Son of Mom Who Tearfully Pleaded For Information Is Among the Dead in Orlando Massacre
The son of a woman seen breaking down during an interview while seeking answers about the man following the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, has been confirmed dead, officials said.
Christopher Leinonen, 32, was among the 49 shot dead after gunman Omar Mateen sprayed the club with bullets just after 2 a.m. Sunday.
Knowing he was at Pulse, Leinonen’s mother, Christine Leinonen, said she rushed to Orlando when she learned there had been a shooting at the club at 3 a.m.
“I’ve been waiting by the emergency room waiting, seeing if anyone gets called in,” she told ABC News through tears on Sunday. She last spoken to her son at 6 p.m. the night before.
“He was at Sea World and I was just giving him some information that he was going to need to know for my upcoming surgery," she said. "And I left him with, 'I love you Chris,' and then I just happened to wake up at [3 a.m.] and I was checking my Facebook and I saw that one of his friends... had posted that there was a shooting at the Pulse."
When her son didn’t answer her calls or texts, she immediately drove to the hospital to find answers.
After learning of her son’s death, Christine Leinonen took to social media to express her grief.
“I received a call that no mother should never receive, EVER!” she wrote in a Facebook post reported by the New York Daily News. “I am at a complete loss. they have positively identified my son, Christopher. As one of the victims who have lost their lives! The death toll is expected to rise as they continue to identify victims & notify families.
“My heart is extremely heavy & I ask that you all continue to pray for me as well as other family members who have lost loved ones due to this senseless hate crime! I will never understand why or how this happened but i’m trusting God to see us through.”
Leinonen had been active in the gay community since he was in high school, where he established a Gay Straight Alliance that earned him a humanitarian award, his mother told ABC News.
“I love you Christopher so much,” she wrote on Facebook.
Leinonen’s boyfriend, 22-year-old Juan Ramon Guerrero, was also fatally shot in the massacre, officials said.
“He was so much love and light,” Guerrero’s 24-year-old sister, Aryam Guerrero, told TIME.
The Guerrero family rushed to the hospital where victims were brought in search of answers and were told that their son was among those killed.
“The moment I heard my mom yell out, we all knew,” Aryam Guerrero said. “I just kept saying, ‘This isn’t real.’ I just didn’t want it to be real.”
The couple lived together and had been together for nearly two years, relatives told Time magazine.
“They were honestly so in love. They were soul mates. You can tell by how they looked at each other,” Aryam Guerrero, said. “If it’s not a funeral, they were going to have a wedding together.”
The couple will be remembered at a joint funeral, their families said Monday.
“I think my son wanted to do that. That’s why. I don’t care what people think. I don’t care,” Guerrero’s father, the elder Juan Ramon Guerrero, 61, told the magazine, calling his son a “beautiful kid, a hard worker, friendly, sweet person.”
A GoFundMe page apparently created to offset funeral costs for the couple had raised about $6,000 as of Monday evening.
"Together forever," the page noted.
The Guerrero family said that it was Christine Leinonen’s idea to say goodbye to the pair together.
The grieving mother called for an end to cycle of violence, telling Inside Edition after her son’s death: “I know there's more love in this world. I know there's more love than there is hate. I think love is going to win eventually!”