Jonathan Camuy 'Always Smiled,' Professor Remembers Orlando Victim

A photo from the memorial Facebook page for Jonathan Camuy who was killed in the Orlando massacre on June 12, 2016.
A photo from the memorial Facebook page for Jonathan Camuy who was killed in the Orlando massacre on June 12, 2016.Jonathan A. Camuy memorial Facebook page / Facebook

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By Suzanne Gamboa

When she thinks of Jonathan Camuy, the eager, competitive student from her Theory of Mass Communications class, Denise Coutin thinks of his eyes and his smile.

“He always smiled and he had little holes in the side (dimples). He didn’t have a way of looking like the other students – a flat way of looking. He was always sparkling … He had sparkling eyes,” Coutin, a professor of journalism at the Universidad de Puerto Rico-Arecibo’s television and radio communications department.

His name has been officially listed as Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega.

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Camuy was a one of the 49 victims in the massacre at PULSE nightclub in Orlando, Florida last Sunday. He had worked as an assistant producer for La Voz Kids, a Telemundo production. He had landed there after previously working for “Yo Soy el Artista” and had previously worked in Puerto Rico with Telemundo, according to the network.

Like so many other Puerto Ricans, especially in recent years, Camuy had left the island in search of opportunity.

“He turned out to be a very good producer. He had goals to do something more,” Coutin said. “In Puerto Rico, sadly, our young people are leaving to the States to go to a better place and look at the better place he got.”

Laura Angelis Ayala Molina, who met Camuy in college and had known him for seven years, said Camuy often talked about his future and spoke with certainty about his future -- when I'm a reporter, is what he always said, Ayala said.

"It's awful he's not going to be able to follow his dreams like he was doing. He loved his family. He loved them with all his heart, he wanted to be a better person and follow his dreams and achieve his goals," Ayala said. "To kill a person like that. To kill him. It is awful and unfair. I mean, why?"

Camuy had tried to protect young mom Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, according to Rodriguez Solivan's brother-in-law. They both were killed.

“My friend Jonathan A. Camuy, you have died a hero,” William Sabad Borges wrote on his Facebook page in Spanish. “People, Jonathan’s body was found protecting my sister-in-law.”

RELATED: Latino Community Hit Hard in Orlando Shootings

A friend who identified himself as Thomas Del Río and said he was from Camuy's hometown in Puerto Rico started a GoFundMe page to help his family with funeral expenses. The page raised $6,565 from 269 people in one day.

The morning the news broke of the massacre in Orlando, Coutin was reading in bed. Instantly, she said, Camuy came to her mind. She maintains a public Facebook page as do other professors at the college and they keep up with students that way. She had heard he had moved to Florida, but they had lost touch because when she created a new Facebook page that required adding friends all over again.

“My pain in this chest that I felt that day I found out … that pain was so hard. Nobody deserves a death like that,” she said.

The subject she taught and that Camuy took – theory of mass communications – is one of the toughest, so Coutin said she always tried to lighten up the dense subject with jokes, cheer and stories.

Coutin said she can still see Jonathan, on the right side of the class, always attentive, always in attendance. She recalled his interest in television and his frequent questions about broadcast journalism.

Coutin said Jonathan was always working extra hours to get the projects done. He was part of an association of television and radio communication students at the school.

Coutin remembers him as skinny and tall and then there were his eyes:

“His eyes were hungry for more.”

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