Funeral services were held Tuesday night at BedStuy’s Greater Free Gift Baptist Church for Enrique L. Rios, the 25-year-old Brooklynite who was murdered with 48 other people in a gay Orlando nightclub last week.
“You shouldn’t have to hide who you truly are,” his uncle, Eric Perez, 45, told reporters outside the church. “The outpouring of support has been really, really great,” said an emotional Perez.
The family — many of whom wore badges with Rios’s likeness — had decided he would be cremated, Perez said.
Rios, 25, the oldest son in a family of five children, had recently earned a social work degree from St. Francis College and was “just starting to enjoy life,” said Perez. “I miss him dearly,” he added.
Rios’s mother, Raquel Gertrude Merced, also briefly addressed reporters, sharing a message of mercy and compassion.
“We need the world to know that even in times like these, there is always room for forgiveness,” said Merced. People devastated by loss and heartbreak “don’t have to retaliate,” or perpetuate a pointless cycle of anger and violence: “There is still room for love,” she said.
Other mouners remembered Rios’s penchant for helping others, his industriousness, sunny demeanor and upbeat, conciliatory personality.
“All my cousin was was love,” said Manuel Garcia, 34. “If you walked into a room where people were fighting, no matter: He made it happy.”
Rios was “a beautiful, beautiful child,” recalled Augustine Davis, 70, a BedStuy resident who worshipped with him at Greater Free Gift.
While Rios managed a nursing home at the time of his death, he had also worked as a barista and even, years ago, at a women’s clothing store, where his helpfulness, taste and honesty, were put to good use. “He was great at it: He got me the right type of boots!” Davis recalled.
Gesturing to the adjacent corner of Tompkins and Myrtle, where NYPD Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were murdered in their patrol car in 2014 by a man with a lengthy criminal record, Davis said she hoped the Orlando massacre would compel politicians to limit the access to firearms — even though the Senate had shot down four proposed gun control measures the day before. “Those two cops got killed on this very corner. They were cool. They were real nice cops,” and Rios was “a perfect child,” she said.
“We do need gun reform,” Davis continued. Easy access to weapons by violent people “has taken too many lives unnecessarily. This hurts. It really hurts. You have to always remember: It could be your child,” Davis said.