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'KJ' Morris Remembered Five Years After Pulse Nightclub Shooting

Joe Raedle
Getty Images
A memorial to the victims of the mass shooting setup around the Pulse gay nightclub one day before the one year anniversary of the shooting on June 11, 2017 in Orlando, Florida.

Saturday will mark five years since the Pulse nightclub mass shooting in Orlando, Florida.

Among those killed in the early morning of June 12, 2016, was Torrington High School graduate Kimberly “KJ” Morris.

Two months before the shooting, Morris posted on Facebook about being in Florida “longer than expected.” She would rather have been up North where she was originally from, but she was down South taking care of family.

“Gotta stick around Mom a little longer,” Morris wrote. “*Sigh*”

Shakira Henley-Fessler, who once lived with Morris, believes her old friend was in the middle of a struggle to find a sense of community there.

“I believe her getting the job at Pulse was her attempt at trying to find that connectivity to the LGBTQ+ community,” Henley-Fessler said.

KJ Morris

Morris, a bouncer at the Pulse nightclub, was one of 49 people killed in what was at the time the largest mass shooting in American history. Five years later, Jayce Chopourian, another former roommate of Morris’, is still heartbroken.

“I’m still completely and utterly wrecked over it,” Chopourian said.

Before she bounced at Pulse, Morris worked the door at Divas in Northampton, Massachusetts. 

“Northampton has a huge LGBTQIA+ community -- she could be exactly who she was,” Chopourian said. “She could be “KJ” -- she could be “Daddy K.”

In addition to working at Divas, Morris would also perform as her drag king persona “Daddy K.”

“I loved to watch her perform because she loved it so much,” Henley-Fessler said. “She made you feel like you were on the stage there with her.”

Morris always danced, even 30 years ago. Back in Torrington, Morris and Olawaseyi Akinbobola would go to dances together at the high school. Akinbobola joined a step club Morris started. 

“She would teach all of us and then, we’d try to do performances,” Akinbobola said. “She was always, always a performer.”

They were best friends and they kept in touch, even though they both moved about the country.

“The day before the Pulse shooting, we were talking about me coming to Florida with my son to hang out,” Akinbobola remembered. “I was just going to go spend a week with her.”

Both of her old roommates adored her. Shakira Henley-Fessler said they never fought. Jayce Chopourian said she was a bright light gifted to us by the universe.

“The fact that light was snuffed out so soon is just a damn shame,” Chopourian said.

Akinbobola still feels the pain of losing her childhood best friend.

“I don’t know how anybody could be mad at her,” Akinbobola said. “I don’t know how anybody could take somebody like that.”

Akinbobola and others who grew up in Torrington set up a scholarship fund in Morris’ memory. Five years to the day Morris died, they’ll take donations at the Torrington Strawberry Festival. 

Frankie Graziano’s career in broadcast journalism continues to evolve.

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