The tragedy of the Orlando, Florida shooting became more palpable when the names of the 49 victims were released. Since Sunday, people have been holding vigils and services all over the world to show their support for the LGBT community and to express their sadness for the young lives lost to a horrific act of violence. So who is Christopher Andrew Leinonen? His friends knew him as Drew, and he was one of the people at Pulse on Saturday night when a gunman walked in and opened fire. He died on Sunday at 32 years old.
Last year, Leinonen met Juan Ramon Guerrero, and they instantly hit it off. They became a couple other people admired for their mutual respect, affection, and humor. One of Leinonen's close friends, Brittany Sted, was interviewed by The New York Times. She told them that Leinonen and Guerrero "were sort of like little Swiss Army knives, always balancing each other out and pulling out whatever they needed." According to Sted, Leinonen and Guerrero were preparing to leave the club and waiting for two friends in the bathroom. Though their two friends were able to escape when they heard shots, Leinonen and Guerrero both died from gunshot wounds.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Leinonen's mother heard about the shooting at Pulse from Facebook. She drove to the nightclub immediately to find her son. She told ABC News that "I called him last night at 6 o'clock. He was at SeaWorld …I left him with, 'I love you Chris.'"
Leinonen's Facebook profile says he was from Detroit, Michigan. He had Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Psychology from the University of Central Florida. He worked as a mental health counselor, and even as a high-schooler, was passionate about LGBT rights and access to support and counseling. His mother shared with ABC News that in high school, he started a gay-straight alliance and won the Anne Frank Humanitarian Award for all he had done for the gay community.
After Leinonen's name was released, messages from friends, family, and admirers filled his Facebook page. Not only did they mention Leinonen's compassion and activism, but they expressed a deep love for Leinonen and Guerrero as a couple. One commenter described them as "so in love." Another said, "Rest in Peace, Drew and Juan. You were both a joy to be around, and seeing the number of lives you have touched in one way or another is simply staggering. I'm glad I got to catch up and hug you one last time after your haircut, Juan. You will both be greatly missed, and you will NEVER be forgotten."
According to an interview their families did with Time, they are planning a joint memorial service for the couple. Guerrero's sister said in that interview that it was almost "comforting" that they died together. She said, "They were honestly so in love. They were soul mates. You can tell by how they looked at each other ... If it’s not a funeral, they were going to have a wedding together." Their families were both very supportive of their relationship and are devastated by this loss.