SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – We are learning more about the first victim identified after the early Sunday morning massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Edward “Eddie” Sotomayor, Jr., 34, of Sarasota, is one of the 50 people who died inside the club.
Sotomayor was well-known in the LGBT community.
Friends and family told News Channel 8 they are grieving and trying to find answers. They said they are devastated.
At the same time, they said, they’re trying to remember the good times.
Many of them hung out with Sotomayor at Liquid nightclub in Tampa’s Yboy City.
His friends woke up to the news, just as many did. “I text messaged all my friends and said, ‘Is this real?’ Is this true?’ And I couldn’t believe it,” longtime fiend Chhoy Sutimek, a former manager and promoter at Liquid, said.
Sutimek and Sotomayor hung out at Gay Days, at Disney, just last weekend.
“When I saw him at the Deep party, we were hugging and catching up,” Sutimek recalled. “I said, ‘Oh, what’s up, pineapple Eddie?’ We started poking fun at each other, and he was having the time of his life, being able to be around his friends and dancing around with all of us.”
With the fun times now over between the two friends, Sutimek said he just can’t understand why.
“It’s hard, you know?” he said, struggling to get out the words. “You can’t believe it’s so close to home. It hits close to home.”
Sotomayor knew the dangers gay travelers could face. He wasn’t afraid, Sutimek said.
Sutimek, on the other hand, was afraid. He said he was afraid that one day a massacre like Sunday’s would happen in Tampa.
“One of my biggest fears taking over the club, running the club, is that a mass shooting was going to occur,” he said. “And now, reality hits home.”
But, he said, it won’t stop Sutimek or other members of the LGBT community from being who they are.
“We will stand strong,” Sutimek exclaimed. “He will not deter us from what we do, which is celebrate our pride, our freedom.”
Sutimek knew three other victims that were killed and a fourth that’s in the hospital.