Here we honor the 49 victims shot and killed on Sunday, June 12, at Pulse nightclub in Orlando by telling some of their stories. We can't encapsulate any one life in just a few words, but we've tried to document what we can about these people beyond their names and faces.
The 49 souls lost that day weren't just numbers on a page – they were mothers, dancers, students, accountants, lovers, and all of them had their lives cut short for reasons that are still unclear.
His mom described him as "a happy man” while his aunt said he was "an amazing person with a good soul” to the Orlando Sentinel.
On the night of the attack, his mother Rosalie Ramos was awakened by a phone call around 2 a.m. and raced to the club.
"I was hoping maybe [he was shot in] the hand or the leg," his mother said to the Orlando Sentinel. "You can survive [a gunshot to] the leg."
He was shot three times and died at Orlando Regional Medical Center. A young woman who was with him said he came out of the bathroom while bullets were flying and pushed people out of the way, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Amanda Alvear, 25 years old
The Polk County pharmacy technician had focused on changing herself and her life in the past two years. She lost 180 pounds with the help of gastric bypass surgery and daily workouts, according to the Orlando Sentinel. She also wanted to become a nurse.
She often went to gay and lesbian clubs because they were fun places and she felt safe, her brother told the Orlando Sentinel. On this particular night, she was with a group of friends and capturing the night on Snapchat when the gunshots began. Mercedez Marisol Flores, a close friend of hers, also died in the shooting.
"She wouldn't want anyone to spread hate for her," her brother told the Orlando Sentinel. "She'd rather they spread more love, keep friends and family close and have a good time doing it."
Oscar Aracena-Montero, 26 years old, and Simon Adrian Carillo Hernandez, 31 years old
Oscar and Simon had recently returned home from vacationing in New York and Canada, where the couple stopped at Niagara Falls.
Simon, a fast food restaurant manager in Kissimmee, loved to dance, took great pride in his career and was always saving money so he could travel, co-worker Ivonne Irizarry told Orlando Sentinel.
Last month, the couple purchased a home together in Kissimmee where they kept three pet chinchillas, a friend told the Orlando Sentinel. Both of them studied business administration at the Universidad de Turabo in Puerto Rico. The restaurant’s area supervisor, Johanna Bornacelli, said the couple was attending Ana G Mendez University System, a bilingual college in Orlando, where Carrillo had been studying accounting.
Since the couple’s passing, friends have posted on social media asking for assistance in order to bring Oscar’s mother to his funeral. She does not have a visa that would allow her to come to the country to attend his funeral.
"Oscar was a very sweet guy. Very sweet to everybody," Yamilka Pimentel, a cousin of Oscar’s told the Orlando Sentinel. "Every time he met somebody they would like him a lot. He was the type of guy who goes along with anybody."
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old
The Puerto Rican native was a biologics assistant at the OneBlood donation center off Sand Lake Road who was said to love his career and was known for his compassion.
Rodolfo, of Kissimmee, didn’t go out often but when he did, it was to dance, his friend Johnny Rivera Muñiz told Orlando Sentinel.
"He loved to dance salsa and all kinds of Latin dancing," River Muñiz told Orlando Sentinel. "He didn't even drink because he had a long drive home and always wanted to be safe."
It was Latin Night at Pulse this night.
Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
The Army captain, originally from Cocoa, graduated from Florida A&M University with a degree in criminal justice and was in ROTC.
He has been involved in the military since college and has received awards including the Army Achievement Medal and national Defense Service Medal. He was deployed to Kuwait from April 2010 to March 2011 as a personnel officer before becoming a captain in 2012 and most recently, working as a human resources officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, according to U.S. Army Media Relations.
“He kept a smile on his face. He was a very positive person with a very good sense of humor,” Lt. Col. Kelvin Scott, who taught ROTC at the university from 2005 to 2008, told the Tallahassee Democrat. “I do want to keep his family in our prayers and remember him for being a great person who was willing to work hard,” Scott said.
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
Instead of going on a trip to New Orleans with his best friend, the Jacksonville resident traveled to Orlando to go dancing and celebrate earning a degree in Human Resources Management.
"He loved to dance. He loved to have fun," Mahogany Avent told Orlando Sentinel. "He was my best friend. I can't believe he's gone."
He was an employee on the Jacksonville campus of Keiser University as a financial aid officer and was a dedicated community volunteer, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
"Darryl was a highly respected member of the KU team, and his contributions to our students and his colleagues will not be forgotten," the university said, according to CNN.
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
He was ready to start a new life in Orlando until it was taken from him. He had recently moved from Chicago and was starting a new job at the Florida Retina Institute in Orlando as an ophthalmic technician, according to Orlando Sentinel.
In Chicago, he had been a Zumba instructor, an employee at Old Navy and a nurse technician, according to the Chicago Tribune. He also served in the National Guard and played the clarinet in his hometown’s band, Efrain Padro, an uncle told The Associated Press.
He described himself as an "adventurous, easygoing but responsible man that would like to live the life completely" on his Facebook page.
Juan Chavez-Martinez, 25 years old
Originally from Huichapan, Mexico, he lived in Davenport, where he worked as a housekeeping supervisor for APDC services, a staffing company partner of Reunion Resorts in Kissimmee. He is remembered by his co-workers as a kind and loving person.
“He was extremely friendly, very dedicated to his family, to his co-workers,” Alicia Amarro, chief financial officer for APDC told the Orlando Sentinel. “It is very difficult. Everybody loved him.”
He had been working for APDC for the last seven years. He had several siblings, two of whom live in Central Florida but wish to grieve their brother privately.
Jose Crisantos told the Orlando Sentinel that he had gotten to know Chavez while he was employed at the Reunion Resort.
“He was very well known among us as very kind and loving,” Crisantos said. “There was nobody else like him. It is a devastating loss.”
Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old, and Juan Pablo Rivera Velasquez, 37 years old
They both went to Jose Campeche High School in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, and together they ran Alta Peluqueria D’Magazine, a beauty salon in Kissimmee. They were successful at what they did, gaining recognition because of their work at the Belleza Latina pageant.
Irene Rivera visited their salon on Tuesday to pay her respects, and she told the Orlando Sentinel that the salon was very well known in the community.
“They loved people,” Rivera said. “They lived to help people."
Jocelyn De Leon went to school with them too in Puerto Rico. Conde was her makeup artist and Velasquez was her hairdresser. De Leon told the Orlando Sentinel that she knows many people are hurting over the loss of Conde and Velasquez.
“These two people were wonderful, wonderful people,” De Leon said. “To me, they're not gone. They're still here with us."
Cory James Connell, 21 years old
He spent the night at Pulse with his girlfriend, Paula Andrea Blanco, who was one of the 53 that survived the attack.
He was an Edgewater High School graduate and a Valencia College student who hoped to become a firefighter. He also worked at the Publix in College Park.
His siblings and friends are expressing their hurt on Facebook. "The world lost an amazing soul, today. God just got the best of angels,” his brother Ryan Connell wrote.
“This was never suppose to happen to you and I have no idea how I will ever be able to accept this. This will never be easy and I will forever have you in my heart,” his sister Ashley Connell said. “I can't wait to share all the wonderful memories that we have with my son. I know you loved him so much and he will know that.”
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
The successful entrepreneur promoted positivity and dedication on his Facebook where he was always posting motivational images. He owned a marketing company called Total Entrepreneurs Concepts.
"He was very ambitious," his brother Chavis Crosby said Orlando Sentinel. "Whatever goal he had in mind, he worked hard. Whether alone or on a team, he worked on that goal."
The Michigan business owner graduated from West Iredell High in North Carolina in 2010, according to CNN.
His English teacher, Jacqueline Scott, told The Charlotte Observer, "I remember his smile, his love of life. ... I want people to know the laughter and the joy he spread."
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
She was described as a loving person who stood up for what she believed in. She was in the middle of reinventing herself and picking her life back up.
“She was changing,” ex-girlfriend Ashleigh Alleyne told the Orlando Sentinel, also saying that Drayton had been doing better when she spoke to her last month.
She was going to church and had a new circle of friends. She is survived by a 3-year-old boy she helped raise.
Her aunt, Patricia Drayton Banks, wrote a Facebook post in her memory on Monday: “While keeping the others in Orlando in prayer, keep my brother, his wife and both our families in your prayers,” Banks said. “R.I.P Dee Dee. You know this Auntie will miss you."
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
He loved to dance and sing and loved life. He worked as a leasing agent at Auvers Village Apartments in Orlando, where his passion for music was apparent to his co-workers.
“He filled our office with music," Yolanda Quinones-Perez, friend and manager at his workplace, told the Orlando Sentinel. "He sang Adele in the office until we couldn't take it anymore. It just feels very quiet, now."
Christian Colon wrote a Facebook post on his page Monday directed to Fernandez and how much he will miss him.
“My heart is broken with the news of your departure, I can't contain the tears and the pain I feel inside of me," Vega wrote in Spanish. "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."
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
She was originally from Queens, N.Y, and graduated from Ridge Community High School in 2008 before she started working at Target. She studied literature at Valencia College, and loved music.
"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,” niece Jennifer Flores told the Orlando Sentinel in an email.
Mercedez had been at Pulse with her friend, Amanda Alvear, the night of the shooting. Alvear also died that night.
“She was just a really fun, nice person and cared a lot about her friends,” Jennifer Flores said. “She really did live her life the way she wanted to."
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old
Known to family and friends as Peter Ommy, he went to Colonial High and Aloma Charter High School and worked for UPS in Orlando. His family chose to deal with the grief of his passing in private, with his cousins posting short messages on Twitter after learning of his death.
His aunt, Sonia Cruz, told the Associated Press that he had been at Pulse with a friend the night of the shooting.
“Peter makes a difference everywhere he goes,” Cruz said. “He was a happy person. If Peter is not at the party, no one wants to go.”
His Facebook page was changed Sunday to read “Remembering Peter Ommy.”
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old, and Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
Guerrero was about to turn 23, and had just finished his first year at the University of Central Florida. Leionen had both a bachelor’s and master’s degee in psychology from UCF and worked as a licensed mental health counselor.
And they were madly in love.
“They were soul mates,” Aryam Guerrero, Juan’s sister, told TIME. "You can tell by how they looked at each other. It’s a little comforting that they died together.”
Leionen had been a gay-rights activist, even starting a gay-straight alliance in high school, according to his mother. More recently, he had won the Anne Frank Humanitarian Award for his work within the gay community. Guerrero wanted to become a financial advisor and worked as a customer service rep for a credit union.
The couple will have a joint funeral.
“If it’s not a funeral,” Aryam Guerrero told the TIME, “they were going to have a wedding together.”
Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
A family man from Chicago, Henry loved to dance and have fun, and was excellent at pool. He had a master’s degree in business from Florida State University and a theological degree. He could sing and play the piano and organ beautifully, even though he never took a lesson.
But Francisco Hernandez, Henry’s boyfriend, told the Orlando Sentinel that his priority was “to make sure his kids were taken care of.''
Henry also wanted the best for Hernandez, wanted him to succeed in his own life. Because of this, Hernandez has decided to go back to school in his boyfriend’s memory.
"I am definitely going to do that for him," Hernandez told the Orlando Sentinel. "I am going to make something of myself."
Frankie Hernandez, 27 years old
“Love has no gender” is what he had tattooed on his right bicep in a photo published in The New York Times. He was proud of his sexuality; he was at Pulse with his boyfriend, who survived the shooting.
Hernandez worked at Calvin Klein and had moved to Orlando from Texas two years ago.
After the shooting, Hernandez’s sister Julissa Leal Escalante made the 12-hour drive from Lafayette, Louisiana, to Orlando, hoping that he had survived. She had received a call from Hernandez’s boyfriend, who told her he had lost track of Hernandez during the shooting.
“I don’t understand why he had to be one of the many victims who didn’t make it,” Escalante wrote on Facebook after learning of his death. “Why did it have to be him of all people?”
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
He was a father of three who lived in Apopka. His Facebook profile says that he worked at FajitaMex Mexican Catering in Orlando.
When news of his passing had spread, his brother, Jose Honorato, began to see many messages of condolences and support on Facebook, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
"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 in the comments section under a newly uploaded photo of the two brothers. "My condolences Jose for you and your family may god give you strength and resignation."
Known to his friends as “Javi” and to his Facebook friends as “Harvey George Kings,” an English translation of his name, Reyes is remembered by his smile, sassy attitude and positivity.
He worked in sales at the Gucci store at the Mall at Millenia. His friend Edith Colon told the Orlando Sentinel that he was an amazing salesman and that he had a great personality and a caring heart.
Friend Jose Diaz also told the Orlando Sentinel that Reyes was outgoing, humble, and a lovely friend.
“He was proud to be Latino,” Diaz said, “super proud."
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
He was a young man with a diverse field of interests, from computer science to photography. He was just starting to discover what he wanted to do with his life.
Less than two weeks ago, he had graduated from Southern Technical College’s business office specialist program.
“Everybody is just very, very hurt,” said Christopher Long, Josaphat’s uncle, to the Orlando Sentinel. “You never think it would be you until it is, until it happens to one of your family members. Right now, the whole family is grieving."
He is survived by his two brothers, his sister, and his parents, Myrlande Bebe and Jackson Josaphat.
"They both were very, very, very much proud of him," Long told the Orlando Sentinel.
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
Justice worked as an accountant and lived in downtown Orlando in a condo Mina Justice, his mother, described to the Associated Press as a sky house “like the Jeffersons.”
The texts he sent to his mother have been read by many since they were published in various news outlets and they detail what happened in his final hours.
“He's coming,” Justice texted his mother. “I'm gonna die."
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Mina Justice posted the following on an unconfirmed social media account:
“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."
And he loved her, as his first text message to her that night said “Mommy I love you.”
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old
With only a few credits stopping him from graduating with a communications degree from the Universidad Del Sagrado Corazon, he packed his bags anyway and headed to Orlando to pursue a career as a dancer and choreographer. This was about three years ago.
"He was very talented," cousin Ana Figueroa of Orlando told Orlando Sentinel. "He started dancing when he was about 10 years old. It was his passion."
"I want people to remember Anthony as someone who was very happy and very kind," Figueroa said. "This is just devastating for our family and his friends."
He went out for dancing with his two roommates who were critically injured but their conditions are stable now, Figueroa told Orlando Sentinel.
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
Martinez had recently moved to Florida from Cuba, and was still learning English. He was outgoing and was always smiling.
Sarai Torres told the Orlando Sentinel that they had met last year and that he had introduced her to his other friends, and that every interaction she had with was positive.
“He's the type of person [who would] see you in a parking lot and he'd have a whole conversation with you,” Torres said.
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old
She was the epitome of a fighter. The mother of 12 had beaten cancer twice, and had been out dancing with one of her sons the night of the shooting. McCool had recently decided to become a real estate agent and had started taking classes.
She loved to dance, and she loved music.
“She did the cowboy dancing,”childhood friend Noreen Vaquer told the Orlando Sentinel. “She did salsa. She did everything."
Vaquer said that McCool stood up for herself, her friends, and her children. Her son made it out of Pulse alive.
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old
He grew up in Manati, Puerto Rico, and moved to Orlando a few years ago. Menendez was studying healthcare management at the Orlando campus for the Ana G. Menendez University.
After learning of his death, his cousin Maribel Silva wrote a heartfelt message on her Facebook wall.
“Near or far, we are blood and loss like this is difficult to swallow,” she wrote. “Love and prayers to you all."
In a message to the Orlando Sentinel, Irma Silva-Lauer, another of his cousins, said that he was the “light and the life of all the family gatherings.”
“This all feels like a dream,” Silva-Lauer wrote, “and I'm going to wake up and he will be texting me or calling me to tell me he is OK."
Kimberly Morris, 37 years old
Morris had just moved here from Hawaii two months ago to help her mother and grandmother. She was one of the bouncers working that night at Pulse.
“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."
She was described by friend Narvell Benning to the Orlando Sentinel as passionate about basketball, and just an all-around sweet person who always had a smile on her face.
“She was such a great person and so full of life," Shelton told the Orlando Sentinel. "I can truly say heaven has gained an angel."
Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old
She was a star athlete, a quiet leader and a top student at her Philadelphia high school. She travelled with family to Orlando in celebration of her recent high school graduation where she ranked third in her senior class, according to the school’s website.
For the past two seasons, she led the girls basketball in scoring and had plans to go to Mercyhurst College in Pennsylvania on a basketball scholarship, according to the school’s website.
“Losing Akyra is heartbreaking, we are currently in the process of healing as a community,” coach Beulah Osueke wrote 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. There is no possible way to prepare for a moment like this.”
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old
Before the night took a turn for the worst, he spent the night dancing and jumping around with friends while recording it on Snapchat.
The aspiring performer grew up in Nashville, but moved to Orlando to pursue his passions of acting and dancing. He worked at Target and Starbucks in Kissimmee, his friend Daniel Suarez-Ortiz told Orlando Sentinel.
"He was always just loving and kind," Daniel told the 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."
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old
He came from Puerto Rico on Friday to see a concert at the Amway Center. He saw Selena Gomez, a singer he loved, play. Everyone called him “Drake” and he was described as “humble, simple and charismatic” by his friend Gregory Fabian.
He went to school at Universidad del Este in Carolina, Puerto Rico. He went to high school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
One person commented on Facebook, “He got to see his idol, he had a great time. He danced for one last time in PULSE. Drake Ortiz you got to do what many would have loved to do, May you rest in peace.”
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
He worked in merchandise, first at Toys R’ Us, and then for Ross. But Ortiz-Rivera was known best for being a selfless, generous man. "Eric was always willing to help everybody. He sacrificed himself a lot for his family," his former roommate, Abismel Colon Gomez, told the Orlando Sentinel. "He loved his brother, and he was always being generous."
He had a brother and aunt in Orlando, as well as many friends. He went to a friend's housewarming party, then Pulse afterwards for Latin night.
"My heart breaks," Colon Gomez said. "We have seven friends who were there, and already we know three are dead."
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
Paniagua was a construction worker who had an intense love for his family. Panigua grew up in Veracruz, Mexico, and traveled back and forth, ending up in Tampa less than a year ago. He often sent money back to his family in Mexico, and loved to laugh and dance.
"He was the best," longtime friend Lorena Barrigan told the Orlando Sentinel, who met Rayon Paniagua at church in Winter Garden. "He was loyal. He was always trying to do stuff to make you feel better."
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
Perez had found love in a perfume counter. He worked at the Perfumania at the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets and it was there, over a bottle of Declaration by Cartier, that he met his longtime partner, Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, who also died the night of the shooting.
"He laughed with the people and would make jokes," co-worker Claudia Agudelo told the Orlando Sentinel. "He was always happy."
Perez was originally from Puerto Rico and lived in Kissimmee. He loved going out and he had a childlike side, which made him a fun-loving uncle to his three nephews.
"He was a real dynamic kid," his father Angel Mendez told the Orlando Sentinel.
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
He had flown to Orlando from New York to celebrate a friend’s birthday. He lived with his grandmother in Brooklyn, serving as her caretaker. According to the New York Times, he volunteered with older people through a home health care agency and had studied social work at St. Francis College.
“I don’t even know how to mourn right now,” said his mother, Gertrude Merced, to the New York Times. “I don’t know how to grieve right now.”
Rios was a devout Baptist who loved to pray and read the Bible with his mother. He also loved to dance and cook, and his mother said their relationship was wonderful.
Merced has opened up a Go Fund Me page in hopes that she will be able to transport her son’s body back to Brooklyn.
“My family is torn apart and all I would like is to have my son with me,” Merced wrote on the page. “Please help me bring my son home for a proper funeral.”
Jean Carlos Nieves Rodriguez, 27 years old
Originally from Puerto Rico, Rodriguez was always there for his family. He had just bought a house a month and a half ago, and he worked as a general manager for a check-cashing store.
"He wanted to be the best at what he did, and he would work very hard to achieve that," Ivonne Irizarry, one of his best friends, told the Orlando Sentinel.
“He was just a caring, loving guy — just like a big teddy bear," Irizarry said.
Rodriguez loved cars and going to the beach, and everyone in his family knew they could depend on him for anything.
“Whatever the situation was, good or bad, he was with me,” Irizarry said. “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."
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old
He was an entertainer. He had performed at local theme parks, including Walt Disney World, and on the Norwegian Cruise Line. He worked at the Aldo store at the Orlando International Premium Outlets. He also danced at local bars under the name Eman Valentino.
The father of a 5-year-old son, he was described as a happy and energetic person.
Wilma Lozano, the mother of their son, told the Orlando Sentinel that he loved spending time with his son, doing everything from swimming in the pool to playing video games.
“He was always energetic and always had a smile on his face that made you smile too," Lozano told the Orlando Sentinel via Facebook message. "And if I was down, he knew how to made me smile and get back up."
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old
Sanfeliz worked at a branch of JPMorgan Chase and lived in the Tampa area. He loved to work out, to dance, and he loved his family deeply.
“Everyone knows the bond that I had with my brother,” Junior Sanfeliz wrote on a Facebook post on Monday. “We would finish each other’s sentences, knew each other’s thoughts, and could sense when the other was upset.”
His brother has started a Go Fund Me page in his memory and on it he wrote that Sanfeliz believed people should be open and honest.
“He lived his life proud,” his brother wrote.
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old
She was a mother of two and at Pulse with her brother-in-law, William Borges, and a friend. Her youngest son was just three months old. She was married to race-car driver Juan Borges, and lived in Kissimmee.
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega was with Rodriguez Solivan when the shooting began, and died shielding her from bullets. Her brother-in-law survived, saying on Facebook "I swear, my heart has a ladder tall enough to reach you both. Mary, you leave me with a pain that I never thought I would feel.''
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
He was a manager at Al and Chuck Travel, a gay travel agency in Sarasota. He was known as “top-hat Eddie” due to the hat he always wore to events. A friend of his called him "one of the funniest and nicest guy[s]" in an interview with local station WFTV.
Leonides Echevarria, Sotomayor’s cousin, said on Facebook “Gone, but will never be forgotten. I will become the biggest activist, I promise you, in your honor, so that this never happens again.”
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
He sang covers of top 40 songs from the 1970s to the 2010s with his band, Frequency, at the Blue Martini nightclub. He graduated from East Carolina University in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in communications, and was described as a talented and passionate singer.
A colleague posted on Facebook saying “I had the privilege of being a colleague and seeing this guy perform live regularly for the past several years now. Every time he sang and danced, the whole club lit up with energy. Every time. Always smiling. Always sweaty from leaving it all out on the stage. A truly talented entertainer that knew how to flood a room with positive vibes.”
Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
He was a pharmacy student in Tampa at a satellite college for the Puerto Rican university Sistema Universitario Ana G. Mendez. He was supposed to graduate this week, according to the Orlando Sentinel. He came to Orlando to visit his family, and posted several videos to his Facebook of his family the morning and afternoon of the shooting. He sent videos of his apartment property back to friends in Puerto Rico.
His cousin, Sonia N. Crapps, said, "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."
A friend posted on Facebook “fly high Martin Benitez Torres age 33 you will NOT be forgotten.”
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old
The journalist moved to Florida to work for the Telemundo TV network, where he was an assistant producer for a children’s talent competition. The show, La Voz Kids, is produced in Orlando and resembles NBC’s The Voice.
"He was a great assistant producer. ... Jonathan will be missed dearly," NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises Chairman Cesar Conde said in a statement the National Association of Hispanic Journalists released.
Before making the move to Orlando, he worked at Telemundo Puerto Rico, according to Orlando Sentinel.
He was described as “loving, talented and with a great promising future” in a story on Telemundo’s website.
Almost a year ago, on June 26, he posted a photo on his Facebook with the caption “#lovewins”.
Later this month, he would have turned 25, according to Orlando Sentinel.
Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old
The Universal Orlando employee worked as an attraction operator and ride attendant for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride and had hopes to become an EMT.
He was a student at Seminole State College who was taking a CPR class in the summer and was already enrolled in classes for the fall.
"He was a true friend. A funny, sweet, nerdy guy without a mean side. He just wanted to make people smile,” his colleague at Universal Studios, Olga Glomba, told Orlando Sentinel in an email.
Aside from school and work, he played in the Deltona Adult Soccer League, according to the group’s Facebook page.
On April 29, Vielma posted a photo on Facebook of Jesus holding his hand out to a young girl with the caption “Trust me. I have something better for you.”
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old
While the oldest of the victims, Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, a professional Jibaro dancer, had so much life in him that his best friend expected him to live forever.
“I thought he was immortal,” Velazquez’s best friend, Sarah Lopez, said to CNN.
Velazquez met Lopez in Puerto Rico when she was 16, and while both were gay, they formed a connection that lasted for the rest of Velazquez’s life. They moved away from Puerto Rico to the Orlando area together. They had little family in America, so they relied on one another. And they continued to do so for three and a half decades.
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon was described as a protector, confidant and hero, according to his old friend Daniel Gmys-Casiano.
"We grew up in a really small town in Puerto Rico … and he was going to the 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 told the Orlando Sentinel.
Wilson-Leon moved to the United States from Puerto Rico, knowing almost no English, but was promoted to manager of a shoe store all the same. He was killed along with his partner of eight years, Jean Carlos Mendez Perez.
"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.
A $5,000 fund has already been raised on GoFundMe to have Wilson-Leon’s body flown back to Puerto Rico for burial.
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old
Jerald Arthur Wright was part of the Disney family. He worked at Walt Disney World, and was at Pulse to celebrate his friend’s 21st birthday.
"It's hard to understand, but the people you work with at Disney, they are an amazing family," said Scott Dickison, one of Wright’s former co-workers, to the Orlando Sentinel. "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."
A co-worker wrote on Facebook, “Your last words to me were, ‘Never stop being yourself. Always be happy, spunky Scotty.’ I will always be happy. No matter what.”
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Orlando Weekly works for you, and your support is essential.
Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida.
Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.
Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Orlando’s true free press free.