Officials have identified 48 of the 49 people killed in this weekend’s shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. The victims identified so far range in age from 18 to 50.
These are their stories.
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22
Guerrero’s cousin remembered him by saying: “He was like a big brother to me. He was never the type to go out to parties, would rather stay home and care for his niece and nephew.” – Associated Press
Juan Guerrero was at the club with his boyfriend, Christopher Leinonen, who was also killed.
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49
Brenda McCool, 49, loved to dance and enjoy life.
The mother of 11 children who had survived cancer twice, went to Pulse on Saturday night to dance the night away with her 21-year-old gay son, Isaiah Henderson.
“She was always really cool, but really a mom at the end of the day,” said Brenda’s oldest daughter, Khalisha Pressley — “the sweetest lovingest person in the world.”
Khalisha told NBC news that her brother survived the attack, and “had to watch his mother die. He saw everybody getting killed.”
She added: “He feels it was his fault.”
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
Edward Sotomayor Jr., known to his friends as “top-hat Eddie” because of the black top hat he always wore to events, was described as “very outgoing, very friendly” and an “all-around great guy,” according to his friend, Jason Howell. “He was one of the greatest guys I’ve ever met. He touched so many people’s lives because he’s such a positive person. He would do anything for anybody.”
The 34-year-old was a national brand coordinator for a gay travel agency,
Sotomayor’s boss, Al Ferguson, wrote this on Facebook: “One of the saddest days of my life. I will try to start to find the good in all of this.”
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32
— champagne puppy (@a_j_orlando) June 13, 2016
Leinonen, who previously lived in Detroit and graduated from the University of Detroit Mercy with a law degree in 1998, was a student at the University of Central Florida and worked as a telemarketer.
Guerrero had come out as gay to his cousin two years ago, but was nervous about how the rest of his family would react to the news. His cousin says they were “very accepting” when he came out to them just before the start of 2016.
Sadly, both Christopher and his boyfriend Juan Ramon Guerrero, were killed in the tragic shooting.
“I received a call that no mother should never receive, ever,” Christine Leinonen wrote in a Facebook post. “I am at a complete loss. they have positively identified my son, Christopher.
” … My heart is extremely heavy (and) I ask that you all continue to pray for me as well as other family members who have lost loved ones due to this senseless hate crime. I will never understand why or how this happened but I’m trusting God to see us through. I love you Christopher so much.”
Martin Benitez Torres, 33
Martin Benitez Torres, who had recently moved to Orlando and was working to become a pharmacy technician, was remembered by his friend, Arlene J Cruz Torres: “I am heartbroken that a beloved friend got killed in this tragedy. Beautiful soul you definitely will be missed.”
Benitez was a student at a Tampa satellite campus of the Ana G. Mendez University System, based in Puerto Rico, where he was born. In a university statement, one of his professors called him a “diligent and extremely hardworking student.”
Benitez was “thankful for the opportunity to advance his career and hopeful to make his dreams a reality,” said Carla Zayas, a Spanish professor.
Amanda Alvear, 25
Amanda Alvear went to Pulse for Latin night with a crew of friends on Saturday night.
Her brother said she frequented gay and lesbian clubs because she felt safe to be herself there and they were fun places.
“She wouldn’t want anyone to spread hate for her,” her brother Brian said. “She’d rather they spread more love, keep friends and family close, and have a good time doing it.”
“People got caught in her wake,” her brother said. “Whatever she was doing, that’s what they were going to do and have fun doing it.”
One of her closest friends, Mercedez Marisol Flores, also died in the shooting.
Amanda recorded several Snapchat clips from inside Pulse Nightclub, showing herself dancing and having fun with friends.
But in the final Snapchat Amanda recorded, more than a dozen shots can be heard coming from the club entrance.
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26, studied literature at Valencia College and had an interest in party planning and was an avid music fan.
“Whenever I was in the car with her, she always had the music blasting, and I guess she got the love of music from my father and uncle who are DJs,” Flores said in an email to the Orlando Sentinel. “She was just a really fun nice person and cared a lot about her friends. She really did live her life the way she wanted to.”
Flores attended Pulse Nightclub with her best friend, Amanda Alvear, who were both confirmed among those killed in the shootings.
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
“He laughed with the people and would make jokes,” said Claudia Agudelo, who worked with Perez at the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets store. “He was always happy.”
According to the Orlando Sentinel: “One of the customers Perez charmed at the perfume shop was Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, who would become his longtime partner. The two were together at Pulse nightclub early Sunday when a gunman opened fire on a crowd of dancers and Latin music-lovers. Both Perez and Wilson-Leon were among those who died in the attack.”
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
“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,” said Daniel Gmys-Casiano, a friend for almost 20 years.
Wilson-Leon and his partner, Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, dated for nearly eight years. Both were killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting.
Luis S. Vielma, 22
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 13, 2016
Luis Vielma, who worked as a the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride at Universal Orlando, was remembered by friends as always going above and beyond for the park’s guests — and his friends.
“He was always a friend you could call,” said Josh Boesch, who worked with Vielma at Universal. “He was always open and available.”
Vielma’s last publicly posted photo on his Facebook profile shows him posing for a picture with his friends in front of Cinderella’s Castle at Magic Kingdom with the caption “True friends who become family.”
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling tweeted a picture of Vielma wearing his universal uniform and a Gryffindor tie, which has been retweeted over 36,000 times.
Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25
Anthony Luis Laureano Disla loved to dance. He was always filled with joy when he was on the dance floor, family members said.
“He was very talented,” cousin Ana Figueroa said. “He started dancing when he was about 10 years old. It was his passion.”
He was also a drag artist known as Alanis Laurell in Orlando.
His cousin Lucas Daniel Acosta D’oleo writes: “What I have is pain beyond repair. I love you cousin.”
Laureano Disla was dancing and laughing with his friends at the Pulse nightclub, when he was shot several time by the gunman.
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
One of the youngest victims identified so far, 19-year-old Jason Benjamin Josaphat had just started his path in life. He loved computers, loved to work out and had an interest in photography.
“He was very excited about his journey,” said Josaphat’s uncle, Christopher Long.
“He mentioned to me that he wanted to start taking pictures, he had a passion for photography,” Long said. “He was just real special.”
Online, a friend wrote, “You made everyone laugh and smile when you came around. You were there for everyone. You were a friend to whomever needed one.”
Orlando Sentinel reports:
After an agonizing day of waiting, wondering and worrying, Josaphat’s family learned Monday morning that the young man had been killed, in what authorities later described as America’s deadliest-ever mass shooting.
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25
Menendez was originally from Manati, Puerto Rico and was working as a sales associate.
One of his friends, Maribel Silva, wrote “My deepest and greatest sympathy goes out to his family. Near or far we are blood and loss like this is difficult to swallow.”
The 25-year-old was found slain along with Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, better known to his friends as “Ommy.”
Menendez had moved to Orlando to study healthcare management at Ana G Mendez University.
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old
“Rest in peace to my wonderful cousin,” read a twitter message from Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz’s cousin. “May you rest easy in Heaven,” wrote another.
He worked at UPS in Orlando and spoke both English and Spanish, according to his Facebook profile.
“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 went to Pulse with his best friend, 25-year-old Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez.
When Sonia Cruz heard about the mass shooting, she said she held out hope for hours that her nephew would turn up in a hospital bed. The family was later told he and Menendez were among those killed.
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33, lived in Orlando and studied at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C. and graduated in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in communications.
The gifted singer, performed with his band Frequency Saturday night at Blue Martini nightclub, just hours before he died in Sunday’s deadly shooting.
“I’ve never met anyone like him,” said Carey Sobel. “He was really special.”
Listen to Tomlinson’s cover of John Legend’s “Stay With You.”
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36, was originally from Puerto Rico and had studied at the Univercidad Central de Bayamon. Before the attack, he was living in Miami and worked in merchandise management.
His former roommate, Abismel Colon Gomez told the Orlando Sentinel: “I am really in shock that he was in the club, because he was not usually a club-scene person,” Colon Gomez told the paper. “The only reason he went was because there was a house-warming party for our friend. And Eric was like his mentor.”
“Eric was always willing to help everybody. He sacrificed himself a lot for his family,” he added. “He loved his brother, and he was always being generous.”
Colon Gomez, who was a former flatmate of Ortiz said “We have seven friends who were there, and already we know three are dead.”
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30, spent the last few hours of his life texting his mother as he hid inside the nightclub’s bathroom.
He woke his mother Mina Justice woke up at 2:06 a.m. to a text message from him saying, “Mommy I love you” followed by “In club they shooting.”
Eddie told his mother that people in the bathroom were hurt and that the gunman was inside the bathroom with the other hostages.
His mother, described Eddie as a “homebody” who liked to make everyone laugh.
Kimberly Morris, 37
Kimberly “KJ” Morris had just moved to Orlando about two months ago from Hawaii to help her mother and grandmother.
The 37-year-old felt at home at the Pulse nightclub, where she was a bouncer.
“She was so excited. She’d just started working there and told me how she was thrilled to get more involved in the LGBT community there,” said ex-girlfriend Starr Shelton.
Shelton, 35, and Morris had dated for more than a year and just recently separated when Shelton moved to San Francisco for school.
“She was such a great person and so full of life,” Shelton said. “I can truly say heaven has gained an angel.”
“She was just the sweetest person. I can’t think of a time when I did not see a smile on her face,” said Narvel Benning, a former college-mate at Post University in Connecticut. “I’m so thankful of the good memories I have of her. This is just unreal.”
“I just remember after every single game she would give me a fist bump and tell me ‘Good game,'” said Benning, 38. “It didn’t matter how bad of a game it was, she was always there.”
Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old
Akyra Murray, a top student and standout athlete at her Philadelphia high school, was celebrating her graduation from West Catholic Preparatory High School with a trip to Orlando, and tragically died in the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub on Sunday.
Orlando Sentinel reports:
West Catholic Principal Jim Gallagher said the teenager was a “quiet leader” and a “really special” student who worked hard in the classroom and on the court. She was so excited, he said, that basketball was going to help her get to college.
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, who described himself as a dancer on Facebook, worked at Target in Kissimmee, Florida, as a cashier and in the store’s Starbucks.
Claudia Mason, a co-worker, remembered him on Facebook: “he lit up any area he worked in, especially Starbucks. So sad that his life was cut so short by such an evil person.”
His co-worker and close friend Stacey Somah wrote “as long as I live and even in death I will not forget you.”
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26
Oscar Aracena-Montero, 26, had just returned from a vacation in New York and Canada with his partner Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez (who also tragically died on Sunday morning), before he went to Orlando’s Pulse nightclub Saturday night.
“He went to Canada on vacation. We saw pictures,” said his cousin, Yamilka Pimentel. “They stopped in New York and went to Niagara Falls. They just flew back into Orlando they same day (the Pulse shootings) happened.”
“Oscar was a very sweet guy. Very sweet to everybody,” Pimentel said. “Every time he met somebody they would like him a lot. He was the type of guy who goes along with anybody.”
The Orlando Sentinel reports:
Friends posted on social media that Oscar’s mother does not have a visa that would allow her to come to the U.S. to attend the funeral. They asked for assistance.
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31
Carrillo was at Pulse Sunday morning with his partner, Oscar Aracena, who was also killed in the shooting.
“This world is so messed up!!!…you see it in the new, hate and tragedy comes to your town …then you find out these two amazing, full of life young hard working loving couple, that always minded there own business,” Denise Ortiz-Pagan wrote on Facebook. “that got home saturday afternoon from an amazing vacation were among the perished ones and it just rips you heart out. Simon A. Carrillo and Oscar Aracena Rest in Peace you beautiful souls…and may we all find a way to heal and go on! God help us!!!!”
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
Leroy “Roy” Fernandez was a native of Ponce, Puerto Rico and lived in Orlando where he worked as a leasing agent at an apartment complex.
Roy loved dressing up and dancing to moves he choreographed in front of crowds while belting out renditions of Beyoncé or Jennifer Lopez, reports the Orlando Sentinel.
“He filled our office with music,” said Yolanda Quinones-Perez, Fernandez’s friend and manager at Auvers Village Apartments in Orlando. “He sang Adele in the office until we couldn’t take it anymore.”
“It just feels very quiet, now.”
Christian Colon Vega, left this heartbreaking message about Fernandez on Facebook Monday (translated from Spanish)
“My heart is broken with the news of your departure, I can’t contain the tears and the pain I feel inside of me,” Colon Vega wrote. “You will always be my baby and I will always love you. May the Lord receive you with open arms and I hope to see you soon my love.”
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25
Tevin Eugene Crosby was originally from Michigan, and studied at Strayer University South in Charlotte.
The 25-year-old business owner was described as “very ambitious,” said his brother, Chavis Crosby. “Whatever goal he had in mind, he worked hard. Whether alone or on a team, he worked on that goal.”
Tevin owned a marketing firm, Total Entrepreneurs Concepts. His brother says he loved to travel for work and fun.
Orlando Sentinel reports:
During that visit, Tevin and Chavis, who is a business student, talked about Chavis’ plans. They were “following in the same footsteps,” Chavis said.
Tevin gave him advice on what his next steps should be.
“He was definitely a good person and a good brother to me,” Chavis said.
Stanley Almodovar III, 23
Stanley Almodovar III’s mother had prepared her son a tomato and cheese dip and left it in the refrigerator for him, expecting he would be hungry when he returned home from the club.
But tragically, her 23-year-old son never made it home.
Ramos said her son was a happy man with a big heart. He was a pharmacy technician.
Cory James Connell, 21 years old
Cory James Connell was described by teachers as the “sweetest kid ever” and “their all-time favorite.”
His brother said his 21-year-old brother was the “superhero” of their family and a “family man through and through.”
“The world lost an amazing soul, today,” Ryan Connell wrote Monday. “God just got the best of angels.”
He was a graduate of Edgewater High School, was studying at Valencia College and working at the Publix in Orlando’s College Park neighborhood.
According to friends, Cory wanted to be a firefighter and described him as “the greatest friend,” the one with a “bright shining smile” and a “cool dude.”
Cory’s girlfriend convinced him to go with her to Pulse because she wanted to teach him how to dance.
Blanco survived the massacre, Ryan Connell said. His brother did not.
Brandon Powers, a high school pal of the victim, said Connell loved sports and loved to laugh.
“He was always funny without being mean,” Power told NBC News.
Antonio Davon Brown, 29
Capt. Antonio Davon Brown of the U.S. Army Reserve was described by friends as a “down to earth guy” who had been involved in the military since college.
The 29-year-old was a 2008 graduate of Florida A&M University and was a criminal justice major from Cocoa Beach.
He joined the U.S. Army in 2008 and was deployed to Kuwait from April 2010 until March 2011.
He was made captain in March 2012 and was working as a human resources officer in the U.S. Army Reserve.
His friend Elly Bailey remembers Brown as a man who “always smiled” and was a “kind, gentle soul.”
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21, was described by friends as an outgoing person who “always had a smile on his face.”
Martinez had just moved to Florida from Cuba.
“Every interaction I had with him was totally positive,” said a friend.
Yilmary Rodriguez Sulivan, 24
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24, was enjoying a night out at Pulse nightclub with her brother-in-law, William Borges.
She was the wife of race-car driver Juan Borges and a mother of two — including a 3-month-old son, Sergio. She had moved to Florida from Puerto Rico and settled in Kissimmee.
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, also known as Jonathan Camuy, was with Rodriguez Solivan and Borges when the shooting began. Vega died while trying to protect Rodriguez Solivan, reports Orlando Sentinel.
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega worked on the production team for the Spanish-language Telemundo show La Voz Kids, who posted their condolences on Facebook Monday.
“Jonathan was an extremely hard-working individual, full of life, enthusiastic and with a great personality,” the network said in a statement to AP. “He will be missed dearly.”
Camuy Vega, who had moved to central Florida from his native Puerto Rico, was an active member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25
Enrique L. Rios worked with seniors and chose to live with his sick grandmother in the housing complex where he grew up, his family told ABC.
Rios’ uncle, Eric Perez, said Rois had gone to Orlando for a friend’s birthday party.
“[A friend] saw Enrique on the opposite side of the club, but there were so many people running out of the club,” said Perez. “They lost track of each other, and he didn’t see him anymore.”
“You stole someone away from a bunch of people that cared and loved him so much,” said Rios’ cousin, Camille Castill. “You stole a lot of people away from our families.”
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50
Velazquez, 50, loved to travel the world performing Puerto Rican folk dances known as Jibaro.
The dancer was born and raised in Puerto Rico and worked as a merchandiser for the Forever 21 clothing chain.
“He was the kind of person who likes to have a good time in the house with family and friends,” said his sister, Bernice De Jesús. “But that night he wanted to go because it was a Latin night. That is what one of his friends told me.”
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
Jorge-Reyes, a proud Puerto Rican, is being remembered by those who knew him as a loyal pal, a savvy and stylish Gucci salesman, and an expert makeup artist.
“He was super outgoing,” said a friend, Jose Diaz of Tampa.
Another friend, Edith Colon of Miami, added: “He had a great personality, a caring heart,” she said.
“I had him in mind to call him this week,” Colon said. “He was a wonderful makeup artist, a great friend and a hard worker.”
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
Ayala-Ayala, 33, was a platelet supervisor in the Orlando OneBlood laboratory, a Florida non-profit blood donation center.
The Puerto Rican native began working at OneBlood in 2011 as a biologics assistant and “through his commitment and dedication” was promoted several times,” said a OneBlood statement.
“Rodolfo was a highly respected member of the OneBlood family. He was passionate about saving lives and took great pride in the lifesaving work he performed,” the statement said.
“He was a caring and friendly person and will be greatly missed by everyone who had the honor of knowing him,” the statement said.
“He was always funny, always smiling, always so eager to help,” said co-worker, Joan Weiss. “He was a little sassy,” she continued, which prompted Simons to respond, “A little?”
Luis Daniel Conde, 39
Conde and Juan P. Rivera Velazquez were partners, both in business and in life, went to the same high school in Puerto Rico, ran a beauty salon in Kissimmee with him, and on Sunday, they died together in the Pulse nightclub massacre.
“They were both exceptional people,” said Conde’s sister, Lynette Conde. “They were always helping each other.”
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
Rivera, who was known by his friends as “Juan P.”, was at Pulse with Luis Conde, who was also killed in Sunday’s attack.
They were both business partners at a popular Orlando hair salon, Alta Peluqueria D’magazine.
The 39-year-old was from Barceloneta, Puerto Rico and went to college at Universidad Interamericana in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.
Luis Ruiz remembered Rivera and Conde as “that role model couple.”
“They were my good mentors,” Ruiz said. “They had great careers. They weren’t just the type who only went out, only went to clubs. They were getting degrees.”
“I live in Fargo, ND and my daughter and I travel once a year to Orlando to have our hair done by Juan P,” one former customer wrote in a memorial post for both men on the salon’s page. “They aren’t just true artists of beauty but they are beautiful people.
“They treat us as family,” she wrote. “Juan P was always happy, joyful and full of life. The ambiance at the salon is one of camaraderie and friendship. They will be greatly missed.”
Frank Escalante, 27
Frank Hernandez, who went by Frank Escalante, was originally from Weslaco, Texas, and had moved to Florida two years ago.
Described by the advocacy group Aqui Estamos RGV as “a member of our LGBTQ Rio Grande Valley family.”
“Rest in power, Frank,” the post said. “We will shine light on your life tonight at Orlando Shooting Vigil: Stand with LGBTQ Community.”
“Frank H. Escalante was just an absolute incredible person inside and out. Due to the unfortunate event that took place in Orlando at Pulse on July 12th he is now a victim who lost his life during the shooting,” said Linda Garza, who set up a GoFundMe page.
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35, had performed in the past at the Atlanta Bachata Fest, which is a several days long celebration of Latin music and dance.
He died at doing what he loved — dancing.
Rosado, who also worked for Disney Live!, was the father of a young son.
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29, was an employee of Keiser University, and a member of a young professionals community service group in Jacksonville, Florida.
“Darryl was a highly respected member of the KU team and his contributions to our students and his colleagues will not be forgotten,” Keiser University Chancellor Dr. Arthur Keiser said in a statement.
“We are all deeply saddened by this tragic event and the loss of our Jaycee Brother,” read a statement from The Jacksonville Jaycees, a non-profit community service organization in Jacksonville.
“He loved to dance. He loved to have fun,” Mahogany Avent said. “He was my best friend. I can’t believe he’s gone.”
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old
“He was one of the kindest people you could meet,” Disney co-worker Kenneth Berrios told the Orlando Sentinel. “We had students from the London program . and Jerry was always willing to give rides to them and show them around town.”
Wright, who worked as a seasonal employee at Walt Disney World, was remembered as “a great guy to work with,” former co-worker Scott Dickison said. “He was quiet but really wonderful with all the guests. He always had a smile on his face.”
Dickison said Wright had worked most recently in merchandising on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, but also had worked in Tomorrowland and at Universal Studios in Orlando.
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32, had moved to Florida from Mexico in the early 2000s in search of a better life according to his family.
After returning home to the state of Veracruz for several years, he returned to Tampa less than a year ago.
“We came because here in the United States there are many opportunities here and because we were fleeing because in our country there was a lot of crime, violence and death … and we expect it should be more peaceful here,” his cousin Jose Paniagua told Newsday.
NBC News adds:
“He was the best,” said Barragan, who met Rayon Paniagua at church. “He was loyal. He was always trying to do stuff to make you feel better.”
Juan Chavez-Martinez, 25
Juan Chavez Martinez was a native of Huichapan, Mexico, and lived in Davenport, Florida, according to his Facebook page.
Orlando Sentinel reports:
“This was a humongous loss for them, and I can’t even imagine,” Mata said of the brothers.
*Authorities have also identified the following victims. We will share their stories as soon as they become available.
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
Paul Terrell Henry, 41
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24
*Equality Florida, Florida’s largest organization dedicated to securing justice for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community, has set up a GoFundMe page to help raise funds for the victims and families of the horrific shooting at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub. Please donate if you are able. Click here for more information.