Friends, family remember victims of Orlando shooting

A gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun opened fire inside a crowded gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, early Sunday, killing at least 49 people in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Click here for a list of the victims' names that have been released. Here are stories of some of the victims.
 
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   At first, Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo seemed brash to 70-year-old Claudia Mason, who worked with "Omar" at the Starbucks inside a Kissimmee Target store.
 
   But after getting to know her much younger co-worker, "I realized he had a very outgoing personality," said Mason. "His sense of humor was definitely his defining personality trait."
 
   Ocasio-Capo, 20, was hired as a cashier before moving over to the Starbucks, and became a great barista, Mason said.
 
   "I think he found his niche at Starbucks," she said. "Omar got along with everyone. Young, old, male, female, gay, or straight, it didn't matter to Omar."
 
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   Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 -- 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 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.
 
   Cruz said her nephew worked at UPS.
 
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Edward Sotomayor, 34, was a caring, energetic man known for wearing a silly top hat on cruises, according to David Sotomayor, who said the two discovered they were cousins after meeting at Orlando's annual Gay Days festival around a decade ago.
 
   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 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."
 
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   Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22, told his cousin Robert Guerrero 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. 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."
 
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   Stanley Almodovar III's 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.
 
   "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.
 
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   Kimberly Morris, 37, moved to Orlando just months ago 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, Connecticut, 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 of the good memories I have of her. This is just unreal."
 
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   Everyone loved Luis Vielma, a 22-year-old who worked at Universal Studios, friends said.
 
   High school friend Eddi Anderson told the Tampa Bay Times that Vielma loved his job at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and was known for his pleasant attitude and warm demeanor.
 
   J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books that spawned the movies and Orlando theme park, tweeted a picture of Vielma in a Hogwarts school tie, and said: "I can't stop crying."
 
   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.
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As of Monday mid-afternoon, the City of Orlando had released 45 names and ages of victims of the nightclub shooting:
   -- Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
 
   -- Stanley Almodovar III, 23
 
   -- Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20
 
   -- Juan Ramon Guerroro, 22
 
   -- Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36
 
   --  Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
 
   --  Luis S. Vielma, 22
 
   --  Kimberly Morris, 37
 
   --Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30
 
   --Darryl Roman Burt II, 29
 
   --Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32
 
   --Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
 
   --Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25
 
   --Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35
 
   --Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50
 
   --  Amanda Alvear, 25
 
   --  Martin Benitez Torres, 33
 
   --  Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
 
   --  Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26
 
   --  Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35
 
   --  Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25
 
   --  Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31
 
   --  Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26
 
   --  Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25
 
   --  Miguel Angel Honorato, 30
 
   --  Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
 
   --  Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
 
   --  Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19
 
   --  Cory James Connell, 21 
 
   --  Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
 
   --  Luis Daniel Conde, 39
 
   --  Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33
 
   --  Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 
 
   --  Jerald Arthur Wright, 31
 
   --  Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 
 
   -- Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25
 
   -- Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24
 
   -- Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27
 
   -- Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
 
   -- Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49
 
   -- Yilmary Rodriguez Sulivan, 24
 
   -- Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32
 
   -- Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
 
   -- Frank Hernandez, 27
 
   -- Paul Terrell Henry, 41
   ------
As the shootings unfolded, a horror for 1 mother via text
 
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, leaving 50 dead and more than 50 wounded. 
 
   This is the conversation she had over text message with her 30-year-old son:
 
   "Mommy I love you," the first message said. It was 2:06 a.m.
 
   "In club they shooting."
 
   Mina Justice tried calling her 30-year-old son. No answer. 
 
   Alarmed and half awake, she tapped out a response. 
 
   "U ok"
 
   At 2:07 a.m., he wrote: "Trapp in bathroom."
 
   Justice asked what club, and he responded: "Pulse. Downtown. Call police."
 
   Then at 2:08: "I'm gonna die."
 
   Now wide awake, Justice dialed 911. 
 
   She sent a flurry of texts over the next several minutes. 
 
   "I'm calling them now.
 
   U still in there
 
   Answer our damn phone
 
   Call them
 
   Call me."
 
   The 911 dispatcher wanted her to stay on the line. She wondered what kind of danger her son was in. He was normally a homebody who liked to eat and work out. He liked to make everyone laugh. He worked as an accountant and lived in a condo in downtown Orlando. 
 
   "Lives in a sky house, like the Jeffersons," she would say. "He lives rich."
 
   She knew he was gay and at a club -- and all the complications that might entail. Fear surged through her as she waited for his next message.
 
   At 2:39 a.m., he responded: 
 
   "Call them mommy
 
   Now."
 
   He wrote that he was in the bathroom.
 
   "He's coming
 
   I'm gonna die."
 
   Justice asked her son if anyone was hurt and which bathroom he was in. 
 
   "Lots. Yes," he responded at 2:42 a.m.
 
   When he didn't text back, she sent several more messages. Was he with police?
 
   "Text me please," she wrote.
 
   "No," he wrote four minutes later. "Still here in bathroom. He has us. They need to come get us."
 
   At 2:49 a.m., she told him the police were there and to let her know when he saw them.
 
   "Hurry," he wrote. "He's in the bathroom with us."
 
   She asked, "Is the man in the bathroom wit u?"
 
   At 2:50 a.m.: "He's a terror."
 
   Then, a final text from her son a minute later: "Yes."
 
   More than 15 hours after that text, Justice still hasn't heard from her son. She and a dozen family and friends are at a hotel that has become a staging area for relatives awaiting news. Any news. 
 
   "His name has not come up yet and that's scary. It's just ..." she paused and patted her heart. "It's just, I got this feeling. I got a bad feeling."

 

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