‘Mommy, I love you’: Eddie texts his mother from inside Florida nightclub

Published June 13, 2016
Savannah is embraced by her friend Ricky during a vigil to commemorate victims of a mass shooting at the Pulse gay night club. Savannah said she lost a friend in the shooting.  ─ Reuters
Savannah is embraced by her friend Ricky during a vigil to commemorate victims of a mass shooting at the Pulse gay night club. Savannah said she lost a friend in the shooting. ─ Reuters

ORLANDO: Mina Justice was sound asleep when she received the first text from her son, Eddie Justice, who was in the gay nightclub when a gunman opened fire, leaving 50 dead and more than 50 wounded.

This is the conversation she had over text message with her 30-year-old son: “Mommy I love you,” the first message said. It was 2:06am. “In club they shooting.”

Mina Justice tried calling her 30-year-old son. No answer. Alarmed and half awake, she tapped out a response. “U ok”.

At 2:07am, he wrote: “Trapp in bathroom.” Justice asked what club, and he responded: “Pulse. Downtown. Call police.”

Then at 2:08am: “I’m gonna die.”

Now wide awake, Justice dialed 911. She sent a flurry of texts over the next several minutes. “I’m calling them now. U still in there. Answer our damn phone. Call them. Call me.”

The 911 dispatcher wanted her to stay on the line. She wondered what kind of danger her son was in.

Eddie was normally a homebody who liked to eat and work out. He liked to make everyone laugh.

He worked as an accountant and lived in a condo in downtown Orlando. “Lives in a sky house, like the Jeffersons,” she would say. “He lives rich.”

She knew he was gay and at a club and all the complications that might entail. Fear surged through her as she waited for his next message.

At 2:39am, he responded: “Call them mommy Now.” He wrote that he was in the bathroom. “He's coming I’m gonna die.”

Justice asked her son if anyone was hurt and which bathroom he was in. “Lots. Yes,” he responded at 2:42am.

When he didn’t text back, she sent several more messages. Was he with police? “Text me please,” she wrote. “No,” he wrote four minutes later. “Still here in bathroom. He has us. They need to come get us.”

At 2:49am, she told him the police were there and to let her know when he saw them. “Hurry,” he wrote. “He's in the bathroom with us.”

She asked, “Is the man in the bathroom wit u?” At 2:50am: “He’s a terror.”

Then, a final text from her son a minute later: “Yes.”

More than 15 hours after that text, Justice still hasn’t heard from her son. She and a dozen family and friends are at a hotel that has become a staging area for relatives awaiting news. Any news.

“His name has not come up yet and that’s scary. It’s just ...” she paused and patted her heart. “It's just, I got this feeling. I got a bad feeling.”

Authorities confirmed that her son had died in the early hours of Monday morning.


A day before the nightclub massacre, Luis Vielma, 22, updated his Facebook profile with a picture of himself standing with young people in front of a Disney castle and a caption that read: "True friends who become family."

By Sunday night, his profile was altered to "Remember Luis Vielma” after police confirmed he was among 50 people killed in the deadliest mass shooting in US history.

An undated photo from the Facebook account of Luis Vielma, who police identified as one of the victims of the shooting massacre. —Reuters
An undated photo from the Facebook account of Luis Vielma, who police identified as one of the victims of the shooting massacre. —Reuters

As authorities frantically tried to notify all the relatives, the Orlando Police Department began publishing the names of victims on a city website on Sunday afternoon.

Among them was Vielma, who worked part-time as a rides attendant at the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey theme park ride, while studying physical therapy at Seminole State College, according to his Facebook profile.

Others included Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34, Stanley Almodovar III, 23, Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20, Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22, Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36, and Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22.

An undated photo from the Instagram account of Juan Ramon Guerrero, identified as one of the victims of the shooting. ─ Reuters
An undated photo from the Instagram account of Juan Ramon Guerrero, identified as one of the victims of the shooting. ─ Reuters

Police killed the gunman, who was identified as Omar Mateen, 29, a New York-born Florida resident and US citizen who was the son of immigrants from Afghanistan, and officials were probing evidence suggesting the attack may have been inspired by Islamic State militants.

The sheer number of deaths appeared to overwhelm officials in Orlando, a city of 270,000 people. Orlando Police asked mourners to hold off on vigils as they were understaffed to police them.

"We understand our community is grieving and that vigils are being planned but PLEASE hold off on vigils ─ they represent a serious strain on our limited resources, which we need to dedicate to law enforcement and victims," the city posted on its official Twitter handle.

An undated photo from the Facebook account of Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, who police identified as one of the victims.-Reuters
An undated photo from the Facebook account of Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, who police identified as one of the victims.-Reuters

Neighbors of Stanley Almodovar III, a 23-year-old pharmacy technician, said his parents had recently moved back to Puerto Rico after his mother became ill with cancer. He was the youngest in the family.

The Facebook page for Almodovar III, of Clermont, Florida, was flooded with shocked tributes. "We'll miss you Stanley. You made an impact on everyone that you came around. A good person and friend," wrote Mark Nielsen of Deltona, Florida.

Images posted to Stanley's wall over the years showed him socializing with dozens of friends.

"I will always remember you," Jeannette Molina wrote. "Your beautiful personality and spirit."

An undated photo from the Facebook account of Edward Sotomayor Jr., identified by police as one of the victims of the shooting. ─ Reuters
An undated photo from the Facebook account of Edward Sotomayor Jr., identified by police as one of the victims of the shooting. ─ Reuters

Sotomayor Jr., a 34-year-old marketing manager at a Sarasota-based gay travel company, previously posted a photo of himself and former Florida Governor Charlie Christ on his Facebook page.

In an Instagram post published Sunday, RuPaul's Drag Race judge Michelle Visage called Sotomayor "a joy."

"I loved you on so many levels. You were SO SO special and will never be forgotten," she wrote. "I promise you that."

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