Victims of the Orlando nightclub massacre: Who they were
Jun 14, 2016 | 1:15 PM
A theme park employee “without a mean side.” A protector and confidant. A charismatic singer. They came from all over the country, from Hawaii to New York.
Some dreamt of becoming emergency medical technicians; others, photographers and nurses. Their mothers waited for them at home and left food for them in case they would be hungry when they returned, only to learn they would never speak to their children again.
These are the stories of the 49 people killed when a gunman opened fire in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., early Sunday in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
What is clear is he was a person filled with hatred.
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 | ‘Disciplined motivator’ and problem-solver
Pulse nightclub shooting victim Edward Sotomayor Jr. was a national brand manager for ALandCHUCK.travel, a travel agency catering to the gay community, according to his social media profiles.
Sotomayor, 34 of Sarasota, Fla., had previously worked for What's Happening Magazine, a gay entertainment and lifestyle publication, according to his LinkedIn page, which said he attended the University of South Florida.
He described himself as a "disciplined motivator," team player and problem-solver.
Sotomayor's family could not be reached Sunday.
Al Ferguson, owner of the travel site where Sotomayor worked, posted on Facebook that Sunday was "one of the saddest days of [his] life."
Dozens replied to share condolences.
Sotomayor's uncle, Larry Sotomayor, also posted about the death on Facebook, asking for prayers.
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 | ‘Always this amazing person’
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22, 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. 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. His fears were realized when the family learned that Juan Guerrero was identified as one of the victims.
Robert Guerrero said his cousin worked as a telemarketer and in recent months had 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,” Guerrero said. “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
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 | ‘He lit up any area’
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20, was among the youngest of the victims of the Orlando shooting. Ocasio-Capo graduated from La Vergne High School outside of Nashville, Tenn., in 2015.
In Florida, Ocasio-Capo worked as a cashier and then barista at a Target in Kissimmee, according to the Associated Press and social media posts. Ocasio-Capo’s co-worker Claudia Mason said in a post on her Facebook page, “RIP Omar Capo. He lit up any area he worked in, especially Starbucks.”
Ocasio-Capo was also an aspiring dancer. Daniel Suarez-Ortiz, a friend who took a Snapchat video of Ocasio-Capo dancing before the shooting, told the Orlando Sentinel, “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.”
Suarez-Ortiz set up a GoFundMe account to help Ocasio-Capo’s family pay for funeral expenses.
— Nina Agrawal
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 | ‘Willing to help everybody’
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36, came to Florida from Puerto Rico to work his way up in his career and have a chance at a better life.
Early Sunday, his life ended in the gunfire at Orlando's Pulse nightclub.
"Eric was always willing to help everybody. He sacrificed himself a lot for his family," said his former roommate, Abismel Colon Gomez of Orlando. "He loved his brother, and he was always being generous."
Known as Eric Ortiz, he worked in merchandise management, first for Toys R Us and then for Ross. He held a bachelor's degree in communications from Univercidad Central de Bayamon, Colon Gomez said.
Ortiz Rivera had a brother and aunt living in the Orlando area, as well as a wide group of friends.
"I am really in shock that he was in the club, because he was not usually a club-scene person," Colon Gomez said. "The only reason he went was because there was a house-warming party for our friend. And Eric was like his mentor."
After the house-warming party on Saturday night, the crowd had moved to Pulse, a common place for members of the Hispanic gay community to celebrate — and all the more so on Saturday, which was Latin Night.
"My heart breaks," Colon Gomez said. "We have seven friends who were there, and already we know three are dead."
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 | ‘May you rest easy in Heaven’
His cousins posted short, sorrowful messages on Twitter after learning the 22-year-old was among the victims of Sunday's mass shooting.
"Rest in peace to my wonderful cousin," read one. "May you rest easy in Heaven," wrote another.
A friend on Facebook said Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz was known as Peter Ommy, the name relatives and friends used on social media.
Peter Ommy's Facebook page said he attended high school in New Jersey until 2013 and now worked at UPS in Orlando. He spoke both English and Spanish, according to his profile, and had lived in Africa.
His Facebook page — changed Sunday to read "Remembering Peter Ommy" — is full of snapshots, interspersed with nature photos of clouds, flowers and jellyfish. His profile photo from June 2015 was his face with the pride flag superimposed over it, a Facebook option many chose to celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that gay marriage was legal.
Luis S. Vielma, 22 | Theme-park worker ‘without a mean side’
An attraction operator at Universal Orlando, Luis Vielma always went 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, 22, posted on social media about going to Pulse the night he died, Boesch said.
Vielma's family couldn't be reached for comment Sunday, but dozens of friends mourned his death on social media. The last publicly posted photo on his Facebook profile shows a group of young people posing in front of Cinderella's Castle at Magic Kingdom with the caption "True friends who become family."
Vielma held several roles at Universal, said Boesch, including running the former Disaster! attraction and, most recently, the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey rides.
Olga Glomba, who also said she worked with Vielma at Universal, wrote in an email that he was "always there, without fail."
"He was a true friend," Glomba wrote. "A funny, sweet, nerdy guy without a mean side. He just wanted to make people smile."
Beyond Universal, Vielma also talked about his plans to become an EMT, Boesch said. Vielma's Facebook page said he attended Seminole State College.
"He was always caring and he always wanted to learn more," Boesch said.
Kimberly Morris, 37 | Nightclub bouncer always wore a smile
Kimberly "KJ" Morris moved to Orlando about two months ago.
The 37-year-old left Hawaii to help her mother and grandmother, who both live in Florida.
She found a home at Pulse nightclub, where she was a bouncer.
Morris was fatally shot while working at the club early Sunday. She is the eighth identified victim.
"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 were together 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."
Narvell Benning said he and Morris met in college in Connecticut in 1997. They both played basketball for Post University, a private school in Waterbury.
"She was just the sweetest person. I can't think of a time when I did not see a smile on her face," Benning said. "I'm so thankful of the good memories I have of her. This is just unreal."
Morris remained passionate about basketball and was a very active person who loved MMA fighting.
"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."
After college, she moved to Hawaii, where she'd been living up until April when she moved to Orlando.
The two friends stayed in touch over the years and when Benning heard she was missing he got worried.
"I was just hoping she was OK, but I kept seeing that no one could get into contact with her," he said. "Her mom called the hospital and her cellphone kept going to voicemail. I started to get this eerie feeling that she was gone."
He got a call Sunday night from several of his college teammates that she died.
The words "Mommy I love you" were the first in a tragic series of texts Eddie Jamoldroy Justice sent to his mother.
He woke his mother Mina Justice at 2:06 a.m. with those words, followed by "In club they shooting."
Mina Justice spoke with the Associated Press Sunday as she awaited news on her son. She told the AP that her son loved to eat and workout. She said he worked as an accountant and lived downtown.
On an unconfirmed social media account for Mina Justice, messages shared grief about Eddie Justice's death.
"Going To Try &Get Some Rest. Please Keep The Prayers Coming. The Prayers Of The Righteous Availeth Much. We Will Get Through This Tragedy . One Day At A Time. Sleep Tight Eddie , Mommy Loves You Son."
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 | An experienced human resources officer
Darryl R. Burt II, 29, lived in Jacksonville, where he worked as a financial aid officer for Keiser University. He was one of the clubgoers gunned down in the early morning hours at Orlando's Pulse nightclub.
Vice Chancellor Kelli Lane said university officials have been in close touch with Burt's family.
"Darryl was a highly respected employee and friend, and his contributions to our students and his colleagues will not be forgotten," Lane said. "We extend our condolences to Darryl’s friends, family, Keiser University team members, and to all of those impacted by this tragic act of violence."
He was an experienced human resources officer, having worked his way up from managing a McDonalds restaurant at age 18 to becoming a district manager and training officer for the company's Jacksonville district.
In his role at Keiser, Burt worked closely with military veterans to make sure they had access to financial aid and other funding options. He served as a liaison to veteran students from enrollment through to graduation.
Burt belonged to the Jacksonville Jaycees, which is organizing a fund raiser to benefit his family. The organization posted the following message on its Facebook page:
"We Stand with Orlando as we mourn the loss of our own Darryl Roman Burt II. We are all deeply saddened by this tragic event and the loss of our Jaycee brother Darryl."
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 | ‘He was always happy’
To Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, good living was all about looking, smelling and feeling his best, loved ones said.
The 35-year-old born in Puerto Rico hit the gym almost daily to keep himself in shape. He was always testing out a new fragrance and had just started wearing a fresh-smelling Jimmy Choo perfume. And his humor and warmth made him the best salesperson that his coworker at Perfumania had ever met.
"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."
One of the customers Perez charmed at the perfume shop was Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, who would become his longtime partner. Both Perez and Wilson-Leon were among the 49 victims who died in the attack.
Perez moved from Puerto Rico when he was in his teen years, said his father, Angel Mendez. Adjusting to a new home was challenging at first, but it wasn't long before Perez made friends and built a new life for himself.
"He was a real dynamic kid," said Mendez, 58, of Orlando.
Agudelo said Perez met his longtime partner thanks to a specific fragrance: Declaration by Cartier.
It was the scent Perez sold to Wilson-Leon when he walked into Perfumania about a decade ago. The two men ran into each other again at a nightclub and soon fell in love, Agudelo said.
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 | ‘It's not right that you left us this way’
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez moved from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Orlando, Fla. where he worked as a visual merchandiser for Forever 21.
On social media, relatives and friends remembered the 50-year-old as a loving person they could always turn to.
“This news is so painful,” his friend Melisa Correa wrote on Facebook. “It’s not right that you left us this way.”
Correa called his death a “great loss” and offered her condolences to Velazquez ’s family.
One family member, Mahya Veray, posted a photo with Velazquez and said she was trying to not “fall prey to hate.” She did not want to continue the “vicious circle,” she said.
“They killed you out of hate for the freedom to be who you are and it makes me hurt inside because if there was anyone who always had a smile, who helped me, who was caring with me, my music and my madnesses, it was you,” she wrote.
The 25-year-old from Polk County had reshaped herself over two years, shedding 180 pounds with the help of gastric bypass surgery and daily workouts. She proudly documented her transformation with her phone.
"Can you tell I look better? Can you tell I look cuter," she teased her brother, Brian Alvear, 32.
Her brother's house in Lakeland was flooded with worried friends Sunday because she hadn't called her parents and that wasn't like her.
"She was meticulous about calling home, letting my parents know if she was coming home, staying out or staying with friends," her brother said.
Martin Benitez Torres, 33 | A college student visiting family
Martin Benitez Torres, 33, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, had just arrived in Orlando to visit family a few days before the shooting early Sunday morning at Pulse nightclub, where he was one of those killed.
A spokeswoman for Ana G. Méndez University confirmed that Torres was one of multiple students who were victims in the shooting.
Torres posted videos on his Facebook page on Saturday morning and afternoon, showing him sharing time with an aunt and family he was staying with in Orlando. He recorded a walking tour of the apartment property grounds to show friends and relatives back in Puerto Rico, and showed food sent to Orlando by his mother, Myriam Torres, of Galateo, Puerto Rico.
A sister, Nelly Geannette Benitez, posted memorial photos of Martin on Facebook. A cousin, Sonia N. Crapps of Orlando, posted the following on Facebook with a photo of Martin:
"Going to miss that big smile always happy ... I can't believe that my cousin is gone too soon. He was amazing person inside & outside. I am so tired of people killing other people like our family & friends."
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 | A protector and confidant
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37, who grew up in Puerto Rico, was a protector, confidant and hero, according to Daniel Gmys-Casiano, a friend for almost 20 years.
"We grew up in a really small town in Puerto Rico … and he was going to same church that I was, and he was always the odd man out. He was bullied constantly. He was different. He would dress in black, wear long sideburns,'' Gmys-Casiano said.
Gmys-Casiano said Wilson-Leon was the first person he ever came out to about his homosexuality. He did not know that Wilson-Leon was gay.
"I had this feeling that, because he was different, I kind of felt that I could trust him with the information," Gmys-Casiano said. "I sat down and said, 'I need to talk.' And he said, 'Okay.' And I couldn't help it and I started crying.''
Gmys-Casiano said Wilson-Leon soon decided to leave Puerto Rico.
"He moved to Vero Beach, alone, and knowing almost no English – he was my hero," Gmys-Casiano said.
He said Wilson-Leon was immediately promoted to manager at a shoe store and eventually gave him a job when he moved from Puerto Rico.
Wilson-Leon had been together with Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35, another fatality in the Pulse nightclub shooting, for about eight 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 said.
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 | Lived 'her life the way she wanted to’
Mercedez Marisol Flores studied literature at Valencia College and had an interest in party planning.
She was also an avid music fan, according to her niece, Jennifer Flores.
"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. "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, 26, of Davenport attended Pulse Nightclub with her friend, Amanda Alvear, on Saturday night. Both were confirmed among those killed in the shootings at the popular club.
Ashley Velez, a mutual friend, shared her sadness in a Facebook post early Monday.
"[These] two beautiful souls have been taken way to soon," Velez wrote. "You girls will be missed."
Cesar Flores thanked family and friends for their prayers and support upon awaking to the confirmation of his younger sister's passing.
"It is not fair that such a horrific act of hate would take the life of a beautiful soul," Cesar wrote. "No words can describe the pain my family is going through."
According to her Facebook profile, the Queens, N.Y., native graduated from Ridge Community High School in 2008 and began working at Target that same year.
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 | ‘The light and the life of all the family gatherings’
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25, was mourned by his friends and cousins in Facebook posts and pictures after news spread that he was among the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.
"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," Silva's cousin, Maribel Silva 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."
Silva grew up in Manati, Puerto Rico, and moved to Orlando a few years ago, according to Irma Silva-Lauer, another cousin. His Facebook wall says he was studying health care management at the Ana G. Mendez University's Orlando campus.
"He is my older brother's only child, and he was the light and the life of all the family gatherings. This all feels like a dream, and I'm going to wake up and he will be texting me or calling me to tell me he is ok," Silva-Lauer wrote in a message to the Orlando Sentinel.
Silva's posts on Facebook show a young man enjoying his life and taking pride in it. He posted selfies of himself in the car, pictures with his mother in May, a photo of his Speedway gas station uniform in March.
"Today ends another chapter in my life. Today I leave for my dear house in Orlando waiting for me," Silva wrote in a post from December as he was departing from a trip back to Puerto Rico.
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 | A good boss who loved to travel
Simon Carrillo never forgot a birthday. For his McDonald's co-workers, he brought in cakes and made sure to snap a photo to memorialize the moment.
Carrillo's attention to detail was a trademark of his leadership style, something his colleagues deeply admired.
Today they are "distraught, falling apart," after they learned their manager and his partner Oscar Aracena-Montero, were among those killed in the largest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Carrillo, of Kissimmee, was 31. Carrillo and his partner had just returned from Niagara Falls.
Ivonne Irizarry, a general manager at McDonalds, met Carrillo when they worked together at the world's largest location. He was good with money, she said, always saving so he could travel.
Carrillo had been to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, to Mexico and on cruises, to Anna Marie Island and Clearwater and Playalinda Beach. "He worked to be able to enjoy his life," Irizarry said.
Carrillo and his partner had recently purchased their Kissimmee home, she said. Just weeks ago, they celebrated Aracena-Montero's birthday there.
He enjoyed dancing, reggaeton, bachata, salsa and meringue music. He rode bikes and water skis.
And he took great pride in his career.
"He had to be the best, that was his thing," Irizarry said. "I cook the best, I clean the best, I work the best."
Andrea Herrera, who was on her way to Carrillo's restaurant to help support the staff Monday, described her former colleague as meticulous, responsible.
"He was definitely the description of a leader, not a boss," she said.
Area supervisor Johanna Bornacelli said Carrillo and his partner were attending Ana G Mendez University System, a bilingual college in Orlando. Carrillo had been studying accounting, she said.
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 | ‘The type of guy who goes along with anybody’
Oscar Aracena-Montero returned from a vacation in New York and Canada on the day he went to Orlando's Pulse nightclub and became a victim of Sunday's mass shooting.
Yamilka Pimentel of New Jersey, who said she was a cousin of Aracena, said he flew back into Orlando and stopped only briefly at his Kissimmee home before going with friends for Latin Night at the gay club.
"He went to Canada on vacation. We saw pictures," Pimentel said. "They stopped in New York and went to Niagara Falls. They just flew back into Orlando they same day (the Pulse shootings) happened."
A friend, Andrea Herrera, said Oscar lived with another victim of the attack, Simon A. Carrillo, with three pet Chihuahuas in a home they purchased together last year. Herrera said she believed the couple actually returned home from their vacation several days before the shooting.
Pimentel said Oscar moved with his father, Ambiorix Aracena, from the Dominican Republic to Central Florida as a child.
"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."
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.
Rios was a social worker, according to his Facebook page.
Merced started a GoFundMe page in the hopes of raising $4,000 to bring Rios' body back to Brooklyn.
"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 killing 49 people and 30 in critical condition. Please help me bring my son home for a proper funeral."
Messages of condolences and support began flooding Jose Honorato's Facebook page Monday morning after the news that his brother, Miguel Angel Honorato, was one of the 49 victims of Sunday's mass shooting.
"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 on Jose's Facebook page in the comments section under a newly-uploaded photo of the two. "My condolences Jose for you and your family may god give you strength and resignation."
Jose spoke to WTLK/WJXX Sunday while waiting for information about his brother, a 30-year-old father of three children who lived in Apopka and went out with some friends Saturday night to Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.
Miguel Honorato's Facebook page was last updated on May 12 when he changed his profile picture to show his support for Club America — a Liga MX soccer team. His profile states he worked at FajitaMex Mexican Catering in Orlando.
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 31 | Loved friends, family, dancing
Joel Rayon Paniagua loved to dance.
He went to Pulse nightclub in Orlando in early June and was looking forward to meeting friends there for another night of dancing, said longtime friend Lorena Barragan.
Rayon Paniagua, 32, was among 49 people killed when a gunman sprayed the nightclub with bullets early Sunday. Friends and family remembered him as a humble, cheerful, religious person who did his best to uplift people.
"He was the best," said Barragan, who met Rayon Paniagua at church in Winter Garden. "He was loyal. He was always trying to do stuff to make you feel better."
Rayon Paniagua was raised in Veracruz, Mexico and in the early 2000s moved to Ocoee, where he had a brother, Barragan said. He went back to Mexico for several years to live near his parents and other relatives, but he returned to Florida less than a year ago and lived near Tampa, she said.
He was working in construction, trying to make money and send some home.
The last time Barragan talked to Rayon Paniagua was shortly before he went to Pulse.
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 | He was computer savvy and liked photography
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.
"He was very excited about his journey," said Josaphat's uncle, Christopher Long.
Early Sunday, Josaphat called his mother from Pulse nightclub, family said. Someone was shooting. She told him to hide in a bathroom stall, while she called 911.
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 | Always positive with customers
Former clients say Juan Rivera Velazquez knew how to brighten a day at his hair salon Alta Peluqueria D'Magazine in Kissimmee.
All it took was an encouraging word.
"Oh my gosh, you look so beautiful," he would say. "You look amazing!"
That's what Alexandra Ale remembered about her hairstylist, who she had been using for more than five years.
She said the salon would often be filled with clients just there to see Velazquez and his longtime partner, Luis Daniel Conde, who helped run the salon.
"They just wanted to say 'hi' and spend time there," Ale said. "Juan was always just focused on his job, and Luis was more the jokester. He was always smiling and making people laugh."
Velazquez died in Sunday morning's shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. The 37-year-old owned Alta and was at the club with Conde, 39, who also died that night.
Chalk scribblings on the sidewalk outside of the salon reinforced Ale's thoughts.
"We will always thank you for making us feel beautiful," one message read.
Friends say the couple had been together 16 years and owned the salon for about seven.
They also said Velazquez and Conde looked out for others.
"They would take the shirt off their back to help others," said Jocelyn De Leon, a client who visited the salon to pay her respects Tuesday. "If someone wasn't smiling, they would try to make them smile. They were good, kind people. They never had a [bad word] for anyone."
Ale said the salon would often provide free services to women who had been victims of domestic violence. That compassion is something she will miss.
"They would just lift you up and make you feel good about yourself," Ale said. "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."
Luis Daniel Conde, 39, went to the same high school in Puerto Rico as Juan Pablo Rivera Velasquez, ran a beauty salon in Kissimmee with him, and on Sunday they died together in the Pulse nightclub massacre.
On Tuesday, dozens of flowers were placed outside the Alta Peluqueria D'Magazine Salon.
Irene Rivera of Kissimmee, who visited the salon on Tuesday to pay respects, spoke of the couple's work on the Belleza Latina pageant and said they were at Gay Days at Walt Disney World the previous weekend.
"Everyone knows about this beauty salon," Rivera said. "They loved people. They lived to help people."
Tania Mercador of Orlando was in tears as she spoke about how she was supposed to have joined them at Pulse Saturday night.
"I used GPS and got lost," Mercador said. "It kept sending me to the wrong address. They sent messages, 'Are you coming, are you coming?' but I never got there."
Jocelyn De Leon of Kissimmee said that they all went to school together at Jose Campeche High School in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico.
Then in Kissimmee, "We found each other again. Luis became my makeup artist, and Juan Pablo became my hairdresser."
"I know everyone else is hurting too," De Leon said. "The entire world. These two people were wonderful, wonderful people. "To me, they're not gone. They're still here with us."
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 | A part of the Disney family
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31, was part of at least two families — his biological one and tight-knit group of friends he worked with at Walt Disney World.
On Monday, they mourned as his name was added to the list of those killed in the Pulse Orlando mass shootings.
"It's hard to understand, but the people with you work with at Disney, they are an amazing family," said Scott Dickison, who left Disney last July to take a job with ION Network in Clearwater. "Jerry was a great guy to work with. He was quiet but really wonderful with all the guests. He always had a smile on his face."
Wright apparently went to the club to help a friend celebrate his 21st birthday. Cory James Connell was also killed in the shootings.
Dickison said Wright was a seasonal employee who had worked most recently in merchandising on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. He had also worked in Tomorrowland.
His parents live in Miami. They said through a family friend that they were too upset to talk Monday.
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 | It 'feels very quiet' without exuberant singer
Leroy Valentin Fernandez was a natural performer.
He loved dressing up and dancing to moves he choreographed in front of crowds while belting out renditions of Beyoncé or Jennifer Lopez.
His zeal for life spilled offstage and followed him everywhere he went, even at his job as a leasing agent at Auvers Village Apartments in Orlando.
"He filled our office with music," said Yolanda Quinones-Perez, Fernandez's friend and manager at Auvers Village. "He sang Adele in the office until we couldn't take it anymore.
"It just feels very quiet, now."
Fernandez, 25, was killed in the mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning.
His last post on Instagram came during the weekend. It was a picture of himself alongside his mother with a handful of hashtags that included "#foreveryoung #gorgeous #beautifulmoments #lovewhoyouare," and other phrases that depicted his passion for family and friends.
Christian Colon Vega left a heartfelt message in Spanish about Fernandez on his own Facebook page Monday.
"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 | A hardworking business owner
Tevin Eugene Crosby's recent posts on Facebook are a host of inspirational memes extolling hard work, a good attitude and determination.
The sentiments perfectly match the successful, dedicated 25-year-old business owner from Michigan, his brother Chavis Crosby said.
"He was very ambitious," Chavis said. "Whatever goal he had in mind, he worked hard. Whether alone or on a team, he worked on that goal."
Tevin Crosby was one of the victims in Sunday's mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.
He owned a marketing firm, Total Entrepreneurs Concepts.
His brother loved to travel for work and fun, Chavis said. Tevin flew to Orlando after a visit with family. He watched several nieces and nephews graduate before heading to his hometown of Statesville, N.C.
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.
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 | Great employee of Spanish TV network
Jonathan Camuy moved to Florida to work for a Spanish TV network, where he was a producer for a popular children's talent competition.
Camuy worked for La Voz Kids, similar to the NBC show "The Voice," according to a statement from Mekahlo Medina, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. The show is produced in Orlando and airs on Telemundo.
Camuy is listed as Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega on the city of Orlando's website, but Telemundo's site refers to him as Jonathan Camuy.
The 24-year-old was an member at one of the journalism organization's student chapters in Puerto Rico before moving to Florida to work for Telemundo, Medina wrote.
"The [National Association of Hispanic Journalists] familia is heartbroken and offers our condolences to Jonathan's family in Florida and Puerto Rico," Medina said. "We also have Jonathan's work family at Telemundo in our thoughts and prayers."
A story on Telemundo's website describes Camuy as "loving, talented and with a great promising future" in Spanish.
Dozens of friends mourned Camuy's death through social media posts on Monday, including one who posted a photo he took with Camuy the night of the shooting.
Cesar Conde, Chairman of NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, said Camuy was "a great assistant producer," according to the statement from Medina. He previously worked at Telemundo Puerto Rico.
"We want to extend our thoughts, prayers and deepest condolences to Jonathan's family and friends," Conde said.
Jean Carlos Nieves Rodriguez, 27 | ‘Whatever you needed, you could count on him’
Jean Carlos Nieves Rodriguez bought his first house a month and a half ago.
He wanted his mom to live someplace nice.
"He was just a caring, loving guy — just like a big teddy bear," said one of his best friends, Ivonne Irizarry.
Nieves Rodriguez was killed during the shooting early Sunday at Pulse nightclub.
He was only 27 years old.
He was young, but people already depended on him.
He started working at a McDonald's in Boggy Creek when he was 15. Within a few years, he became a manager.
In recent years, he became a general manager of a check-cashing store.
"He wanted to be the best at what he did, and he would work very hard to achieve that," Irizarry said. "So if he had to put in the long hours to get it right, he'd do it. If he had to stay to work a double [shift], he did it. That's why whatever job he went to, he became a manager."
Nieves Rodriguez, who was originally from Puerto Rico, loved cars and going to the beach.
Above all else, though, he loved his family and friends.
"He cared more about others than about himself," said his sister, Valeria Monroig.
His family and friends loved him.
"Whatever you needed, you could count on him," Irizarry said. "Whatever the situation was, good or bad, he was with me. He was a friend. He was family. He was a brother. And it didn't matter the time. If you called him and you needed help, he'd be there."
If Rodolfo Ayala had survived, he'd probably be extremely busy right now.
As a biologics assistant at the OneBlood donation center off Sand Lake Road, the 33-year-old Kissimmee resident would have been helping process donations for victims of Sunday's mass shooting.
The Puerto Rican native loved his career and was known for his compassion, said Johnny Rivera Muñiz, a friend for the past two years. Ayala was all about "doing things the right way," he said.
Ayala had bought both a car and a house within the past year. This coming Wednesday would have been his one-year anniversary for home ownership.
Rivera Muñiz said Ayala didn't go out very often, but when he did, he danced.
"He loved to dance salsa and all kinds of Latin dancing," he said. "He didn't even drink because he had a long drive home and always wanted to be safe."
— Trevor Fraser
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 | Mother of 12 and cancer survivor
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool stepped into the ring with cancer twice and beat it both times.
"She was a fighter," said Noreen Vaquer, who met her as a Brooklyn kindergartener. "She doesn't take nothing from nobody."
Her longtime friend said McCool, 49, stuck up for her herself, for her friends and for the 12 children she raised.
It was one of those children, a son, who went out with her to dance the night away at Pulse nightclub. Just after midnight, McCool uploaded a Facebook video of couples twirling to Latin music on a crowded dance floor.
Only a couple of hours later, McCool's son would see her collapse, fatally struck by the gunfire, Vaquer said. Her son survived, she said.
Vaquer, 48, of Staten Island, could always count on her friend for words of wisdom.
"She's smart," Vaquer said. "She'll put you right."
McCool had the life experience to back up her advice.
She was a two-time cancer survivor who dealt with the loss of both parents, Vaquer said. She'd made a number of moves in her life, bouncing between New Jersey and Florida before ultimately deciding to settle in Orlando, Vaquer said. Recently, she'd decided to become a real estate agent and started taking classes.
Vaquer also remembers her friend's love of dancing, no matter what kind.
"She did the cowboy dancing. She did salsa. She did everything. She loved music."
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 | Mom of 2, including 3-month-old
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan was enjoying a night out with her brother-in-law, William Borges, and a friend.
They went to the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Only one of them, Borges, survived.
Rodriguez Solivan, 24, was the wife of race-car driver Juan Borges and a mother of two — including a 3-month-old son, Sergio. She worked at a Wendy’s in Puerto Rico before moving to Florida. She, her husband and their family lived 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.
“I swear, my heart has a ladder tall enough to reach you both,’’ Borges wrote on Facebook. “Mary, you leave me with a pain that I never thought I would feel.’’
Borges said in the post that he told CNN they had gone to Pulse because of an incident at another club.
“Let’s go to a gay club, because they’re killing at the other clubs,’’ Borges recalled his sister-in-law saying.
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, known to friends as Drew, was one of the last victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting identified, but his mother, Christine, was one of the first on the scene Sunday morning.
She stood behind crime-scene tape at Orlando Regional Medical Center, pleading for answers about what happened to her son.
She broke down in tears when she and others saw authorities speeding to the hospital while treating victims in the backs of pickup trucks.
"We can't get a hold of my son at all, so I don't know where my son is. I don't know if he's injured or being worked on but they won't let us know," she said.
She told ABC she got the news on Facebook at 4 a.m. There, she saw one of her son's friends recount the horrific events.
She immediately drove to Pulse.
"I called him last night at 6 o'clock," Christine Leinonen said. "He was at SeaWorld … I left him with, 'I love you Chris.'"
She said her son's boyfriend, Juan Guerrero, was taken to the hospital. Friends saw Juan get hauled away in an ambulance with multiple gunshot wounds.
She said Juan and her son were sitting next to one another when the shots rang out.
"This is a club that nobody wants to be in,” she said. “Please, can we do something with the assault weapons so we can stop this club from getting any new members. I beg all of you, please."
Social media flooded with photos of the couple smiling out together and with family and friends.
Leinonen's Facebook profile says he was born in Detroit. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in psychology at the University of Central Florida. In high school, he started a gay-straight alliance, his mother said, and more recently he won the Anne Frank Humanitarian Award for his work in the gay community.
"I've been so proud of him for that," Christine Leinonen 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."
Numerous messages were posted on Christopher Leinonen's Facebook page.
A message from Wesley Hart Boyce stated, "Rest in Peace, Drew and Juan. You were both a joy to be around, and seeing the number of lives you have touched in one way or another is simply staggering. I'm glad I got to catch up and hug you one last time after your haircut, Juan. You will both be greatly missed, and you will NEVER be forgotten."
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 | He was in Orlando to start a new life
The feed of 28-year-old Angel Luis Candelario-Padro's Facebook tells the story of a young man from Guánica, Puerto Rico, who recently moved to Orlando from Chicago to start a new life.
Pictures abound of Candelario-Padro's adventures in Central Florida, visiting Universal Studios, Magic Kingdom and swimming in the pool.
He started his new job at the Florida Retina Institute as an ophthalmic technician on Thursday, just a few days before the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub. In Chicago, he had been a Zumba instructor, an employee at Old Navy and a nurse technician.
On his Facebook page's about section, Candelario-Padro says of himself: "I'm an adventurous, easy going but responsible man that would like to live the life completely."
His death was confirmed by the City of Orlando a little after 1 p.m. Monday. A colleague at Medical Eye Associates in Kissimmee said the employees were not ready to talk about his death.
Frank Hernandez, 27 | 'A really great big brother’
Frankie Hernandez taught his kid sister how to walk in heels.
With brutal honesty, he also shared his cutting opinion whenever he thought she needed to touch up her hair or fix her make-up.
"Frankie was a really great big brother," said 18-year-old Julissa Leal, one of his five siblings. "I miss him so much already."
Hernandez, 27, whose life philosophy "love has no gender" was tattooed in script on his upper right arm, was among friends Sunday when he was killed inside The Pulse nightclub. He move about three years ago from Louisiana to Orlando, where he felt more accepted, his sister said.
He managed a Calvin Klein clothing store, one of his favorite brands, and was smitten with Beyoncé.
"Frankie liked all kinds of fancy things," she said. "He like to party and have fun."
That's what his boyfriend, Paul Terrell Henry, would have wanted. Henry, 41, was among the victims of the Pulse nightclub tragedy Sunday morning.
"He knew I had the potential for greater things,'' a heartbroken Hernandez said. "I had three years of college but didn't finish. He wanted the best for me, to succeed and to help me make something of myself.
"I am definitely going to do that for him. I am going to make something of myself.''
Hernandez said Henry, a Chicago native, loved to dance and have fun. Henry enjoyed spending time at the Bear Den at Parliament House and excelled at pool.
He loved his family, including two children. His daughter, Alexia, recently graduated high school.
"I miss him. I love him,'' Hernandez said in an email. "I took care of him, and he took care of me. Such a loving spirit. I'll always have him in my heart.
"He kept many aspects of his life private from family. He felt that there was no need for them to know what he does in his life. His priority was to make sure his kids were taken care of.''
Asked what he will remember most about Henry, Hernandez had a simple response.
Antonio Davon Brown, 29 | Army captain was 'down to earth guy’
Capt. Antonio Davon Brown of the U.S. Army Reserve was a "down to earth guy" who had been involved in the military since college.
Brown, 29, was a 2008 graduate of Florida A&M University. He was a criminal justice major from Cocoa Beach who took part in the school's ROTC program, the university said.
He joined the U.S. Army in 2008, just after finishing school, and was deployed to Kuwait from April 2010 until March 2011, according to U.S. Army Media Relations.
He was made captain in March 2012 and was a human resources officer in the U.S. Army Reserve.
On a Facebook message about his death posted by the Army Times many expressed sadness and anger that Brown lost his life as he did.
"Thank you for serving our nation, CPT. My deepest condolences to your loved ones," read one. "R.I.P. Captain Antonio Brown, sir! You didn't deserve to die this way. It was a senseless hateful act," read another.
Brown had worked as a human resources manager at the Lowe's in Fern Park since September 2015, a company spokesman said.
In an email, a cousin described Brown as a "real down to earth guy, was always smiling."
A friend wrote on Facebook how he could not comprehend the death of Brown and others at the Pulse nightclub. "For those of us who served we are trained to deal with death but ... I can't."
Akyra Monet Murray, 18 | Basketball star was a ‘quiet leader’
Akyra Murray was a top student and standout athlete at her Philadelphia high school, a teenager who impressed those who watched her on the basketball court and those who felt her "warmth and magnetic embrace."
The 18-year-old, celebrating her graduation from West Catholic Preparatory High School with a trip to Orlando, died in the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub on Sunday.
She graduated third in her senior class this spring, led the girls’ basketball team in scoring the past two seasons and signed to play at Mercyhurst College in Pennsylvania, according to the high school.
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.
"She carried herself with such dignity," he said. "She's going to be missed immensely."
Akyra and the other members of the small school's senior class graduated last week.
"Losing Akyra is heartbreaking," wrote her high school coach, Beulah Osueke, in a message posted on the school's website. "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."