High-school grad, dancer, accountant among Orlando shooting victims
(CNN)They range in age from 18 to 50. A barista, an accountant, a recent high school grad.
While different in so many ways, they have one thing in common: They lost their lives in the deadliest mass shooting in the United States.
Authorities have released the names of the 49 people who were killed in a massacre early Sunday at a club in Orlando.
There’s Edward Sotomayor, a popular travel planner nicknamed “top hat Eddie” for the black hats he loved to wear. There’s Cory Connell, a student who dreamed of becoming a firefighter. And there’s Eddie Justice, an accountant who loved living in downtown Orlando. The youngest, Akyra Murray, just graduated high school and was a star athlete.
Here’s what we know so far about the victims:
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Edward Sotomayor Jr.
The 34-year-old Sarasota resident loved traveling, making new friends and black hats. So much so, his nickname was “top hat Eddie.”
Friends paid tribute on social media using emojis of black hats.
“Eddie was one sweetheart and I will miss talking and working with him. That smile and top hat is burned in my memory,” Nikki Stjames posted.
“He was a kind and loving man. A man that lit up the room with his great smile,” said friend Jason Howell. “Always there to try and solve a problem whether small or big. Just the posts on all of the social media sites show how much he is loved and how he touched so many lives … he will truly be missed.”
Sotomayor worked at a travel agency that catered to the gay community, and made his mark on clients as well.
“He was one of our tour leaders, known for wearing his top hat, and for being a really nice guy,” Robin Ziegler Suess posted on social media. “He was also a tour leader on our recent Caribbean cruise in January, where I had the honor of wearing his top hat.”
Al Ferguson, owner of Al & Chuck Travel where Sotomayor worked, described Sunday as “one of the saddest days” of his life.
Stanley Almodovar III
The 23-year-old pharmacy technician loved his family. And the feeling was mutual.
When he went out on that tragic night, his mother, Rosalie Ramos, made him a tomato and cheese dip, and put it in the refrigerator, she told the Orlando Sentinel.
But he never got to eat it. She got a phone call about the shooting in the middle of the night and rushed to the nightclub.
The last video he posted on social media showed him laughing and singing on the way to the club, Ramos told the paper.
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo
Of the people identified, the 20-year-old was one of the youngest killed in the shooting.
He was a dancer and a barista, according to a local blog dedicated to the victims.
Akyra Murray was just 18 and in Orlando on a family vacation, visiting her brother after finishing high school in Philadelphia. She had just graduated from West Catholic Preparatory High School and had signed a letter of intent to play basketball at Mercyhurst University, according to a statement from the high school.
“Akyra was a superstar who was a leader amongst her classmates and teammates. She was an honors student who graduated third in her class, and a 1,000 point scorer on the Lady Burrs basketball team,” the school said.
Luis S. Vielma
Vielma, 22, worked at Universal Orlando, where he had superstar fans.
One of those mourning his death is J.K. Rowling, creator of the “Harry Potter” book series. The author said Vielma worked on the Harry Potter ride at Universal.
“I can’t stop crying,” she tweeted.
Juan Ramon Guerrero
The 22-year-old worked as a telemarketer while attending the University of Central Florida.
“He was always this amazing person (and) he was like a big brother to me,” his cousin Robert Guerrero told CNN affiliate WESH-TV.
Guerrero came out to his family this year, and was afraid they would not accept him, his cousin said.
But he had no reason to be. They not only accepted him, but they also embraced his boyfriend, Guerrero said.
“As long as he was happy, they were OK with it,” he told the TV station.
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera
The 36-year-old moved to Florida from Puerto Rico for a chance at a better life, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
Ortiz-Rivera rarely went out but decided to attend a friend’s housewarming celebration at the nightclub early Sunday.
“I am really in shock that he was in the club, because he was not usually a club-scene person,” former roommate Abismel Colon Gomez told the paper.
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz
At 22, he was among the youngest victims.
He worked at a UPS Store and was known for memorizing the names of regulars, according to customers.
ʺSuch a happy soul, so hilarious, and made anyone’s frown turn upside down,” a friend wrote on Facebook.
The 37-year old bouncer at Pulse nightclub always had a smile on her face.
She moved from Hawaii to Florida a few months ago to help her mother and grandmother.
She enjoyed mixed-martial arts fighting and basketball, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
It has been years since she ran down the court at Torrington High School in Torrington, Connecticut.
But the school’s former athletic director said he can still remember Morris, who graduated in 1996.
She was a “scrappy player,” Charlie McSpiritt said, who “played the game to her fullest.”
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice
The 30-year-old accountant lived in downtown Orlando.
Before he was identified as among those killed, his mother spent an agonizing day looking for him after he texted her from the club, according to CNN affiliate WFTV-TV.
“Mommy I love you,” he said in his first message. “In club they shooting.”
His mother, Mina Justice, tried to call him, but he did not answer. She sent him a series of text messages, trying to reassure him that she had called 911 and help was coming.
After they exchanged more messages, including one where he said the gunman was in their bathroom hideout, he suddenly went quiet.
A relative said the 25-year-old was an angel to most people who knew him.
Erick Leon, who described himself as Rios’ cousin, said their ties go beyond family.
“My heart is heavy, we grew up together and now he is gone,” Leon posted on Facebook. “God took someone who was already an angel for so many people.”
Rayvon Murray Johnson said they used to work together at LaGuardia Airport in New York.
“Was such a funny and cool dude. He used to tell me, ‘don’t let world hold you back from your dreams,’ ” he posted on Facebook. “We use to talk about curry and God. … My heart is heavy, sleep well my brother. “
Rios’ partner and a relative confirmed his death to CNN.
Anthony Luis Laureano Disla
Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, he had settled in Orlando, according to his Facebook profile.
Friends described him as “an amazing person,” “a special guy” and a talented dancer.
“When I saw your name on that list, my heart sunk,” a friend posted on his Facebook wall. “You didn’t deserve it.”
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega
A photo of Camuy shows him smiling and flashing his fingers in a “V” as he sits in a big red chair on the set of “La Voz Kids,” the Telemundo show where he worked.
Camuy worked in audience management for the current season of the singing competition show.
The Puerto Rican journalist got his start at a Telemundo station in San Juan before moving to Florida to work for the network in Orlando, his cousin told CNN.
“He was a great assistant producer. … Jonathan will be missed dearly,” NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises Chairman Cesar Conde said in a statement released by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
In a letter to NAHJ members, President Mekahlo Medina said the organization is heartbroken over his death.
“Please join me in remembering Jonathan and the other victims taken so early in life by a senseless, horrible act,” he wrote.
Camuy would have turned 25 at the end of this month.
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24, was friends with Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega and the two were at Pulse with Solivan’s brother-in-law, William Sabad Borges, who snapped a picture inside Pulse of the trio. Only Borges survived the shooting.
“I was telling my mom [Monday], how could my sister-in-law, who had two children, die … and I’m still alive? That’s what I really can’t comprehend,” he said.
It was Solivan who decided the group go to Pulse, because there had been an incident at another club. “Let’s go to a gay club because they’re killing at the other clubs,” she had suggested.
Cory James Connell
The 21-year-old was leaving Pulse with his girlfriend when the gunman walked in, his family told CNN.
His girlfriend survived the attack, but Connell didn’t make it.
He was a student at Valencia College and hoped to become a firefighter, his father, James Connell, said.
“Cory’s a good guy,” his father told CNN as he awaited word of his son’s fate over the weekend. “He loves everybody.”
Mercedez Marisol Flores
Cesar Flores is heartbroken that his 26-year-old daughter was killed. She was a happy girl, he said, who had just decided to go out with some of her friends.
But he told reporters he would forgive the gunman.
“I forgive the boy because I cannot take that hate in my life. My life is more important than hate. … It hurts so much,” Flores said.
Mercedez, he said, was born in New York and studied in the United States.
“She had so many dreams,” he said.
Now, the grieving father says he has a message he wants to share: “We must all come together, we must all be at peace, we must all love each other, because this hatred cannot continue for the rest of our lives.”