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Orlando victims’ families wait as the dead are named

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, Juan Ramon Guerrero, and Edward

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, Juan Ramon Guerrero, and Edward Sotomayor Jr. were identified as some of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday, June 12, 2016. Photo Credit: Facebook

They came to dance — men and women mostly in their 20s and 30s — at Pulse, a club considered something of a haven for gays and lesbians in central Florida.

By late Sunday, friends and relatives of those still missing waited anxiously at a hotel for updates after Orlando city officials had released the names of just eight of the 50 clubgoers shot to death.

By Monday morning, 28 more victims had been identified, according to the city of Orlando.

They are Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30; Darryl Roman Burt II, 29; Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32; Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21; Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25; Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35; Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50; Amanda Alvear, 25; Martin Benitez Torres, 33; Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37; Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26; Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35; Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25; Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31; Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26; and Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25; Miguel Angel Honorato, 30; Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40; Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32; Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19; Cory James Connell, 21; Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37; Luis Daniel Conde, 39; Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33; Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25; Jerald Arthur Wright, 31, Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25; Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25.

Earlier, the first eight victims were identified as Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34; Stanley Almodovar III, 23; Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20; Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22; Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36; Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22; Luis S. Vielma, 22, and Kimberly Morris, 37.

Almodovar III, of Clermont, Florida, loved Pulse, said his sister, Jessica Almodovar, 23, of Gray, Tennessee.

“He loves dancing and music,” she said. “He did go there a lot. When I would go down there, he’d be like, ‘Let’s go to Pulse, I love that place, the music is awesome. The people are awesome.’”

The brother and sister, both born in Springfield, Massachusetts, but raised by their moms in different states, communicated last earlier this month on Facebook: They were planning a cruise, with the idea of “kind of having a sibling reunion.”

Stanley Almodovar III and Jessica Almodovar, with the same father, were born just a few months apart, she said. They were the closest siblings among their family’s large clan, Jessica Almodovar said, and she visited him in Florida often.

“I got a phone call this morning saying there was a shooting, and something had happened to him,” she said. “He was shot three times and that was the first I heard. And I found out he passed a couple of hours later.”

Losing her brother, who worked as a pharmacy technician, is “hard to handle,” she said. But the apparent motive — terrorism and a bias against gays — deepens the hurt.

“It angers me deeply,” Jessica Almodovar said. “I’m not one to judge someone for their sexual orientation, for their race or religion or anything like that. I’m Christian, and we’re not supposed to judge. He was my closest brother and I loved him no matter what he did.”

Nestor Ortiz got the bad news everyone was hoping not to hear: His brother, Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera of Orlando, died in the attack, authorities confirmed Sunday.

Ortiz-Rivera, who had moved to Orlando from Puerto Rico about nine years ago, worked as a server, his brother said.

“He was a great person,” Nestor Ortiz said. “He had a beautiful personality.”

In Orlando on Sunday afternoon, some relatives and friends of presumed shooting victims came out of the Hampton Inn & Suites, where they had desperately sought details.

Ramiro Cervantes Onorato, could barely get out any words after his nephew, Miguel Onorato, 30, was not found on the list of those being treated at area hospitals.

“We just want to find him,” Cervantes Onorato, 50, of Eustis, Florida, said in Spanish. “We don’t want him to be one of the bodies. . . . I don’t know how there could be such evil people, who can take so many lives.”

Marisol Cervantes, Ramiro Cervantes Onorato’s daughter, said they were told that “everybody that’s not identified” could be in the list of fatal victims.

“He was there” at the club, she said sobbing. “He went with two people. . . . We can’t find him. We can’t find him.”

Sara Lopez was heartbroken and outraged at the same time, after finding out her longtime friend, Jimmy de Jesús Velázquez, had been shot at the club.

She said two of his friends were with him listening to music inside the club when they heard the shots and dropped to the floor and played dead. But Velázquez was among a group of people who were lined up by the wall next to the bathroom, they told her.

“They saw when he started shooting at all the ones lined up on the wall,” Lopez said.

The two friends ran, she said, but Velázquez, 51, hasn’t been heard from again. She described him as the life of the party and a professional salsa dancer who had represented Puerto Rico in international contests.

“I feel like my arms have been ripped off,” Lopez, 49, a Casselberry, Florida resident, said in Spanish. “I am floating and don’t feel like I can walk or breathe” because of the shock.

Lopez and her friend, María Hernández Rodríguez, said life wouldn’t be the same for them without Velázquez’ boisterous, confident and sometimes stubborn personality.

Velázquez, a sales representative in Orlando for a cosmetics company “was very comfortable with who he was” as a gay man, said Hernández, 50, an Orlando-area resident. “It’s so sad for there to be so much homophobia and that some people can’t accept others as they are.”

Here’s a look at some of the nation’s deadliest rampages since 2012:

- Feb. 25, 2016: Cedric Ford, 38, killed three people and wounded 14 others lawnmower factory where he worked in the central Kansas community of Hesston. The local police chief killed him during a shootout with 200 to 300 workers still in the building, authorities said.

- Feb. 20, 2016: Jason Dalton, 45, is accused of randomly shooting and killing six people and severely wounding two others during a series of attacks over several hours in the Kalamazoo, Michigan, area. Authorities say he paused between shootings to make money as an Uber driver. He faces murder and attempted murder charges.

- Dec. 2, 2015: Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, opened fire at a social services center in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 people and wounding more than 20. They fled the scene but died hours later in a shootout with police.

- Oct. 1, 2015: A shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, left 10 people dead and seven wounded. Shooter Christopher Harper-Mercer, 26, exchanged gunfire with police, then killed himself.

- June 17, 2015: Dylann Roof, 21, shot and killed nine African-American church members during a Bible study group inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Police contend the attack was racially motivated. Roof faces nine counts of murder in state court and dozens of federal charges, including hate crimes.

- May 23, 2014: A community college student, Elliot Rodger, 22, killed six people and wounded 13 in shooting and stabbing attacks in the area near the University of California, Santa Barbara, campus. Authorities said he apparently shot himself to death after a gunbattle with deputies.

- Sept. 16, 2013: Aaron Alexis, a mentally disturbed civilian contractor, shot 12 people to death at the Washington Navy Yard before he was killed in a police shootout.

- July 26, 2013: Pedro Vargas, 42, went on a shooting rampage at his Hialeah, Florida, apartment building, gunning down six people before officers fatally shot him.

- Dec. 14, 2012: In Newtown, Connecticut, an armed 20-year-old man entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and used a semi-automatic rifle to kill 26 people, including 20 first graders and six adult school staff members. He then killed himself.

- Sept. 27, 2012: In Minnesota’s deadliest workplace rampage, Andrew Engeldinger, who had just been fired, pulled a gun and fatally shot six people, including the company’s founder. He also wounded two others at Accent Signage Systems in Minneapolis before taking his own life.

- Aug. 5, 2012: In Oak Creek, Wisconsin, 40-year-old gunman Wade Michael Page killed six worshippers at a Sikh Temple before killing himself.

- July 20, 2012: James Holmes, 27, fatally shot 12 people and injured 70 in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

- April 2, 2012: Seven people were killed and three were wounded when a 43-year-old former student opened fire at Oikos University in Oakland, California. One Goh was charged with seven counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder, but psychiatric evaluations concluded he suffered from long-term paranoid schizophrenia and was unfit to stand trial.

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