HONORING THE VICTIMS OF THE ATTACK IN ORLANDO, FLORIDA
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
As a mark of respect for the victims of the act of hatred and terror perpetrated on Sunday, June 12, 2016, in Orlando, Florida, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, June 16, 2016. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
twelfth day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fortieth.
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
Edward 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.”
Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old
Stanley’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.
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old
At first, Luis 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.”
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old and Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
Juan 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.” Juan was with his boyfriend, Christopher who was also shot and killed. In interviews, his mother said Christopher started his high school’s first gay-straight alliance. Leinonen’s father admits he was “not thrilled” to find out his son was gay. But Mark Bando, in a wrenching and sometimes angry letter published in The Detroit News, called the slain 32-year-old psychologist “a son to be proud of.” “I accepted it as the way he was pre-wired when born,” he wrote of his son’s sexual orientation. “He was handsome, personable, brilliant and loved vintage movies.” Bando, a retired Detroit cop, said “Drew” was mostly raised by his mother, a former Michigan State Trooper named Christine Leinonen, who later moved to Orlando and became a lawyer. “Like his mother, Christopher was very idealistic about the human race,” Bando wrote. “He used to laugh and joke and tell me I was paranoid to carry a gun off-duty when I was a Detroit cop. “Like many Americans, Leinonen was shaken by the 9/11 attacks “but not far enough to acquaint himself with firearms,” his father wrote, adding that if they’d live closer he would have been able to train his son to shoot a gun. Bando railed against “anti-gun politicians” and said “such attacks will continue, until the victims start shooting back.”
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
Ortiz-Rivera, 36, moved from Puerto Rico to Florida, where he worked in merchandise management, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “Eric was always willing to help everybody. He sacrificed himself a lot for his family,” his former roommate, Abismel Colon Gomez told the newspaper. “He loved his brother, and he was always being generous.” Ortiz-Rivera graduated from Univercidad Central de Bayamon in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in communications, according to a statement from the school. “During his years at UCB he stood out as president of the Association of Student Journalists and in the area of communications,” the statement said in Spanish. “We raise a prayer for all the victims and especially for the family of Eric, that God will give strength to all his family, rest his soul and that the eternal light will shine for him,” said the university’s president, Dr . Lillian Negron.
Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old
A second NBCUniversal employee, Luis Vielma, was also killed at the nightclub early Sunday, Burke said. Vielma worked as a ride attendant at Universal Studios’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Author J.K. Rowling tweeted about Vielma’s death. “Luis Vielma worked on the Harry Potter ride at Universal. He was 22 years old. I can’t stop crying,” she wrote. Vielma studied emergency medical services at Seminole State College and was enrolled in a CPR class over the summer, according to a press release from the college. “These events have shocked and saddened the Central Florida community and we are heartbroken over the tragic events this weekend,” the college wrote. 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. 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.
Kimberly Morris, 37 years old
Kimberly moved to Orlando just months ago and had taken a job at Pulse nightclub as a bouncer, friends told NBC Connecticut. Morris was a native of Torrington, Connecticut. “She was so excited,” ex-girlfriend Starr Shelton told the Orlando Sentinel. “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.”
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
An accountant in downtown Orlando, Eddie died while texting his mother. The 30-year-old, who was out at Pulse when gunfire erupted, first told her, “Mommy I love you,” then said trapped in a bathroom and urged her to call 911. His mother, Mina Justice, told The Associated Press her son lived “in a sky house, like the Jeffersons.”
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
Burt 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. The Jacksonville Jaycees, a non-profit community service organization in Jacksonville, was also mourning the loss of one of their own. “We are all deeply saddened by this tragic event and the loss of our Jaycee Brother,” the group wrote in a statement.
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25 years old
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old
Franky traveled the world as a professional Jîbaro dancer. Originally from Puerto Rico, he lived in Orlando. A family member noted on Facebook, “What happened in Orlando affects all of us because it is an act of hate against the freedom to be who you are.”
Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old and Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
Mendez, 35, was the best salesperson his co-worker had ever met, according to the Sentinel. “He laughed with the people and would make jokes,” Claudia Agudelo, who worked with Mendez at Perfumania, told the newspaper. “He was always happy.” One customer he charmed at the Orlando outlet mall, according to the Sentinel: Wilson-Leon, 37, who became his longtime partner. Family members shared word of their deaths on Facebook, posting photos of them over the years — smiling in front of a Christmas tree, posing in a photo studio, standing beside newlyweds at a wedding. Siclaly Santiago-Leon, who described herself as Wilson-Leon’s cousin, said she was heartbroken, devastated and broken. “I love you my love, Dani. I love you my love, Jean,” she wrote. “You are together. Rest in peace. Kisses always.”
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
Mercedez went to Pulse nightclub almost every weekend, Flores’ sister-in-law said Monday, often with her best friend Amanda Alvear. Both women died in the shooting. “She was very outgoing,” Nancy Flores said of Mercedez Flores. “She had lots of friends. They used to always meet up at Pulse.” Born in Queens, New York, the 26-year-old Flores moved to Florida when she was a child, her sister-in-law said. She worked at Target and studied at Valencia College, a local community college. She wanted to become a party planner so she could coordinate events with her two older brothers, who are both DJs. Flores’ family spent hours waiting at Orlando Regional Medical Center, then a staging area at a nearby hotel. Someone came to read the names of victims still hospitalized or being released. Mercedez Flores’ name wasn’t on the list. Someone came to read the names of victims still hospitalized or being released. Mercedez Flores’ name wasn’t on the list.
Amanda Alvear, 25 years old
Amanda had bonded with friend Sandy Marte over breakups and health problems. Marte said he was trying to comfort her after the breakup. She had lost a lot of weight following gastric bypass surgery and Marte encouraged her to socialize and enjoy life. “She was loving, she was caring, she always had an open ear, she always wanted to help people,” Marte said of his friend Alvear. “She had an amazing heart. She was a really good person.” Both Mercedez and Amanda posted on Snapchat from the nightclub before the shooting. Marte said a post from Alvear on Snapchat showed a packed club full of revelers, flashing lights and thumping music. Then a selfie video of Alvear with a series of gunshots in the background. Marte said he understands what it’s like to be at a nightclub during a shooting. He was at the Glitz Ultra Lounge in Orlando in February when two people were killed. He said he froze in place from the shock of it.
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old
Xavier died at doing what he loved — dancing. The 35-year-old had performed in the past at the Atlanta Bachata Fest, which is a several days long celebration of Latin music and dance, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Rosado, who also worked for Disney Live!, was the father of a young son, according to a Facebook page in his memory.
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old
Gilberto and a pal went to Pulse to party and dance the night away. They wound up dying together. The 25-year-old from Manati, Puerto Rico, 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, The Guardian newspaper reported. He made ends meet working at a Speedway service station on Lee Vista Blvd. in Orlando, the company confirmed to NBC News.
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old
Peter 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,” said his aunt, Sonia Cruz. 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.
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old and Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old
Simon Carrillo loved to travel. He wasn’t wealthy — he worked as a manager at McDonalds — but he was good with money, and knew how to save, the Orlando Sentinel reported. “He worked to be able to enjoy his life,” Ivonne Irizarry, a one-time co-worker, told the paper. Carillo’s Facebook profile is filled with dispatches of that life: trips to Puerto Rico and Venezuela, to Playalinda Beach in Florida, and on a Carnival cruise. Carillo, 31, took his last trip Saturday night with his partner, 26-year-old Oscar Aracena-Montero, to Pulse Nightclub, according to the Sentinel. Aracena-Montero was also killed in the nightmarish shooting. In a Facebook post, Aracena-Montero’s cousin remembered him this way, the Daily Beast first reported: “Today is and will be as long as I live the most devastating day of my life. The day when, by the decision of another, my beloved cousin is no longer with me.”
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
Enrique was a churchgoer and college student from New York — was on vacation when he was gunned down at the Pulse nightclub. The 25-year-old lived in Brooklyn and studied at St. Francis College, where he had transferred last summer in hopes of completing his degree, the school said. “Sadly, his dreams were cut short by this senseless act of violence,” St. Francis College said in a statement to NBC New York. Neighbors in Brooklyn remembered Rios as a “sweet person” who was community oriented and “always smiling.”
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
Joel went to Pulse to dance just as he had many times before. A Mexican immigrant who moved to Florida at the beginning of the century before briefly returning to his native land was described by friends to the Sentinel as humble, cheerful, and religious. “He was loyal. He was always trying to do stuff to make you feel better,” a friend who met him at church said.
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
Jason was only 19 when he lost his life. The Orlando native studied computer science at Valencia College and was passionate about photography. Josaphat was “always willing to help someone in need,” his aunt, Josette Desile, told the Orlando Sentinel. When shots rang out at the Pulse nightclub, Josaphat called his mother, who told him to hide in a bathroom, the Sentinel reports. Josaphat’s mother dialed 911 on another line and stayed on the phone with her son, listening as the shooting drew near.
Cory James Connell, 21 years old
Cory’s girlfriend convinced him to go with her to Pulse because she wanted to teach him how to dance. A “gym junkie,” the 21-year-old was more into lifting weights than taking to the dance floor, his brother, Ryan Connell, told NBC News. But after Paula Blanco had spent the afternoon watching an Orlando Predators arena football game with him, Connell agreed to go with her because it was Latin Night and she’s Colombian. 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. Powers added that Connell was also understanding and supportive when he came out as gay last year. Chris Richards, a high school pal of Connell’s, told The Miami Herald his slain friend dreamed of being a firefighter and had recently been accepted to a local EMT school in Orlando. “He was very passionate about helping people and always put others before himself,” Richards said.
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old and Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
Juan known as “Juan P.” to friends and colleagues — was at Pulse with Luis Conde, 39, who was also killed in Sunday’s attack. They were business partners in a popular Orlando hair salon, Alta Peluqueria D’magazine. Rivera was from Barceloneta on Puerto Rico’s northern coast and went to college at Universidad Interamericana in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Luis Ruiz of Apopka, Florida — who was at Pulse but escaped — told The Tampa Bay Times that Rivera and Conde were “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.” Alta Peluqueria D’magazine is so popular that some clients travel from several states away just to get their hair and makeup done, according to testimonials on the salon’s Facebook page. “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 woman 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.”
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old
Juan worked at Reunion Resorts where employees including a housekeeper said he was “very kind and loving,” according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old
Jerald was a seasonal employee who worked at Walt Disney World. He went to Pulse to celebrate his friend’s 21st birthday, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Co-workers described him as “one of the kindest people you could meet,” and noted that he went out of his way to make international visitors feel welcome.
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25, was a leasing agent in Orlando who loved to dance, sing, and dress as Beyonce or Jennifer Lopez for crowds. “He sang Adele in the office until we couldn’t take it anymore,” his manager told the Orlando Sentinel. “It just feels very quiet, now.”
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
Tevin Eugene Crosby was ambitious and goal oriented, his brother told the Orlando Sentinel. The 25-year-old had a marketing company called Total Entrepreneurs Concepts. He graduated from West Iredell High in Statesville, North Carolina, in 2010. His English teacher, Jacqueline Scott, told the Charlotte Observer she was still in shock. “I remember his smile, his love of life. … I want people to know the laughter and the joy he spread.”
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old
Jonathan worked for Telemundo and was a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, which confirmed his death in a statement from the president Monday. “We want to extend our thoughts, prayers and deepest condolences to Jonathan’s family and friends,” NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises Chairman Cesar Conde said in a statement. Camuy, a native of Puerto Rico, was a contractor who worked in audience management on the Telemundo show “La Voz Kids,” a singing competition for children inspired by NBC’s “The Voice,” according to NBCUniversal President and CEO Steve Burke. He previously worked for Telemundo Puerto Rico’s “Alexandra de Noche” and was killed at Pulse, family and friends told Telemundo. Those who knew Camuy described him as caring and talented with a bright future.
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old
Jean was a great person inside and out,” according to friends. His cousin’s wife wrote on Facebook that the families are are devastated by the loss. The general manager of a local store, he just recently bought his first house. “He was just a caring, loving guy,” one of his best friends told the Orlando Sentinel. “Just like a big teddy bear.”
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old
Rodolfo worked at a blood donation center and earned enough to buy a home almost exactly one year ago, the Sentinel reported. “He loved to dance salsa and all kinds of Latin dancing,” a friend told the paper. “He didn’t even drink because he had a long drive home and always wanted to be safe.”
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool went to Pulse on Saturday night as she often did, with her 21-year-old son, Isaiah Henderson. It was a favorite spot for the pair: He’s gay, and she still loved to dance — despite having 11 kids and beating cancer twice, Marquez McCool’s oldest daughter, Khalisha Pressley, told NBC News. At 49, she’d been married a few times, and earlier in her life, she’d moved from New York City to California. In 1985, she met Robert Vince Pressley Sr., who was serving in the Air Force in San Bernardino, and the couple got married and had two children, including Khalisha. They only stayed together for four years, but they stayed in touch, talking as recently as last Thursday, Robert told NBC News. “She was a good mother [and] a good provider,” he said. “She was always trying to help people, taking people in who had no place to live.” Marquez McCool eventually ended up single and living in Florida with six of her children, the youngest of whom was 12, Khalisha said. “She was always really cool, but really a mom at the end of the day,” she said — “the sweetest lovingest person in the world.” Early Sunday morning, Henderson dialed Khalisha immediately after the shooting. He was screaming, she said. He survived, but his mother did not. “He had to watch his mother die,” she recalled. “He saw everybody getting killed.” Khalisha added: “He feels it was his fault.”
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
Angel was a ophthalmic technician and studied in Puerto Rico, the Miami Herald reports. He described himself on Facebook as “an adventurous, easy going but responsible man that would like to live the life completely.”
Frank Hernandez, 27 years old
Frank Escalante was from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. Listed as Frank Hernandez by the city of Orlando, he was 27 and described by the advocacy group Aqui Estamos RGV as “a member of our LGBTQ Rio Grande Valley family.” The group said it had confirmed his death in a Facebook post Monday. “Rest in power, Frank,” the post said. “We will shine light on your life tonight at Orlando Shooting Vigil: Stand with LGBTQ Community.” Escalante’s cousin, Paola Escalante-Castillo, told NBC News that his mother was in Orlando Monday. Out of respect for his mother’s wishes, Escalante-Castillo declined to talk about her cousin.
Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
Henry, who lived in Orlando, was often at the Latin nights at the Pulse, like early Sunday morning when the shooting occurred, his friends said on Facebook.
Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
Antonio was a former student at Florida A&M University. According to the school, Brown had been a criminal justice major and a member of ROTC before graduating in 2008.
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz 24 years old
Sanfeliz, a Tampa resident originally from Cuba, worked at JPMorgan Chase, according to his Facebook page. He graduated from Gaither High School in Tampa and went to Hillsborough Community College. His brother, Junior Sanfeliz, wrote a tribute to him on Facebook, saying, “My heart is completely broken. … Everyone knows the bond that I had with my brother, we would finish each other’s sentences, knew each other’s thoughts, and could sense when the other was upset. He was so strong, and was my rock through everything we ever went through. He was the light of my family and I know that he will continue to bless us and his light will be radiating down from a better place.” (Facebook)
Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old
Better known as Drake Ortiz, is a native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, according to his Facebook page. He has also lived in Puerto Rico and was residing in Orlando. (Facebook)
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
Alejandro was an outgoing native of Cuba who “always had a smile on his face,” a friend said Tuesday. Sarai Torres said she’d known Martinez since last year. He’d just moved to Florida from Cuba, she said, and was still trying to master English. “Every interaction I had with him was totally positive,” she said. Torres said she remembers Martinez as an outgoing person who introduced her to his other friends. He’s the type of person [who would] see you in a parking lot and he’d have a whole conversation with you,” she said. Torres, 30, said she saw Martinez on several occasions at Pulse nightclub, where he died. She wasn’t at the club the night of the shooting.