Philadelphia Teen Akyra Murray Killed in Orlando Nightclub Massacre

Akyra went to the club Saturday night with two other women from Philadelphia, her cousin Tiara Parker and friend Patience Carter, who are both recovering from gunshot wounds.

The mother of a Philadelphia teenager who was among the 49 people killed in the Florida nightclub attack said she was on the phone with her wounded daughter as she cowered in a bathroom stall hiding from the shooter.

Akyra Murray, who turned 18 in January, is the youngest confirmed victim in the weekend attack. Natalie Murray spoke with The Associated Press on Monday as she and her husband drove to the county coroner's office to claim their daughter's body.

Last Monday, Murray graduated third in her class of 42 students at West Catholic Preparatory High School in Philadelphia. The basketball star earned a full ride at Mercyhurst University in Erie. She'd scored over 1,000 points early in the season, a moment marked with big congratulatory posters and a celebration in the Philadelphia school's gymnasium back in January.

To celebrate her graduation, Akyra Murray, her parents and her 4-year-old sister traveled to Orlando for a family vacation. Her brother, Alex, attends college in West Palm Beach.

On Saturday, Murray told her parents she wanted to party in downtown Orlando.

"She doesn't drink, she just wanted to have a good time," Natalie Murray recalled. "We dropped her off at 11:30."

Murray went to the club with her cousin Tiara Parker and friend Patience Carter, also from Philadelphia.

At about 2 a.m., Akyra Murray sent a text message to her mother, telling her to pick up her and her cousins. She said there had been a shooting.

Moments later, the phone rang.

"She was saying she was shot and she was screaming, saying she was losing a lot of blood," Natalie Murray said.

Her parents sped back to the club from nearby Kissimmee, frantically trying to reach the teenager, who had been shot in the arm.

"I just tried to tell her to remain calm and apply pressure to the wound," Natalie Murray said. "All I could hear was my baby screaming."

Murray said her daughter was hiding in a bathroom stall, her arm bleeding for hours with no medical treatment.

Akyra Murray told her mother to call police and send help before the two hung up.

They never spoke again. "It was devastating," Natalie Murray said.

For 27 hours, Murray said the family searched Orlando-area hospitals looking for Akyra.

"We just wanted to know for ourselves," she said. "We wanted somebody to tell us something."

Late Monday morning, after calling a hotline set up by city officials, they received the news of her death.

Albert Murray posted several Facebook messages about his daughter after the shooting. He first asked for prayers as he tried to locate her.

"Please pray for my daughter," Albert Murray posted to Facebook at 11:51 a.m. Sunday. "I've been waiting since 2:30 a.m., my niece and her friend was shot also. Haven't found my daughter yet. She was calling saying come get me I've been shot. Losing a lot of blood. My niece and her friend are in the hospital. Can't find my daughter."

Monday afternoon, Albert Murray wrote: "I lost my daughter, one of the greatest inspirations in my life."

He later posted: "I know she is in a safer place then (sic) America ... You can't even go on vacation."

Albert Murray told Facebook followers he was struggling because initially he didn't want his daughter to go to the club.

"She begged me to take her," he wrote. "I'm falling apart."

Parker and Carter are recovering in the hospital.

West Catholic Prep said in a statement that the school was terribly saddened to find out their student with so much promise, was a victim of the largest mass shooting in U.S. history.

"Akyra was a superstar who was a leader amongst her classmates and teammates," the statement read. Murray was a standout student-athlete who graduated third in her class along with achieving the elite position of a 1,000 point scorer on the Lady Burr's basketball team.

Last month, when Murray signed a national letter of intent to attend Mercyhurst University on a full athletic scholarship, her head coach Beulah Osueke applauded her ability to push through adversity.

She'd been playing only since the 9th grade and "under the weight of constant criticism, Murray contemplated hanging up her jersey toward the end of freshman year," Osueke wrote in a school announcement. She started working out on a daily basis, honed her skills through a "new sense of hunger and commitment" and transferred to West Catholic Prep for her junior year.

"With college on the horizon, Murray is relying on self-motivation and her development leadership skills now more than ever to help her continue the journey that was once only a dream," Osueke's May letter read.

As word of Murray's death spread, condolences poured in under the hashtag #RIPAkyra.

"I saw Akyra last Monday at her graduation," Aaron Spence, a West Catholic alum said in a post about how he was there when Murray's senior class was inducted into the school's Alumni Association. "...and she was proud to have reached this important milestone. I hugged her and wished her all the best not knowing it would be the last time I would see her alive."

"May God bless Akyra's soul and provide comfort to all family and friends during this troubling time," the school's statement read.

"Our hearts are broken, but together we will mourn Akyra's loss and provide comfort to one another to honor the memory of such a wonderful young lady."

During a vigil for victims of the Orlando shooting at Philadelphia's City Hall Monday night, Murray's teammates at West Catholic Prep led mourners in a march and chanted, "West Catholic lives for Akyra!"

"You can't keep crying but you do want her to know we love her," said Angelia Gibson Ayers, a friend of Akyra's. "We're going to miss her."

Ayers brought her phone with her so that Akyra's mother could see the vigil.

"She wanted to be face-timed in just to see what's going on," Ayers said.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, who says he watched Akyra play basketball, fought back tears as he spoke about her and the other victims during the vigil.

"Make sure we grab a hold of each other," Kenney said. "Hold on to each other and we'll get through this all together. Love you all."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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