as a kind and loving person.

"My heart is still breaking for my friend. It is very hard to talk right now. He had a lot of friends. I do not know any information about his family," Tomas Martinez, a friend of Martinez's, said.

The Mexican consulate in Orlando said the Mexican government would provide financial assistance to Mexicans killed in the Pulse nightclub massacre. At least three Mexican nationals were killed.

Jerald Arthur Wright, 31.

Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25.

Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25.

Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24.

Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27.

Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49.

Yilmary Rodriguez Sulivan, 24.

Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28.

Frank Hernandez, 27.

Paul Terrell Henry, 41.

Antonio Davon Brown, 29.

Brown was a 29-year-old U.S. Army Reserve captain who graduated with a criminal justice degree from Florida A&M University.

He will be remembered by loved ones as a guy who could make anyone laugh.

"Every now and then, I think of the fun memories and how crazy, humorous Tony was," Brown's mother Rosetta Evans told WFTV. "And when I get quiet and have nothing to think about, it keeps coming to my mind and it just hurts."

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter released a statement following confirmation of the U.S. Army Reserve captain's death. He served in Kuwait from April 2010 until March 2011.

"Capt. Antonio Davon Brown served his country for nearly a decade, stepping forward to do the noblest thing a young person can do, which is to protect others. His service both at home and overseas gave his fellow Americans the security to dream their dreams, and live full lives," Carter wrote. "The attack in Orlando was a cowardly assault on those freedoms, and a reminder of the importance of the mission to which Capt. Brown devoted his life."

Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24.

Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25.

Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32.

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32.

Darryl Roman Burt II, 29.

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21.

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