When Juan Ramon Ortiz didn't answer cell phone calls, his father hoped the son had found a hiding spot during the shooting rampage on the distant campus or was only slightly hurt.
But the father, also named Juan Ramon Ortiz, learned hours later that his son was one of the 32 people gunned down in the worst mass murder in U.S. history. The younger Ortiz had left Puerto Rico with his new bride only months earlier.
"I heard about the shooting over the radio and I called but he didn't answer. When I got home and my wife was crying I realized it was something serious," the father told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Ortiz, 26, is the only Puerto Rican victim identified from Monday's massacre. His father said he was teaching a class as part of his graduate program in civil engineering when the gunman took his life.
Speaking through tears, Ortiz said he is devastated.
"He was an extraordinary son, what any father would have wanted," he said.
The family's neighbors in suburban Bayamon remembered Ortiz as a quiet, dedicated son who decorated his parents' one-story concrete house each Christmas and played in a salsa band with his father on weekends.
Marilys Alvarez, 22, heard Ortiz's mother scream from the house next door when she learned of her son's death.
Alvarez said she had wanted to study in the United States, but was now reconsidering.
"Here the violence is bad, but you don't see that," she said. "It's really sad. You can't go anywhere now."
Nine engineering students from a local university were returning to this U.S. Caribbean territory Tuesday after cutting short an exchange program at Virginia Tech because of the shooting. None the University of Mayaguez students was injured.
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