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Friends remember ex-isle girl killed in Orlando shooting

  • GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Isaiah Chong held a sign of sympathy during a vigil today at Honolulu Hale.

So overcome with emotion was she that Kourtney Baltazar could barely speak between her deepening sobs.

But when her words failed her, her hands did not, holding steadily to a handwritten message of remembrance and to a rain-warped photo of her friend Kimberly Morris.

“Those of us who knew her called her K.J.,” Baltazar said.

Morris, a former Hawaii resident who had recently moved to Florida to help take care of her mother and grandmother, was one of 50 people killed in today’s mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Morris, a former collegiate basketball player, worked at the club as a bouncer.

Late this afternoon, Baltazar emerged from a crowd of more than 100 people who had gathered at Honolulu Hale to mourn the victims of the shooting. Taking an open microphone, she did her best to make sure each person heard Morris’ name and a bit of her story.

Baltazar and her co-workers at Jaco Rehab knew Morris through Morris’ then-girlfriend, Starr Shelton, who also worked at the center.

Today the group of friends attended the memorial together, each cradling a small votive as a light drizzle strengthened to rain.

“She was the most loving person,” Baltazar said. “She never had a bad thing to say about anyone. If you came to her after a bad day, she’d find some way to cheer you up.”

The event was organized by the LGBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i along with Rainbow Family 808 and MoveOn.org — Honolulu Council. A candlelight vigil organized by LGBT Hawaii was also held today at Kapiolani Park.

Calls for stricter gun laws, including a national ban on assault weapons, were issued loudly and repeatedly at the Honolulu Hale event.

LGBT Caucus Chairman Michael Golojuch Jr. also cautioned mourners to resist the impulse to blame Muslims as a group for the actions of a radical minority.

“We cannot allow one minority to be pitted against another minority for the betterment of the (National Rifle Association),” he said.

Response to news of the shootings came swiftly today.

“This was a reprehensible act of terror and hate, which is repugnant to the ideals of equality and inclusiveness that are the foundation of our society,” said Hawaii Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald. “Our heartfelt thoughts go out to the victims and families affected by this horrific tragedy.”

Gov. David Ige called the incident “yet another horrific instance of man’s inhumanity to man, triggered by the fear of differences.”

“Let us reject fear and hostility,” Ige said in a new release. “Let us embrace diversity. Let us affirm life. Hawaii has some of the toughest laws regulating gun ownership in the nation. This presumed act of terror is a reminder that we cannot become complacent. We must do all that we can to ensure the public’s safety.”

Mayor Kirk Caldwell said, “Like the rest of the country, I am in shock at what took place in Orlando, and my heart breaks for the victims of this horrific act of violence. There’s no room in our civil society for hatred against a particular group of people like we saw at the Pulse nightclub. We must all stand together against those that seek to change the very fabric of our nation because they disagree with our principles of liberty and freedom.”

LGBT Hawaii organizers called for greater security measures in light of the incident.

“Implementing appropriate security cannot wait,” said LGBT Hawaii co-founder Juergen Steinmetz. “We must realize this here at home, in Hawaii and nationally. We must begin to implement security measures everywhere that should include protecting our hotels, our shopping malls and our entertainment facilities — anywhere crowds routinely gather.”

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  • very tragic. yet this guy says don’t blame muslims, blame the NRA. the NRA didn’t kill these people, a muslim did it. nobody is blaming all muslims but don’t try to say this isn’t a problem with Islam. ridiculous. crazy liberals. they don’t even want to admit who their real enemy is.

      • These were individual people with unique personalities and lives, they were not simply Gays, and should be mourned as such.

        All this category thinking, which includes PC, leads nowhere productive.

        I think that your category-laden statement may have elements of the the same kind of thought processes that led to the shooter to justify his massacre.

      • there’s a big difference moron. one religion, Islam, tells you to kill gays. the other two will disagree with being gay, but not shoot you or cut your head off.

    • Yes, of course. A single person in a night club could saw off 50 heads and injure 53 others. Firearms are the same as knives or tossing people off buildings.

      You always make perfect sense!

      • It seems logical that if there were no semi-automatic weapons, it would take longer to shoot that many people.

        But if the impulse was there, it seems it would still happen, perhaps with a lower body count, perhaps not.

        But since the guns have been with us for a long time, that may not be the problem, it is something else that has changed.

        What is it in our culture and society that has made life cheap?

      • This is the message left on Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s website:
        “Rainbow Family 808 is calling for a Total Ban on Assault Rifles. The 50 deaths and 53 wounded in Orlando, Florida calls for Justice. You also need to stop taking donations from the NRA. This is the American thing to do.” Also called and a message was left on Congressmember Martha McSally’s office number (202) 225-2542. More to come!

        The Orlando massacre is every mother’s worst nightmare when you have a LGBTQ child!

      • You don’t understand that in the US there have been 172 mass murders in the last 164 days. This 172 mass murders equal murders of 3 or more people. These 172 mass murders trumps the need for ASSAULT WEAPONS. No one is calling for the ban of all guns but the BAN OF ASSAULT RIFLES. The ban is for any future sale of these MILITARY created ASSAULT WEAPONS. Assault weapons have nothing to do with the sport of hunting. June 12, 2016 Massacre in Orlando was not for game. This was a targeted murder of 50 innocent people. None of them were armed. We need less not more ASSAULT RIFLES ON THE STREET.

        • I am not sure it is accurate to refer to them as “assault weapons”. This seems to be a manipulative catch phrase.

          From what I have read, the AR-15 is a watered down, restricted version of the actual assault weapon, the M-16. The AR-15 is a semi-automatic, of which there other examples. The M-16 is fully automatic.

          If you are proposing a ban on all semi-automatic weapons, then it would be more useful to refer to them as such, without catch phrases that muddy the discussion.

  • Banning guns is a fantasy. The European countries that suffered attacks have strict gun laws but that didn’t stop the terrorists. How can we effectively ban automatic weapons when we can’t even stop illegals (and potential terrorists) from crossing the border? The focus should be on stopping terrorists.

    • You don’t understand that in the US there have been 172 mass murders in the last 164 days. This 172 mass murders equal murders of 3 or more people. These 172 mass murders trumps the need for ASSAULT WEAPONS. No one is calling for the ban of all guns but the BAN OF ASSAULT RIFLES. The ban is for any future sale of these MILITARY created ASSAULT WEAPONS. Assault weapons have nothing to do with the sport of hunting. June 12, 2016 Massacre in Orlando was not for game. This was a targeted murder of 50 innocent people. None of them were armed. We need less not more ASSAULT RIFLES ON THE STREET.

      • I am not sure it is accurate to refer to them as “assault weapons”. This seems to be a manipulative catch phrase.

        From what I have read, the AR-15 is a watered down, restricted version of the actual assault weapon, the M-16. The AR-15 is a semi-automatic, of which there other examples. The M-16 is fully automatic.

        If you are proposing a ban on all semi-automatic weapons, then it would be more useful to refer to them as such, without catch phrases that muddy the discussion.

  • This is the message left on Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s website:
    “Rainbow Family 808 is calling for a Total Ban on Assault Rifles. The 50 deaths and 53 wounded in Orlando, Florida calls for Justice. You also need to stop taking donations from the NRA. This is the American thing to do.” Also called and a message was left on Congressmember Martha McSally’s office number (202) 225-2542. More to come!

    The Orlando massacre is every mother’s worst nightmare when you have a LGBTQ child!

  • News is break in that the shooter was on several gay hook-up apps and a long-term patron of this bar. In short, he was filled with his own self-hatred, this has little to do with religion if at all. All the morons who make these inane comments without the gathering of all the facts, just a bunch of uneducated clowns…

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