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Families, Friends Mourn Orlando Jihad Victims

Ranging in age from 20 to 50 years old, the victims of the Islamist massacre at Orlando’s Pulse LGBT nightclub Saturday night are being remembered by their loved ones as bright, driven, and independent people whose absence has left a profound void in their lives.

Afghani-American Omar Saddiqui Mateen, 29, opened fire inside the Pulse nightclub Saturday night, the club’s “Latin night,” after pledging allegiance to the Islamic State jihadi terror organization in a 911 call. Orlando police have updated the death toll to 49 and have released the names of those killed after alerting families members, one by one. With names released, friends and family members have begun to paint the portraits of those killed, all described as working towards bright futures now denied them due to the act of at least one Islamic radical (police are investigating ties to any known members of terrorist groups).

Below are some of the victims, those of which the most is known at press time.

Kimberly Morris, 37

Morris was employed as a bouncer at Pulse. She is described by friends as a sports fan, particularly of basketball and MMA, with a strong independent streak. “She didn’t live her life according to anyone’s guidelines… She was simply Kimberly. And she expected you to treat her as such,” Jennifer Eastman, a former coworker, told NBC News. Kimberly had recently moved to Orlando to reunite with her family.

 

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34

“Top-Hat Eddie” was an active member of the LGBT community and worked as a travel agent helping LGBT travelers find safe and accepting vacation areas. His most recent venture was to help organize the first openly gay cruise to Cuba, a nation whose government routinely rounded up and executed LGBT civilians, labeled “the scum of society.”

Reports indicate Sotomayor died helping his boyfriend escape the nightclub. He was shot in the head.

Al Ferguson, the head of the travel agency Sotomayor worked for, described him as a fearless advocate for the LGBT community. “What I will say, over and over again, was he was a person who said, ‘We cannot be afraid… I know his friends are going to be the exact same way… we are not going to be afraid,” he told the Orlando Sentinel.

 

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20

At 20 years old, Ocasio-Capo is the youngest known victim of the massacre. He is described as being a lover of dancing who worked as a Starbucks barista and had only recently come out to his family as gay.

“He was just basically blooming, just becoming a man basically,” Leonarda Flores, a cousin, told Fusion. “He did not care [about homophobia], he loved himself and he loved others,” she added. “He was very open, he lived who he was. He knew he was beautiful, he knew it and he flaunted it.”

 

Amanda Alvear, 25

Amanda Alvear’s brother Brian described her as a nursing student at the University of South Florida in an interview with The Ledger. As her family spoke with media only before her death was confirmed, their remarks were short and calm. “I’m not going to freak out until I have all the facts… Luckily, I have a wide media footprint and a lot of friends who are willing to help out,” Brian Alvear told The Ledger, noting that his family had scoured neighboring hospitals and could not find her.

Alvear took the only known footage of the massacre so far – a Snapchat message showing her and her friends enjoying the evening before shots can be heard inside the club.

Luis Vielma, 22

Luis Vielma was an Emergency Medical Services student at Seminole State College and a ride operator at Universal Orlando, working with the Harry Potter attractions. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling issued a statement mourning his loss, saying, “I can’t stop crying.” Bill Davis, president and chief operating officer of Universal Orlando, also issued a statement: “we are deeply saddened over the loss of our Team Member. We are working to support his friends and colleagues here at Universal Orlando. Our thoughts and prayers are with Luis, his family, and all the victims of this tragedy.”

His friends and family describe him as much more than a smiling face at an amusement park. “Luis was first of all a man of God,” friend Raul Aguilera told ABC News. “Always a joyful person and a real blessing to be around. He definitely impacted everyone he knew in a positive manner and his relationships with others speak for themselves as to the beautiful soul we lost and heaven gained.”

“He was always a friend you could call… He was always open and available,” Josh Boesch, a coworker, told the Orlando Sentinel.

“A funny, sweet, nerdy guy without a mean side. He just wanted to make people smile,” Olga Glomba, another coworker, added.

 

Eddie Justice, 30

Justice worked as an accountant and his most vocal advocate in the media so far has been his mother, the last person he is known to have communicated with. “I’m going to die,” Justice texted his mother, Mina, as the shooting occurred, confirming he had been cornered into the women’s bathroom and the space was too narrow for him to believe he had a reasonable chance to survive.

Mina Justice shared her son’s final text messages with ABC News. “In the club they shooting,” he told her. “He’s a terror.”

The city of Orlando will be updating the list of those dead as their next of kin are alerted. Below, the most current list of names available at press time:

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old

Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old

Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old

Kimberly Morris, 37 years old

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old

Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old

Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old

Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old

Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old

Amanda Alvear, 25 years old

Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old

Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old

Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old

Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old

Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old

Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old

Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old

Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old

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