Exec at Saginaw firm, ex-Detroiter among Orlando slain
Christopher Andrew Leinonen believed in the good in people.
“He was an idealist and didn’t want to believe that people were evil,” his father, Mark Bando, told The Detroit News on Monday. That was a source of conflict between the retired Detroit police officer and his son.
“He used to laugh and joke and tell me I was paranoid to carry a gun off-duty when I was a Detroit cop,” said Bando of Farmington Hills.
Bando couldn’t help but think of how his son may have felt early Sunday when a gunman opened fire in a gay nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people and wounding 53 in the deadliest shooting in U.S. history.
Leinonen, a 32-year-old Detroit native, and his boyfriend were among the dead, Bando said.
“I hope my son was taken quickly and without suffering,” Bando said. “I hate to imagine some of the victims being terrorized for hours because this armed killer was allowed to play God and exterminate them at will and in his own time schedule.”
The gunman, identified by officials as Omar Mateen, 29, died following a three-hour standoff with police.
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25, director of operations for a Saginaw marketing firm, also was among those slain in Sunday’s attack at Pulse Nightclub. “He was very ambitious,” said his brother, Chavis Crosby, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “Whatever goal he had in mind, he worked hard. Whether alone or on a team, he worked on that goal.”
Crosby owned a marketing firm, Total Entrepreneurs Concepts, his brother told the Sentinel.
Leinonen’s and Crosby’s families were among those learning the fate of their loved ones Monday as the city of Orlando released the names of victims in the shooting at Pulse nightclub.
“As far as my personal grief, I’m still in a state of shock and disbelief,” Bando said.
Leinonen was born in Detroit and moved with his mother, Christine Leinonen, to Florida in the 1990s after she left a job as a Michigan State Police trooper, Bando said.
Leinonen, who went by the nickname “Drew,” worked as a psychologist in Orlando, his father said. He earned two degrees from the University of Central Florida.
“Drew was a son to be proud of, and he will be missed by many people,” Bando said.
According to ABC News, Christine Leinonen said she had last spoken with her son Saturday evening. She told the news outlet that she was proud of her son, who received a humanitarian award after he started a gay-straight alliance while in high school.
Christine Leinonen drove to Orlando at 4 a.m. Sunday from Polk County, southwest of the city, after learning of the shooting from a friend of her son.
Her son had gone to the club with his friend, Brandon Wolf, when the shooting started, she said. Wolf texted that a shooting occurred and that her son was missing.
She arrived in Orlando and began checking emergency rooms. She never found her son, and his death was confirmed on Monday.
“These are nonsensical killings of our children,” she said, sobbing. “They’re killing our babies!”
She said Wolf survived by hiding in a bathroom and running out as the bullets flew.
News of the shooting shocked friends of Crosby, who grew up in North Carolina.
“I honestly couldn’t believe it,” said Jarail Scott, his former basketball teammate. “It’s just something you don’t expect. ...Everybody is just so sad because he was such a great guy.”
Crosby graduated from West Iredell High School in Statesville, North Carolina, where he was known as someone who “got along well with pretty much everyone,” his friend said.
Besides his geniality, Crosby also earned a reputation for his work ethic, Scott said. “I always knew he was a very motivated guy. He was doing a lot of things in high school. He was all about getting the grind. He worked at McDonald’s while everybody else was cutting up. ... He was definitely a hard-working guy.”
Crosby went on to study business administration at Strayer University South, his Facebook page read.
On social media, he highlighted Total Entrepreneurs Concepts, which is described on its website as “an In-Store Marketing company that represents the leaders in Home Entertainment inside the world’s largest retailers.”
Crosby also shared inspirational quotes. “The little things adds up when you are on the road to success!” he wrote in a recent Facebook post.
On social media, friends of Christopher Andrew Leinonen shared photos and thoughts.
“I remember telling you things you could be famous for,” Jordan Almazan wrote in a Facebook post. “You’re brilliant, witty and have personality to spare. I told you you should get a Ph.D. in psychology and you told me to keep reminding you to pursue it and maybe one day you would. I said you could host a radio show on film because you are such a total film geek...and sassy, opinionated, and insightful to boot. You said one day you want to teach a college class on film — not for money but just because you love it...”
On Monday afternoon, Detroit Police Chief James Craig offered words for Bando, who served 25 years with the department.
“As a former Detroit police officer, our hearts go out to him, and all the families of the victims,” Craig said.
Bando said another identified victim, Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22, was his son’s significant other.
Bando said although his son had a full life in the gay community, it wasn’t until five years ago he learned of his son’s sexual preference.
“While I was not thrilled to learn of his orientation, I accepted it as the way he was pre-wired when born,” he said. “He was handsome, personable, brilliant ...”
Bando said he and his son shared an artistic ability and a love for old movies. Despite their long-distance relationship, they would give each other old movies for birthdays and Christmas.
Now all Bando can do is think about what could have been for his son had he lived.
“My biggest feeling is I’ve been cheated,” Bando said. “My son’s future has been stolen from me and all the people who knew him. I didn’t know it was coming and I didn’t get to say goodbye.”
Associated Press and Detroit News Staff Writers George Hunter and James David Dickson contributed.