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Five years later, friends honor Sarasota man killed at Pulse nightclub

Eddie Sotomayor Jr. loved his hometown of Sarasota. He was 34 years old when he was murdered.

SARASOTA, Fla. — Five years have passed since a gunman killed 49 people and wounded 53 more in a mass shooting inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando.

One of the people killed that night was Eddie Sotomayor Jr., a beloved son, brother, and friend.

Robb McGovern, one of Sotomayor's closest friends honors his memory every year on June 12 by hosting a memorial outside Sarasota City Hall.

McGovern was busy Friday organizing pictures, collages, and flowers for Saturday's memorial. 

"Sarasota was his home. He lived here. He loved this town. He loved the people in it," said McGovern, who still struggles with the grief of losing his friend.

Eddie Sotomayor Jr. was known throughout the Sarasota LGBT community for his signature top hat style.

McGovern said he was supposed to go to Pulse the night of the shooting with Sotomayor but backed out at the last minute because of his nephew's birthday party.

McGovern remembers getting phone calls and texts around 2:30 in the morning on June 12, 2016 from people trying to locate Sotomayor, who McGovern said was known for always answering his phone.

"When he wasn’t answering his phone, people started to get worried. And then an hour went by, then an hour-and-a-half, and then we knew from people who ran out of the bar that he was shot and he was still in the bar," said McGovern.

By 11 a.m., McGovern learned his friend was dead. By 1 p.m., Sotomayor's picture was all over the news.

"Honestly there was a part of me that said Eddie would have done anything to save anyone in that bar so I kind of felt you know, I expected the worst because I know the type of person he was," said McGovern.

Sure enough, McGovern and others learned that Sotomayor tried to help others and lost two of his fingers trying to shield a bullet from someone else before he was killed.

This Saturday marks five years since the shooting. For the fourth year in a row, McGovern will host a memorial to honor Sotomayor and the 48 others killed.

"The grief doesn’t fade but the anger and the resentment fades and that way the memories shine through a little bit more," said McGovern.

The memorial starts at 10:30 a.m. Saturday June 12 outside of Sarasota City Hall. Leaders including the mayor and police chief are expected to speak at the event.

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