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Students, faculty members and Richmond residents attend a vigil Sunday night on the Virginia Commonwealth University campus. (Photo by: Mike Bottorff)
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Participants gather for a vigil Sunday at VCU in memory of the Orlando shooting victims (Photo by: Julianne Tripp for VCU's Commonwealth Times)
Twenty-two-year-old Luis S. Vielma; Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34; 18-year-old Akyra Murray — in Richmond and around the country, people are paying tribute to these and other victims killed at an Orlando nightclub — now the worst mass shooting in the United States, after the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech — and calling for an end to such violent acts.
Mike Bottorff, a senior creative advertising student at Virginia Commonwealth University, took one of the above photos at Sunday night's vigil attended by more than 50 students, faculty and RVA residents at the Compass on the VCU campus.
"I stand with my fellow Americans in defiance to radical terrorism," Bottorff says.
The shootings that killed 49 and injured 53 occurred early Sunday during Latin Night at Pulse, a nightclub that for more than a decade "has served as a place of love and acceptance for the LGBTQ community," its co-owner, Barbara Poma, says in a statement posted on its website. She has said the club was named Pulse to keep alive in memory the heartbeat of her brother, John, who died of AIDS. Many of the shooting victims were of Puerto Rican descent, authorities have said.
The 29-year-old suspected shooter, who died at the scene, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State while calling 911, according to news reports.
Other vigils are planned in the Richmond area in the coming days. On Tuesday, Diversity Richmond, 1407 Sherwood Ave., will hold a Vigil for Orlando. "Friends, we want to be together to send our bright light to Orlando. All welcome. Bring candles if you like," reads the event description. Also on Tuesday, River Road United Methodist Church (8800 River Road) has scheduled a prayer service at 7 p.m.
On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Community Church of Richmond, 2501 Park Ave., is planning a prayer vigil from 7 to 9 p.m. The church also has a link on its home page for donations to the Pulse Victims Fund.
"The people of Metropolitan Community Church of Richmond are outraged by the mass shooting that took place on June 12, 2016, in Orlando. As people of God, we condemn any act that seeks to terrorize or lessen the value of another human being," church member Lester Quintana wrote on behalf of the organizers. "MCC Richmond stands with our extended family in Orlando and the LGBTQ community at large ... You do not have to be a member of our church or of any church to join us in grieving and remembering."