Profiles of some of the Pulse Orlando shooting victims

Family members of victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting leave a family reunification center set up at the Beardall Senior Center, Monday, June 13, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Stanley Almodovar

Among the confirmed deceased is Stanley Almodovar III, 23, of Clermont, Fla. He worked as a pharmacy technician.

His cousin, Ivelisse Santiago, had just heard the news when she was reached by phone Sunday afternoon.

He was just a great kid," she said through sobs.

Almodovar regularly went to Pulse and other nightclubs in Orlando, said his friend, Hazel Ramirez, 22. Her last interaction with him, she said, was over Snapchat, where she learned he was on his way to Latin night at the club. She was horrified when she learned Sunday afternoon that he had been killed.

"You see those things on the news, you never think it's going to be anyone close to you," Ramirez said. "To find out it was my friend, it's so hard."

She described Almodovar as "kind, but sassy," someone who was confident with his own sexual identity and therefore helped others find their place in the LGBT community. He was a fierce advocate for his friends, she said, recalling how he defended her one night when they were out dancing and she fell, drawing jeers.

"He was so proud of who he was," she said. "He would do his makeup better than anyone else. It was so easy to be myself with him."

In September 2015, Almodovar left a message on his Facebook page with a piece of advice for his friends and followers: "if YOU judge someone; you haven't taken enough time to Love them."

- - -

Amanda Alvear

Amanda Alvear, 25, lived with her parents in Davenport, Fla. She juggled two jobs - one at CVS, one at a hospital pharmacy - and planned to study nursing this fall at the University of South Florida. She went to Pulse with her best friend, Mercedez Flores, who was also killed.

"Most of her friends are gay," said her brother, Brian Alvear, 32. "She's a Hispanic woman. It's gay pride month. That was the place to be."

Alvear, a local DJ, said his sister preferred gay clubs because straight bars, in her experience, tend to be more hostile environments. A night of dancing, he said, was a rare respite from her normally hectic schedule.

"Her life was work, work, work and take care of our family," said Alvear, who has two young daughters. "She was trying to better herself."

He last heard from her Friday, when she sent him a picture from a karaoke bar.

"She said, 'Hey, I'm thinking of you.' "

- - -

Darryl "DJ" Roman Burt II

Darryl "DJ" Roman Burt II had been a financial aid counselor for Keiser University's Jacksonville campus for about two years, according to Lisamarie Winslow, campus president of the Jacksonville campus. "He was a young guy with a lot of energy," she said.

Winslow said Burt was primarily responsible for working with the university's military and veteran population. "He had a really big personality, and when someone makes an impression on you like that," she said, pausing, "We're trying to process."

Burt showed care for his community through his involvement with the Jacksonville Jaycees, a community-service-based group for young professionals. Shawn DeVries, a fellow member, said Burt spearheaded a clothing drive for the homeless earlier this year. "He was a hard worker who was interested in helping the communities around him."

- - -

Angel L. Candelario-Padro

When Angel L. Candelario-Padro left Guánica, the small town in southern Puerto Rico, to work as a nurse in Orlando, he left behind a close-knit family and a community where everyone seemed to know everyone, united by blood or marriage or simply a sense of kinship.

He attended "Latin Night" at Pulse Saturday night with his boyfriend, who survived the shooting, according to a family friend, Peter Hernandez Valentin. Hernandez Valentin, who messaged with The Washington Post on Facebook, said the couple had been together for several months.

Candelario-Padro graduated from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico in 2013 with a degree in nursing, Hernandez Valentin said. He described him as a "fighter" who wanted to use his intelligence to help others in pain.

He also said Candelario-Padro came from a close family in Guánica, held in high esteem in the community of nearly 20,000. His mother works for the government on education issues, Hernandez Valentin said. Candelario-Padro was the oldest of three brothers.

- - -

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz

In February 2015, Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz posted a video on his Facebook page. It showed him singing and laughing, with the caption "Nada personal" or "Nothing personal" and the tag, "feeling excited."

A friend, Giovanni Rafael Nieves, said it perfectly captured the personality of Gonzalez-Cruz, who worked at UPS.

Nieves, 31, worked as a manager at a beauty salon that Gonzalez-Cruz's mother frequented. Whenever she would come in to get her nails done, her son would arrive in tow, he recalled.

"He was so humble and so sweet," Nieves said. "We would joke and laugh together and just find things to enjoy, everyday things."

Their last interaction was last week over Facebook. Nieves said that Gonzalez-Cruz had posted that he was single, prompting Nieves to ask, "Where do I apply?" Gonzalez-Cruz, he said, joked that applications would not be accepted until after the summer. So Nieves asked to be put on the waiting list, so that he would be first in line. Gonzalez-Cruz responded, saying that he was already first in line.

"I guess I'm going to be waiting forever," he said Monday, choking back sobs.

- - -

Miguel Honorato

His brother, Jose Honorato, described Miguel, 30, as a devoted husband to his wife, Minerva, and father to three children. They co-ran Tortilleria & Restaurant La Mexicana, their family-owned business in Orlando, and resided in nearby Apopka.

Miguel's wife called him early Sunday morning looking for her husband, who she said had attended the "Latin Night" party at Pulse with a group of friends. The women in the group had wanted to go to Pulse, Jose Honorato said.

"He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time," Honorato said.

He described his brother as hardworking and loving - committed to the family business while also making time to play soccer with his children and take them to the pool. He last saw his brother when he came over recently to celebrate his 9-year-old child's birthday. Honorato was born in the state of Guerrero in Mexico but moved to the Orlando area at a young age.

The loss was still sinking in Monday morning, after Miguel's name was added to the official victims list posted by the city of Orlando. Honorato had spent much of Sunday waiting at the Hampton Inn & Suites, a makeshift location for family members and friends searching for information about loved ones. When he heard nothing all day, he went to his brother's house Sunday evening, hoping he would return home.

"I'm desperate," he said at the time. "Please let him come home."

Honorato was at a loss in expressing the impact of his brother's death on the family.

"I just don't know what to say. He was a great father, a very generous father, and a hard worker," he said Monday.

- - -

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice

The first message Mina Justice received from her son Sunday morning seemed innocuous.

"Mommy I love you," Eddie Justice texted at 2:06 a.m..

His next words, though, were chilling.

"In club," he wrote. "They shooting."

Worried and confused, Mina tried calling her son, but there was no answer, she told the Associated Press. She texted him to ask whether he was okay.

"Trapp in bathroom," Eddie wrote a minute later. "Pulse. Downtown. Call police."

Mina didn't know it yet, but her son was caught in the midst of what would prove to be the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

At that instant, Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old security guard, was stalking Pulse, a popular Orlando gay club, with an assault rifle and pistol. He would kill 50 people and wound at least 53 more before dying in a shootout with police.

Sleeping just a moment before, Mina had now been propelled into a waking nightmare.

For 44 minutes, she sat in the dark, staring at her phone, watching the attack unfold in increasingly terrified texts from her son.

Then the texts stopped.

The moving messages, first reported by the Associated Press's Tamara Lush, are one man's window into a tragedy that has gripped the nation and rekindled debates over immigration, Islam, gay rights and gun control.

Before the mass shooting made international headlines, however, news of the incident spread on social media and in panicked texts from people trapped inside the club.



"Everyone get out of pulse and keep running," the club wrote on its Facebook page at 2:09 a.m.

Seconds earlier, Eddie Justice had again texted his mom.

"I'm gonna die," he wrote.

She called 911.

Eddie was handsome and athletic with tattoos that peeked out of his shirt, and he had a penchant for flashy jewelry, according to Facebook photos. He liked to make others laugh.

His work as an accountant afforded him a condo in downtown Orlando, his mother told the AP.

"Lives in a sky house, like the Jeffersons," Mina would say. "He lives rich."

Now her handsome, high-living son desperately needed her help.

As she talked to the emergency dispatcher, she texted Eddie.

"U still in there," she wrote, according to the AP. "Answer [your] damn phone."

Finally, at 2:39 a.m., he replied.

"Call them mommy," Eddie wrote, apparently in reference to the police. "Now."

He said he was in Pulse's bathroom.

"He's coming," Eddie wrote. "I'm gonna die."

When Mina asked whether people were hurt, her son said: "Lots. Yes."

When her son's texts paused once again, she hopefully asked whether the police had arrived and found him.

"No," he replied. "Still here in bathroom. He has us. They need to come get us."

Unknown to mother and son, though, police were outside the club but delaying their assault because of the hostage situation, a senior U.S. law enforcement official told The Washington Post. For three hours, the gunman was on the phone with police, and no shots were fired.

So when Mina texted her son at 2:49 a.m., asking him to let her know when he saw the police, he answered with panic.

"Hurry," he wrote, according to the AP. "He's in the bathroom with us."

"Is the man in the bathroom wit u?" she asked.

"He's a terror," Eddie wrote at 2:50 a.m. before answering her question: "Yes."

"Are u hurt?" Mina wrote.

"Stay there he don't like gay people," she wrote again.

"Text me please," she begged.

"I love u."

Eddie never answered.

Mina drove downtown to Pulse to await word from the police. When she got no answers Sunday morning, she made her way to the nearby Hampton Inn and Suites, a makeshift waiting area for families of those inside the club during the shooting.

Some of Eddie's relatives took to social media to express their hope that he was still alive.

"Please say a prayer for my lil cousin, God bring him home safe and sound," Jeffery Robinson wrote on Facebook. "This is a tragedy for all families involved and it's time to come together and take a stand regardless of what color, race, sex, or sexual preference."

"Fear is a powerful thing," wrote Nerelsha Justice-Macklin, Eddie's sister, as she raced to Orlando. "As I travel down this road with all my thoughts kept inside . . . it is overcoming my body . . . I need someone to reach out there hands . . . waiting and praying for the miracle worker JESUS . . . waiting on your glory lord!!! Y'all gonna have to excuse me . . . trying to keep it together in this backseat."

In the hotel lobby, there were scenes of intense grief as families learned that their loved ones had died inside the club.

One woman sat in a chair next to a stack of pizza boxes, sobbing and screaming. Another woman was so overcome that she vomited.

Still, Mina Justice had not heard news of her son.

"His name has not come up yet, and that's scary," she told the AP.

"It's just . . ." she said, pausing and patting her heart. "It's just, I got this feeling. I got a bad feeling."

Late on Sunday night, her bad feeling was confirmed.

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice's name was added to the list of the dead.

Mina could not be reached for comment Sunday night. But her nephew captured the family's emotion on Facebook.

"Terrible tragedy for my family," Robinson wrote. "Great young man gone way too soon."

A GoFundMe page has been established to collect money for his funeral.

"Eddie loved his mother," the page notes, "and was a momma's boy at heart."

- - -

Anthony Laureano

Anthony Laureano, a dancer and drag queen, was "a sweet, talented, and kind-hearted" young man, according to one friend, Tatiana Rodriguez, who wrote in a Facebook message on Monday that she was too broken up to say much. "My heart hurts. I can't talk," Rodriguez said. She said she met Laureano when they did a play together called "Tierra Rebelde."

Joshua Wallack, chief operating officer of Mango's Tropical Cafe in Orlando, said Laureano was working there as a hip-hop dancer and performed back-up during the cafe's popular nightly Michael Jackson tribute show, performing to hits like "Thriller" and "Billy Jean."

"He was an incredible young man," Wallack said. He had been working at Mango's since its opening in December, he said.

According to Laureano's Facebook page he hailed from Puerto Rico and graduated from the territory's Universidad del Sagrado Corazon in 2010. Laureano's pictures show him relaxing in a pool and performing in hip-hop dance attire - including one mid-performance shot taken at Mango's.

Lucas Daniel Acosto D'oleo, who identified himself on Facebook as Laureano's cousin, wrote in Spanish on his Facebook page in the early hours of Monday morning that he had awoken to see the news of his cousin's death on his cellphone.

"What I have is a pain beyond repair,"" he wrote.

- - -

Kimberly Morris

Kimberly Morris, who went by "KJ," was a bouncer at the Pulse nightclub. She was a native of Torrington, Conn., according to NBC Connecticut, and had recently moved from Hawaii to Orlando to help care for her mother and grandmother, said her college classmate, Narvell Benning.

Benning met Morris at Post University in Waterbury, Conn., where both played basketball. He kept in periodic contact with her over social media in the years after he graduated in 1999.

"She was just the sweetest person - I don't think I've ever seen her upset," said Benning, 38. "When we would have a game, either both teams or just the guys, she would always tell me 'good game' and give me a fist bump, win or lose. That was our little connection, our thing."

Benning said Morris was openly gay in college and seemed confident with her sexual identity. He did not know she was working as a bouncer until posts surfaced on Facebook early Sunday inquiring about her whereabouts.

He said he is struggling to reconcile the gruesome details of her death with the joy she always exhibited.

"She always laughed, she always had a smile," he said. "What I would say is that she had a happy soul."

- - -

Edward Sotomayor Jr.

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34, went by Eddie and lived in Sarasota, Fla., was a national brand manager at, a popular gay travel agency. Al Ferguson, owner of the company, posted a video on Facebook of Sotomayor and a friend making silly faces at the Pulse nightclub that they sent to him 23 minutes before the attack.

"I am empty," Ferguson wrote after Sotomayor's death was confirmed.

- - -

Shane Tomlinson

Singer "Image" Shane Tomlinson performed with his band Saturday night and then went out to Pulse to have a good time. His friends had not heard from him since.

John Polk, who performed with Tomlinson in an all-male gospel group at House of Blues in Orlando, said the 33-year-old stood out in the city's music scene, with an "electric" voice that enchanted audiences.

"That dude could light up a stage," said Polk, 39. "That's why everybody's responding. This dude was electric on stage."

He recalled a particular show in which they added the Pharrell Williams song "Happy" to their set. Tomlinson, singing lead, was soon spinning out to the front of the stage, pumping his fist into the air.

"We all shook our heads. That was vintage Shane," Polk said. "He would let you know, 'It's my time now.' "

Tomlinson's best friend, Jai Saint, 34, of Orlando, was at a family reunion in Mississippi when he heard his friend was missing. He drove to Orlando immediately to await news about his friend. The wait itself was agonizing.

"It's sad because we recognize other names on the list - others on the club circuit who go out after work looking for a good time,"" Saint said.


(c) 2016, The Washington Post · No Author · NATIONAL · Jun 13, 2016 - 3:30 PM




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