CHICAGO — Chicagoan David Sotomayor, known to many as Jade Sotomayor, a contestant on "RuPaul's Drag Race," spoke at a vigil for the victims of Orlando nightclub shooting Sunday night — one of whom was his cousin, 34-year-old Edward Sotomayor Jr.
Sotomayor Jr., of Sarasota, was a national brand coordinator for Al and Chuck Travel, a travel agency that caters to gay men.
Sotomayor Jr. was fatally shot in the back early Sunday when a gunman opened fire on a crowded gay nightclub, reportedly while he was helping his boyfriend to safety, according to an account of the shooting reported on TheGailyGrind.com
Edward Sotomayor Jr. was killed in the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. [Facebook]
David Sotomayor, who earned an international following as a contestant on Season 1 of the drag queen-focused reality show, delivered an impromptu eulogy for his cousin to a crowd of hundreds gathered at a vigil in Boystown late Sunday as news of the shooting and identification of victims trickled out from the crime scene in central Florida.
"How are you guys all? I'm pretty sad tonight," Sotomayor began Sunday night to the crowd gathered outside Progress Bar at Halsted and Roscoe streets.
"My cousin Edward was one of the victims, and I cannot even understand why this would happen. This man was amazing. He treated all of us so well. He was just...everything he did, he had a smile on his face."
Sotomayor said he learned of his cousin's passing from fans reaching out to him on social media.
The Chicagoan said he was heartened to see the turnout Sunday, glad "that a group of all [of you] came out here to try to make a difference."
Sotomayor said he felt paralyzed and heartbroken by the news that his cousin had been killed, but said that the appropriate response for the gay community was action, not private grieving.
"We need to make sure that we know that we are here, that we are strong," he said. "I could not get out the bed, but Progress Bar came and said, let's make something happen and I know that my cousin Edward would want that.
"So I combed my hair, I put my weave on, I put my flip flops and my sunglasses on, and I made sure I came out because, you know what, we stand strong and proud. And they are not gonna ruin our pride, ever. So thank you guys for all being out here tonight."
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