Students and professionals alike, mostly gay but some straight and many from Puerto Rico, gathered for dancing and laughter at Latin Night at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub.
Here are profiles of some of the 49 people killed in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history:
Martin Benitez Torres, 33, had recently moved to Orlando and was working to become a pharmacy technician.
Benitez was a student at a Tampa campus of the Ana G. Mendez University System, based in Puerto Rico, where he was born. In a university statement, one of his professors called him a “diligent and extremely hardworking student.”
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Benitez was “thankful for the opportunity to advance his career and hopeful to make his dreams a reality,” said Carla Zayas, a Spanish professor.
He posted several photos and videos on his Facebook page in the days before the shooting, including one in the kitchen cooking with family members.
The cover photo on his Facebook profile includes a quote in Spanish: “If God takes away my eyesight, it’s because I’ve been allowed to see everything that’s beautiful in the world.”
Juan Chavez Martinez, 25, was a beloved boss and friend, friends and co-workers told The Orlando Sentinel.
Friends said Martinez came to the U.S. from Huichapan, Mexico, and worked as a housekeeping supervisor for a hospitality service company.
“He was extremely friendly, very dedicated to his family, to his co-workers. It is very difficult. Everybody loved him,” said Alicia Amarro, chief financial officer for the company, APDC Services.
Jose Crisantos used to work with Martinez at Reunion Resorts and also remembered Martinez’s kindness.
“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.”
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31, was quiet but knew how to treat guests at Walt Disney World, where he worked as a seasonal employee, a former co-worker said.
“He was one of the kindest people you could meet,” co-worker Kenneth Berrios told the Sentinel. “We had students from the London program. and Jerry was always willing to give rides to them and show them around town.”
Wright “was a great guy to work with,” former co-worker Scott Dickison said. “He was quiet but really wonderful with all the guests. He always had a smile on his face.”
Dickison said Wright had worked most recently in merchandising on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, but also had worked in Tomorrowland and at Universal Studios in Orlando.
Jason Josaphat, 19, called his mother as a gunman opened fire to ask for help, his aunt and uncle said.
She stayed on the line with him and could hear gunshots in the background, but tried to calm him down as he hid in the bathroom, Jimmy and Myrleine Inelus told KPNX-TV in Arizona, where Josaphat went to high school.
His mother then didn’t hear anything for as many as 20 seconds.
“It was dead silence on the phone … I think that’s when the gunman finally made his way into the bathroom,” Jimmy Inelus said.
Josaphat moved to Orlando after graduating from high school in 2014. A childhood friend, Messiah McMillian, told KNXV-TV in Phoenix that he was one of the first people whom Josaphat told he was gay.
“When I found out, I never judged him,” McMillian said. “I never looked at him any differently. He was always my friend.”
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40, was known as “Javi” by his friends and as “Harvey George-Kings” on Facebook — a literal English translation of his name.
But his Facebook profile name belied a deep pride in his Latino heritage, friends told The Orlando Sentinel.
“He was proud to be Latino, super proud,” friend Jose Diaz told the newspaper, adding: “He was always positive. He was very humble. He was a lovely friend.”
Diaz recalled being sold a wallet by Jorge-Reyes, who worked at a Gucci store at an Orlando mall.
Another friend, Edith Colon of Miami, said Jorge-Reyes was a top salesman and makeup artist.
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24, was always friendly and outgoing, “the most positive guy I’ve ever known,” friend Josh Palange said.
They became friends during middle school, and in high school, took honors classes and band together — Sanfeliz on trumpet. Though they didn’t see each other much after graduating in 2010, “we stayed friends on Facebook,” Palange told the Tampa Bay Times.
Sanfeliz’s family moved there from Cuba in the 1960s, family friend Mike Wallace said. Sanfeliz took business classes at a community college and was hired as a bank teller and worked his way up to become a personal banker, Wallace said.
“He (was) a wonderful person and this is such a tragedy,” said Wallace. “He was cut down in his prime.”
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36, followed the crowd from a housewarming party to Pulse, according to former roommate Abismael Colon Gomez.
“I am really in shock that he was in the club, because he was not usually a club-scene person,” Colon Gomez told The Orlando Sentinel.
Ortiz-Rivera worked in merchandise management and had earned a degree in communications from a university in Puerto Rico.
He leaves behind his husband of a year, Ivan Dominguez; they were married June 26, the day the U.S. Supreme Court gave same-sex couples the right to marry in all 50 states.
“It was a big and happy coincidence,” Dominguez, 30, told The Associated Press. Dominguez is grieving, but said he still feels connected to his husband. He was not at the nightclub because he was supposed to work the next day.
Another friend posted on Ortiz-Rivera’s Facebook page after learning of his death: “God just gained one funny and caring angel today.”
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49, loved to dance, so much so that she’d go to nightclubs with her 21-year-old son. They were both at Pulse. She was killed, son Isaiah Henderson survived, her oldest daughter, Khalisha Pressley, told NBC News.
“She was always really cool, but really a mom at the end of the day … the sweetest lovingest person in the world,” Pressley said of her mother, a two-time cancer survivor who had 11 children.
“She was a fighter,” lifelong friend Noreen Vaquer told The Orlando Sentinel. “She doesn’t take nothing from nobody.”
Vaquer, who met McCool when they were kindergartners in Brooklyn, New York, said her friend gave good advice, backed up by life experience.
“She’s smart,” Vaquer said. “She’ll put you right.”
Frank Hernandez, 27, loved fashion and lived to purchase the finest pieces of clothing at Calvin Klein or Armani.
“He had the best of everything, the most expensive,” said Jessica Leal, 19, one of his five siblings. “He liked the good stuff. And he worked hard for it.”
A manager at a Calvin Klein store in Orlando, Hernandez grew up in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, near the U.S.-Mexico border, and had lived in Central Florida for three years.
Hernandez also loved Beyoncé and going out to dance, and he frequented Pulse, Leal said. According to media reports, Hernandez’s boyfriend was able to escape, but lost track of Hernandez in the chaos.
His sister has planned a fitting tribute: She’ll wear Calvin Klein at his funeral.
“I’m pretty sure he’d love it if he saw it,” she said.
Franky Jimmy De Jesus Velazquez, 50, worked as a visual merchandiser, designing displays for an Orlando clothing store, according to his Facebook page. He posted inspirational and funny messages on his page, including a T-shirt that read: “Never underestimate an old man who is also a visual merchandiser.”
On a list of victims with an average age of 29 years old, Velazquez was the oldest. But age never became a barrier for Velazquez, former co-worker Bret Werner said.
“He was a very outgoing, friendly person,” said Werner, who worked with him at a clothing store in Miami. “Everyone wanted to be around him.”
Among family and friends in his native Puerto Rico, Velazquez was known for Jibaro folk dancing, said his sister, Shiela De Jesus. “He was a very loved person.”
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37, barely spoke English when he moved from Puerto Rico to Florida in 2004, but he wasn’t deterred by the language barrier.
He quickly learned English, got a job and eventually met his partner, Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35, who also died.
“(Wilson-Leon) walked into the room and all eyes were on him because of his positive energy, just what he radiated … I’m heartbroken,” said his cousin, Laly Santiago-Leon, adding that the couple frequented Pulse and loved Latin Night.
Longtime friend Daniel Gmys-Casiano described Wilson-Leon as a protector and confidante. The two grew up in the same small town, and when Gmys-Casiano moved to the U.S., Wilson-Leon gave him a job in a shoe store.
“He was my hero,” Gmys-Casiano told The Orlando Sentinel.
Even though Wilson-Leon had been bullied for his sexuality, Gmys-Casiano said, “he never retaliated with hate. … He would stand to protect his friends.”
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35, had a humor and warmth that made him a great salesman — and helped him find love, a co-worker said.
“He laughed with the people and would make jokes,” said Claudia Agudelo, who worked with Perez at a perfume store. “He was always happy.”
Mendez Perez met his longtime partner, Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, about a decade ago when he sold him the fragrance Declaration by Cartier, Agudelo told The Orlando Sentinel. Wilson-Leon also died in the nightclub shooting.
Mendez Perez moved to the U.S. from Puerto Rico when he was a teenager, and made friends quickly, father Angel Mendez said.
“He was a real dynamic kid,” he said.
Sister-in-law Katia Mendez said Mendez Perez also was a fun-loving and doting uncle who would buy her three children candy and ice cream.
“He was like a little kid when he was with them,” she said.
Capt. Antonio Davon Brown, 29, served in the Army Reserve and deployed to Kuwait for nearly a year.
Brown graduated in 2008 from Florida A&M, where he majored in criminal justice and participated in the ROTC program.
Lt. Col. Kelvin Scott, a ROTC instructor, remembered Brown’s positive attitude and sense of humor.
“He kept a smile on his face,” Scott told the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper. “He was willing to work very hard to earn his commission.”
Devonta White, a friend of Brown’s, said Brown was known in their dorm for waking up early for drills and becoming close friends with his fellow trainees, but also making friends outside of ROTC.
“He had a car so when he went to Wal-Mart, I would ride with him,” White said. “We just became good friends over time. He helped me more than he knows.”
An Army service record shows Brown deployed to Kuwait from April 2010 to March 2011.
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29, worked as a financial-aid officer for Keiser University’s Jacksonville, Fla., campus.
As a volunteer, he co-chaired a clothing drive for the homeless for the Jacksonville Jaycees, a nonprofit organization.
“Darryl was very passionate about working in the community and wasn’t afraid to take the lead,” Jacksonville Jaycees President Shawn DeVries told The Indianapolis Star. “If someone needed anything, he’d usually just ask for the details: where, when and what are the deadlines.”
Burt left behind family in central Indiana, and recently earned a degree in human resources management.
Keiser University’s chancellor, Arthur Keiser, called Burt “a highly respected member of the KU team” on the school’s website, and the school was providing grief counselors to help Burt’s colleagues.
Simon Adrian Carrillo-Fernandez, 31, loved to travel and “worked to be able to enjoy his life,” co-worker Ivonne Irizarry said.
A manager at McDonald’s, Carillo-Fernandez had traveled to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Mexico and went on cruises, Irizarry said.
He and his partner, Oscar Aracena-Montero, who also was killed at the nightclub, had just returned from Niagara Falls, Irizarry told The Orlando Sentinel.
Carillo-Fernandez never forgot a birthday, she said, and would bring in cakes for his McDonald’s co-workers.
Colleagues said Carrillo-Fernandez’s attention to detail was a trademark of his leadership style.
“He had to be the best, that was his thing. I cook the best, I clean the best, I work the best,” she said of him.
Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26, lived with his partner, Simon Adrian Carillo-Fernandez, and three Chihuahuas in a home they bought last year, a friend, Andrea Herrera, told The Orlando Sentinel.
Yamilka Pimentel, a cousin, said Araceno-Montero moved with his father from the Dominican Republic to Central Florida as a child.
“Oscar was a very sweet guy. Very sweet to everybody,” Pimentel told the newspaper. “Every time he met somebody they would like him a lot. He was the type of guy who goes along with anybody.”
Miguel Honorato, 30, was a father of three who managed four restaurants in Central Florida along with a side catering business. He was always the one to drop everything to help out his family, which included seven siblings.
His brother, Jose Honorato, wrote a simple, heartfelt message on his brother’s Facebook page: “Come home bro, I’m waiting for you.”
“He was my mentor and my supporter. He helped very much in my parents’ house and work,” Honorato said. Even though Miguel was younger, he gave sage advice about the family business, his brother said.
Jose Honorato changed his Facebook photo Monday to one of the two brothers smiling over a charcoal grill, one of many happy memories cooking together.
Shane Tomlinson, 33, had a passion for singing, and had been the lead vocalist with “The Frequency Band” at a nightclub before going to Pulse, according to The Orlando Sentinel.
“He was destined for a grand stage and he was doing exactly what he wanted to do,” said Dr. Lathan Turner, associate director of student transitions at East Carolina University, where Tomlinson graduated in 2003 with a degree in communication.
Tomlinson was a vibrant and charismatic lead vocalist, friends said.
“I’ve never met anyone like him,” said Carey Sobel, an Orlando resident who hired Tomlinson’s band to play for his upcoming wedding. “He was really special.”
Tarrick Cox, an adviser for East Carolina’s gospel choir who worked with Tomlinson, remembers his contagious personality and the laughter that surrounded him.
“He was gifted and creative. He was a go-getter,” Cox said in a statement from the university.
Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25, started dancing at the age of 10 and was comfortable with any number of styles, from salsa to ballroom, his cousin Ana Figueroa said.
Figueroa told The Orlando Sentinel that Laureano Disla invited her out for a night of dancing at Pulse nightclub, but she told him she was too tired.
He was out with two roommates, both of whom were injured in the shooting, she said. The newspaper did not identify the roommates.
Born in Puerto Rico, Laureano Disla moved to Orlando about three years ago to become a dancer and choreographer, Figueroa said.
“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.”
Angel Candelario-Padro, 28, moved to Orlando from Chicago in January to be closer to family. The nurse and National Guard member soon found a new job and a new love.
“He was a humble boy, a good student. He liked to work and wasn’t too much into partying,” his aunt Leticia Padro told Univision.
Candelario-Padro’s boyfriend, who was shot several times, told her that after hearing several shots he turned to Candelario-Padro and asked if he was OK.
“He told him he was OK, but in that instant he fell to the floor,” Padro said.
Candelario-Padro loved music and had played the clarinet in a band in his hometown of Guanica, Puerto Rico, according to uncle Efrain Padro.
“We’re waiting for his body to be brought home,” he said, “We will welcome him with music.”
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32, moved to Florida from Mexico in the early 2000s in search of a better life.
He went back to his home state of Veracruz for several years but returned to Tampa less than a year ago, relatives and friends said.
“We came because here in the United States there are many opportunities here and because we were fleeing because in our country there was a lot of crime, violence and death … and we expect it should be more peaceful here,” his cousin Jose Paniagua told Newsday.
The construction worker was looking forward to meeting friends at Pulse for another night of dancing — something he loved to do, friend Lorena Barragan told The Orlando Sentinel.
“He was the best,” said Barragan, who met Rayon Paniagua at church. “He was loyal. He was always trying to do stuff to make you feel better.”