DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

In March, survivors of the mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub and the estates of seven victims sued both the wife and former employer of the gunman who killed 49 people and injured another 68 at the LGBT nightclub early on the morning of June 12, 2016.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim the massacre could have been prevented had Omar Mateen’s wife or employer acted on what they knew before the shooting. Mateen had a history of making violent threats and comments about terrorism.
Plaintiffs say the security company where Mateen worked was negligent and that his wife assisted her husband in his murderous rampage.

Mateen’s wife, Noor Salman, was arrested in January and is awaiting criminal charges on aiding and abetting terrorism. She was arrested in California, where she had moved to live with her mother and was granted bail by an Oakland judge. But bail was revoked later that same week by a federal judge in Orlando, who ruled she must remain in custody.
Of the more than 60 people who survived the shooting that night, two have since died.

Jahqui Sevilla, 20, who played on the Orlando Anarchy women’s football team, was killed in a car crash on May 29. On the night of the Pulse massacre, Sevilla was at the club with her teammates. Most of the team escaped, when the shooting first started. But Sevilla, her teammate Paula Blanco and Blanco’s boyfriend Cory Connell were trapped inside.

Sevilla was hailed as a hero because, when Blanco was hit in the arm by a bullet, Sevilla wrapped her legs around Blanco’s arm to stop the bleeding as they hid behind a sofa. When they got the chance, Sevilla helped Blanco get out of the bar and got her to the hospital.

Blanco survived, but Connell was among the 49 murdered that night.

Last September, survivor Chris Brodman, 34, died of a rare medical condition while at a party in Tampa. According to the Orlando Sentinel, a malformation of blood vessels in his brain caused a hemorrhage that ruptured. In addition, he had liver problems, had his gallbladder removed and, the autopsy revealed, he had heart disease.


Survivors’ stories come from reporting by the Orlando Sentinel, the Tampa Bay Times, WTLV-TV and Watermark, Orlando’s LGBT newspaper:

Javier Nava, 33, has a bullet that remains lodged in his abdomen and now manages a restaurant just a quarter-mile from Pulse. His husband, Adrian Lopez, took time off from work to care for Nava. Four of their friends were killed in the massacre.

Angel Santiago huddled in a handicapped stall in the men’s room with 15 to 20 people during the attack. Mateen shot through the partition, injuring Santiago and killing others. After months of rehabilitation, he began Valencia College’s nursing program in January with help from the OneOrlando Fund set up to help survivors.

Tony Marrero, 30, and Luis Vielma worked together at Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter and went to Pulse together the night of the massacre. Vielma was one of the 49 victims. Marrero was shot four times in the back and once in the arm, but the bullets missed all vital organs.

He said Katie Perry’s song “Rise” helped him get through his hospital stay. Ellen Degeneres had Marrero on her Sept. 8 show and surprised him by bringing Perry out to meet him. Marrero’s dream was to go to film school. Perry said she wanted to pay for his first year of school. He appeared again in February to report he’s making great progress in his recovery from the shooting.

Rodney Sumter was a bartender at Pulse who was shot but survived. The week after the shootings, he made the news when his high school football teammate, Tim Tebow, cut short a vacation in the Bahamas to visit him in the hospital. Sumter said he is still hurting and is mourning the loss of Sevilla, who was a friend of his. On his Facebook page, he asked media not to contact him for one-year interviews.

Patience Carter, 20,  of Philidelphia, was on vacation with two friends and were at Pulse when the shooting started. She ran out of the club with her friend, Akyra Murray but went back to find Tiara Parker. Carter hid in the bathroom and a stranger named Jason Josaphat shielded her from the gunfire. Carter survived. Josaphat was killed, as was Murray. Parker was injured. “Each day is a struggle,” Carter told NBC.
OneOrlando Fund

After the Pulse massacre, the OneOrlando Fund began accepting donations to assist the victims’ families and survivors. A total of $29.5 million was donated, and distribution began in September. The fund’s board approved 299 claimants in four categories — deceased, injured with hospitalization, injured with outpatient treatment and present inside Pulse.

In April, before dissolving, the OneOrlando Fund made a second and final distribution from an additional $2,080,931.82 in donations that had been received after the first distribution. The fund paid a total of $31,665,931.82 on 308 claims.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 9, 2017.