Remembering the victims of the Pulse tragedy

Tampa holds memorials to honor the victims of Pulse

It was one year ago that a lone gunman walked into the Pulse night club in Orlando and opened fire, unleashing a wave of terror that ended with 49 people dead and dozens wounded.

Here are photos from some of the memorials and stories about the victims. 

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1) Edward "Eddie" Sotomayor Jr. was 34 years old.

Edward Sotomayor of Sarasota was a caring, energetic man known for wearing a silly top hat on cruises, said David Sotomayor, who identified himself as the victim's cousin.

David Sotomayor, who lives in Chicago, told The Associated Press Sunday that Edward worked for a company that held gay cruises and often traveled to promote the company's events.

"He was just always part of the fun," David Sotomayor said.

The two discovered they were related after meeting at Orlando's annual Gay Days festival around a decade ago. They texted regularly and kept in touch, last seeing each other earlier this year at a filming of the television reality show "RuPaul's Drag Race," David Sotomayor said.

David Sotomayor is a drag queen who appeared on a season of the show using the name "Jade." He said Edward Sotomayor supported him and often sent him Facebook messages. They last exchanged messages late last week.

"You never think that's going to be the last time you speak to him," David Sotomayor said. "It's just heartbreaking to know it just can happen anytime."   

2) Stanley Almodovar III was 23 years old. 

His mother had prepared a tomato-and-cheese dip for him to eat when he came home from his night out.

Instead, Rosalie Ramos was awakened by a call at 2 a.m. Sunday telling her something had happened.

Ramos told the Orlando Sentinel her son, a 23-year-old pharmacy technician, posted a Snapchat video of himself singing and laughing on his way to Pulse nightclub. He was a graduate of East Ridge High School in Clermont in 2011.

"I wish I had that (video) to remember him forever," she told the newspaper.

A friend, Hazel Ramirez, told The Washington Post she also saw a video from Almodovar on Snapchat and learned Sunday afternoon what had happened.

Ramirez described Almodovar as "kind, but sassy," and someone who was comfortable with his own sexual identity.

"He was so proud of who he was," she told the Post. "He would do his makeup better than anyone else. It was so easy to be myself with him."

3) Juan Ramon Guerrero was 22 years old. 

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22, had told his cousin Robert Guerrero, that he was gay about two years ago but he was worried about how the rest of his family would react so he did not tell them until just before the beginning of this year. And when he did? "They were very accepting," said Guerrero, 19. "As long as he was happy, they were OK with it."

On Sunday morning, after learning that so many people had died at a gay nightclub, Pulse, that his cousin had gone to once in a while, Guerrero started to become concerned. Later in the day, his fears were realized when the family learned that Guerrero was identified as one of the victims.

Robert Guerrero said his cousin worked as a telemarketer and in recent months he started attending college at the University of Central Florida. Guerrero said his cousin didn't quite know what he wanted to study, but he was happy to be in school. And he was happy in a relationship with a person his relatives came to regard as a member of the family, Guerrero said.

"He was always this amazing person (and) he was like a big brother to me," he said of his cousin. "He was never the type to go out to parties, would rather stay home and care for his niece and nephew."

4) Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo was 20 years old.

According to his Facebook page, he'd been a dancer for over 10 years. He grew up in Nashville, Tenn., and was a graduate of La Vergne High School. 

Ocasio-Capo was hired as a cashier at Target before moving to Starbucks, and became a great barista, his former co-worker -- 70-year-old Claudia Mason -- said. “I think he found his niche,” she said.

What's more, “He was one of the most amazing dancers,” said his sister, Belinette Ocasio-Capo. “He would always call me and say, ‘I’m going to be the next Hollywood star.’''

5) Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera was 36 years old. Eric lived in Miami, Florida but was originally from Dorado, Puerto Rico. He studied at Univercidad Central de Bayamon.

6) Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz was 22 years old.

Gonzalez-Cruz -- known among family and friends as "Ommy" -- was always the life of the party.

"Peter makes a difference everywhere he goes. He was a happy person. If Peter is not at the party, no one wants to go," his aunt, Sonia Cruz, said.

Gonzalez-Cruz, who worked for USP in Orlando, went to Pulse on Saturday night with his best friend, 25-year-old Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez. After news of the mass shooting emerged, Cruz said she held out hope for hours that her nephew would turn up in a hospital bed.

But late Sunday afternoon, she was told he was among those killed at the club.

Cruz said she had her nephew's car keys and was hoping to collect his car Sunday evening. It was parked at a Wendy's across the street from Pulse, one of many with yellow police caution tape tucked under the windshield wipers, vehicles left behind by victims of the shooting.

7) Luis Vielma was 22 years old. 

Everyone loved Luis Vielma, friends said. High school friend Eddi Anderson told the Tampa Bay Times that Vielma loved his job and was known for his pleasant attitude and warm demeanor. Josh Boesch, who worked with Vielma at Universal, told the Orlando Sentinel, "He was always a friend you could call. He was always open and available." Vielma "just wanted to make people smile," another co-worker, Olga Glomba, said.

On Sunday evening, J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, tweeted that Vielma worked on the Harry Potter ride at Universal.

8) Kimberly Morris was 37 years old. 

Kimberly Morris moved to Orlando just months ago from Hawaii and had taken a job at Pulse nightclub as a bouncer, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

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

Friends described Morris as a kind, sweet person.

Narvell Benning met Morris when they were in college at Post University in Waterbury, Conn., where Benning said they both played basketball. "I can't think of a time when I did not see a smile on her face," Benning told the Sentinel. "I'm so thankful for the good memories I have of her. This is just unreal."

 

9) Eddie Jamoldroy Justice was 30 years old

Mina Justice was sound asleep when she received the first text from her son, Eddie Justice, who was in the gay nightclub when a gunman opened fire.

Early Monday morning, Eddie's name was added to the list of the deceased.

He wrote in a text to his mother that he was in the bathroom.

"He's coming

I'm gonna die."

More than 15 hours after the texts with her frantic son, Justice still hadn't heard from him. She and a dozen family and friends were at a hotel that had become a staging area for relatives awaiting news. Any news. Early Monday morning, Eddie was added to the list of the deceased. He was an accountant and lived in Orlando.

10) Darryl Romon Burt II, 29, of Jacksonville, was in Orlando to celebrate earning his degree in human resources management.

11) Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32, of Orlando was turning her life around, a friend told the Orlando Sentinel.

12) Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old

13) Anthony Luis Lauranodisla, 25 years old

14) Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35, was a native of Puerto Rico, worked at Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets. He was at the club with Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon.

15) Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50. One of his friends, Sara Lopez, said she saw him as she was leaving but he was behind some other people, and then the shouting started. 

16) Amanda Alvear, 25, of Polk County, had gone to the club with friends for Latin night. Her brother, Brian Alvear, said she went to gay and lesbian clubs because they were fun and she felt able to be herself there: "She wouldn't want anyone to spread hate for her. She'd rather they spread more love."

Alvear had lost a lot of weight following gastric bypass surgery, according to Sandy Marte, a friend with whom she’d bonded over health and relationship problems. “She was loving, she was caring, she always had an open ear, she always wanted to help people,” Marte said of Alvear. “She had an amazing heart.”

17) Martin Benitez Torres, 33, had arrived in Florida only a few days before to visit family.

18) Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon was 37 years old. 

Luis grew up in Puerto Rico, and was a protector, confidant and hero, according to friend Daniel Gmys-Casiano.

His cousin, Thron Crowe, said Wilson “came from Puerto Rico because he was gay and couldn't be himself there. When he got here, he didn't speak a lick of English."

19) Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26, of Davenport, had studies literature at Valencia College.

20) Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old

21) Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25, grew up in Puerto Rico and was studying health care management at Ana G. Mendez University.

22) Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31, came to the U.S. from Venezuela about a decade ago, according to his former wife, Hildamaris Carrilo. The manager at a McDonald’s in Orlando was known for his attention to detail like never forgetting a birthday.

23) Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26, of Kissimmee, had just returned from a vacation in New York and Canada. He went to the club for Latin night.

24) Enrique L. Rios, 25, of New York, was in Orlando to celebrate a friend's birthday.

25) Miguel Angel Honorato, 30, was a father of three who managed four restaurants and had a catering business. Despite that, he was remembered as someone who would drop it all to help one of his seven siblings.

26) Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old 

27) Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old 

28) Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old 

29) Cory James Connell, 21 years old

30) Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old

31) Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old

32) Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old

33) Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old

34) Jerald Arthur Wright, 31

35) Leroy Valentin Fernandez was 25 years old

Leroy was recently hired as a leasing agent for an apartment complex, his friend, Jennifer Rodriguez, told The Associated Press. “He had finally found something he liked. He was taking care of his mom.”

Fernandez, her hair stylist, became one of her best friends. “He was like a brother. He was just really very spirited and always happy, you know?”

Fernandez, 25, recently had been dating an older man, a dancer known by the stage name Eman Valentino. That was Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35, who also died. He left a young son who’d graduated from pre-kindergarten earlier this month. “I have no words to express how proud and happy I am of my little boy,” Rosado had written on Facebook.

36) Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25

37) Jonathan Antonio Camuy Veta, 34

38) Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old

39) Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old

40) Brenda Lee Marquez McCool was 49 years old.

She was the mother of 11 children and survived cancer twice, according to a GoFundMe page. She had gone to the club with her son for some dancing.

"One decision changed the lives of many," wrote her son, Farrell Marshall. 

41) Yilmary Rodriguez Sulivan, 24 years old

42) Christopher Andrew Leinonen, was 32 years old.

Christopher attended the University of Central Florida. He was a mental health therapist and was working at a hospital in Seminole County.

43) Angel L. Candelario-Padro was 28 years old.

He was was born in Guanica, Puerto Rico, and lived in Orlando, according to his Facebook page. He studied nursing at Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico Recinto Metropolitano and was an ophthalmic technician at the Florida Retina Institute.

44) Frank Hernandez was 27 years old.

He had a tattoo on his right upper arm: “love has no gender.” Hernandez, who had moved to Orlando from Louisiana, was the manager of a Calvin Klein store.  

45) Paul Terrell Henry, 41, a Chicago native, loved to dance and have fun, according to Francisco Hernandez. He also loved his family, and two children including daughter Alexia, who recently graduated from high school.

46) Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old

47) Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old

Christopher lived in Tampa ang was a graduate from Gaither High School.

His family has created a GoFundMe to help raid money and to fund inclusive programs at Gaither.

48) Akyra Money Murray, 18 years old

According to her father, Albert Murray, his entire family had traveled to Orlando on Friday for vacation and that his daughter, his niece and a friend went to Pulse Nightclub Saturday night.

CBS Philly describes the horrific call ther he received hours later. “She was screaming and said, ‘Daddy, I’m bleeding. I’ve been shot, come get me.'” 

Akyra Murray graduated from West Catholic Prep High School last week and was a star player on the Burr’s girl basketball team.

She scored 1,000 points and gained multiple All-Catholic Honors. She was headed to Mercyhurst in the fall on full athletic scholarship, but now the community is mourning.

West Catholic wrote on the school’s website:

 

“West Catholic Prep is terribly saddened to report that Akyra Murray ’16 has been confirmed as a victim in the mass shooting in Orlando this weekend. A recent graduate, Akyra was a superstar who was a leader amongst her classmates and teammates. She was a solid student in the classroom and a 1,000 point scorer on the Lady Burrs basketball team, and recently signed a letter of intent to play basketball at Mercyhurst College next year. May God bless Akyra’s soul and provide comfort to all family and friends during this very troubling time.”

Akyra is the youngest named victim. 

49) Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old

Information from the Orlando Sentinel was used in this report.

Information from the Tampa Bay Times was included in this report.

 

 

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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