A Brooklyn social worker was among those gunned down in a Florida nightclub Sunday night in the most deadly mass shooting in U.S. history, neighbors and relatives said.
Enrique Rios, 25, grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant's Marcy Houses projects, and was more recently living with his grandmother and cousins in Bushwick. He was in Florida on vacation when he was fatally shot by gunman Omar Mateen in Orlando's Pulse nightclub.
Rios was among several people with tri-state ties injured or killed in the shootings. A Florida woman who was born in Queens from Queens and another woman who once lived in New York were both killed in the gunfire. A third woman from Glen Cove was injured in the gunfire.
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As his mother started planning his funeral, she told NBC 4 New York Monday, "You can never prepare for something like this. Our only thoughts is getting my son back home."
Gertrude Merced said she shared a deep religious bond with her son, and she spoke about how her religion would get her through this difficult time.
"God is still good," said Merced. "I still believe God is great. I still believe we can have forgiveness even in this."
"I'm gonna see him again one day and I'm gonna hold onto that," she said.
Merced said she refuses to feel hatred towards the man who killed him.
"There's always room for forgiveness," she said. "I'm not angry at the gunman."
Rio's roommate and cousin Camille Castillo said he was "everything you could ask for in a cousin, a friend, a brother."
But she can't help but wonder: "What was his last thoughts, his last words -- did he try to reach out to anybody?"
"He was probably trying to reach out to somebody because we were definitely reaching out to him," she said. "I woke up this morning and texted his phone like he was gonna answer me."
Rios was a student at Brooklyn's St. Francis College, the school said in a statement. He transferred there last summer, hoping to complete a degree.
"Sadly, his dreams were cut short by this senseless act of violence," St. Francis College said in a statement. "The St. Francis College community mourns the loss of one of our own and offers prayers to his family and friends.”
Mayor de Blasio said Monday that the "thoughts and prayers of all New Yorkers are with the Rios family."
Neighbors also remembered Rios as a community-minded churchgoer.
"He was a sweet person...when my daughter told me last night it really broke my heart. I'm going to miss him going through here always smiling," neighbor Mary Blackmon said.
Other neighbors described Rios as someone who help anyone in need.
"It's heartbreaking," said Lucy Cruz. "And I was going to be move to Orlando with my kids. I've got chills."
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