Letter: Father of Christopher Leinonen speaks out

Detroit native Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32, was among 49 people killed in Saturday night’s shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, according to the city of Orlando. His father, Mark Bando, responded to The Detroit News Monday with this letter.

Christopher Andrew Leinonen shown in December with father Mark Bando.

“The website for the city of Orlando, FL has just added my son's name to the list of those killed at the Pulse nightclub shooting, so it has been confirmed.

His name was Christopher Andrew Leinonen, he went by the nickname of 'Drew' and he was gay, a fact I only learned about 5 years ago. While I was not thrilled to learn of his orientation, I accepted it as the way he was pre wired-when born. He was handsome, personable, brilliant and loved vintage movies. He grew-up, got a master's degree and became a practicing psychologist. He was born June 1, 1984.

Chris' mother Christine Leinonen was a MSP state trooper from 1981 to 1990. We were not married when he was conceived and born and he was raised by her as a single parent and he had her last name. After working a decade with MSP, Christine quit and moved down to FL, where she attended law school and became an attorney.

Before reaching high school age, Christopher lived in Macomb Co. and I had regular weekend visitation with him and paid child support for 18 years. His mother moved to FL and took him along, making regular in-person visiting very difficult, in the 1990s.

Chris graduated from Seminole FL High School and got his college degrees from UCF, which is when he began living in the Orlando area. In recent years, I only saw him in person about once per year, when I visited FL, or when he made one of his rare visits to Michigan.

Like his mother, Christopher was very idealistic about the human race, and he did not want to see the evil in the world or even to believe it existed. He used to laugh and joke and tell me I was paranoid, to carry a gun off duty, when I was a Detroit cop. He called me after September 11th, when his world view altered somewhat, after seeing planes fly into the World Trade Center. So he made the giant leap to believing there are evil people in the world, but not far enough to acquaint himself with firearms, or to get a permit to carry. If we'd spent the last 2 decades living in close proximity to each other, I have little doubt I'd have trained him to use a gun. After seeing the Paris massacre last year, I thought, "If only one of the intended victims in that large crowd had been armed, many lives could have been saved." I also thought, this couldn't happen in America, because surely, somebody in a large crowd like that would be armed, in the U.S. Wrong, history has repeated itself right here in the USA and my son and 51 others were slaughtered like helpless cattle, precisely because nobody in that club had a weapon to shoot back with.

Drew and his signifiant other Juan were both killed and I hope my son was taken quickly and without suffering. 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.

Drew phoned his mom Saturday evening before going to the club and the next morning, he was considered missing, because his mother heard about the massacre and was unable to contact him. We feared the worst and around mid day on Monday, it was confirmed that he had died at the scene.

The killer was armed and his helpless victims were not, yet the anti gun politicians still want to disarm the populace, enabling these scenarios. It is likely such attacks will continue, until the victims start shooting back. That's the lesson I take from this, for what it's worth. When the shooting started Saturday night, I'll bet there wasn't a person in the club who wouldn't have traded everything he owned in the world, for a loaded gun.

I was a uniformed patrol officer on the city of Detroit PD, from 1974-99 and retired at the same rank 25 years later, as when I joined. I worked at the 1st, 3rd, 6th, 13th and 16th Precincts, as well as the citywide Tactical Services Section, for 6 years.

I'll attach a photo of 'Drew' and myself taken last December, when he visited myself and his 1/2 sister, Jill, in Michigan. I don't think there is much more I can tell you, except that Drew was a son to be proud of and he will be missed by many people.”

Mark A. Bando