UCF is mourning the loss of a student and an alumnus.
Student Juan Ramon Guerrero and alumnus Christopher Andrew Leinonen lost their lives in the deadly massacre that was the Pulse nightclub shooting. They were among the 49 civilians killed early Sunday.
Guerrero, 22, was a pre-finance major, and his boyfriend Leinonen, 32, received his bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2007 and master's in 2009.
Christine Leinonen drove to Orlando at 4 a.m. Sunday from Polk County, southwest of the city, after learning of the shooting from a friend of her 32-year-old son, Christopher Leinonen.
Her son had gone to the club with his friend Brandon Wolf when the shooting started, she said. Wolf texted that a shooting occurred and that her son was missing.
She arrived in Orlando and began checking emergency rooms to find her son. She never did, and his death was confirmed on Monday.
“These are nonsensical killings of our children,” she said, sobbing. “They’re killing our babies!”
She said Wolf survived by hiding in a bathroom and running out as the bullets flew.
Guerrero told his cousin Robert Guerrero he was gay about two years ago, but he was worried about how the rest of his family would react.
“They were very accepting,” said Robert Guerrero, 19. “As long as he was happy, they were OK with it.”
On Sunday morning, after learning that so many people had died at a gay nightclub, Pulse, that his cousin had gone to once in a while, Robert Guerrero started to become concerned. Later in the day, his fears were realized when the family learned that Juan Guerrero was identified as one of the victims.
Robert Guerrero said his cousin worked as a telemarketer and in recent months he started attending college at UCF. Robert Guerrero said his cousin didn’t quite know what he wanted to study, but he was happy to be in school. And he was happy in a relationship with a person his relatives came to regard as a member of the family, Robert Guerrero said.
“He was always this amazing person (and) he was like a big brother to me,” he said of his cousin. “He was never the type to go out to parties, would rather stay home and care for his niece and nephew.”
UCF honored the two victims on its site and all those affected by placing candles and flowers on the pegasus seal in its Student Union.
“In time, I expect we all will know someone affected,” UCF President John C. Hitt in a press release. “A friend. A sister. A partner. A co-worker. To the victims of this attack — and their loved ones and friends — I offer the sincere prayers and hopes of the entire UCF family.”
Jean Racine is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @jeangracine or email him at JeanR@CentralFloridaFuture.com. The USA Today Network and Associated Press contributed to this report.