SAN JUAN – Nearly half of the 49 people killed in last weekend’s mass shooting at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida, were from Puerto Rico, where a state of mourning has been extended until Friday.
“This regrettable occurrence has deeply affected the Puerto Rican community,” the U.S. commonwealth’s governor, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, said Tuesday as the identities of those killed early Sunday by American-born lone gunman Omar Mateen at the Pulse nightclub were gradually being confirmed.
The 29-year-old Mateen, who had declared his allegiance to the Islamic State prior to the massacre, in which 53 others were wounded, was killed in a shootout with police inside the club.
Garcia Padilla decided on Tuesday to extend the mourning period until Friday, meaning that “official flags will remain at half-mast out of respect and solidarity.”
Orlando is one the most popular destinations for Puerto Ricans who leave the island in search of better job projects and security in the U.S. mainland, especially young people like those killed on Sunday.
It is estimated that more than 25 percent of the inhabitants of Orlando and its surrounding area are Puerto Rican.
Although official figures are not yet available, the deputy secretary of state for the Puerto Rican government, Rolando Padua, said “half or slightly more than half” of the victims at the club, which was hosting Latin Night at the time of the shooting, were likely Puerto Rican.
“They’re telling us that 90 percent are Latinos and more than half of them are Puerto Rican,” Padua said.
The fatal victims identified thus far include Puerto Ricans Luis Omar Ocasio Capo, 20; Peter O. Gonzalez Cruz, 22: Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24; Yilmary Rodriguez Sulivan, 24; Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25; and Amanda Alvear, 25.
Other Puerto Ricans who died in the mass shooting were Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25; Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25; Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26; Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27; Angel L. Candelario Padro, 28; Martin Benitez Torres, 33; Rodolfo Ayala Ayala, 33; Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34; Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35; Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35; Eric Ivan Ortiz Rivera, 36; Luis Daniel Wilson Leon, 37; and Juan Pablo Rivera Velazquez, 37.