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Originally published Friday, July 20, 2012 at 9:34 PM

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Shooting victims' families await news in agony

Jessica Ghawi, a sports blogger who recently wrote of escaping a Toronto shooting, was among those killed in the deadly rampage in Aurora, Colo., early Friday.

Los Angeles Times

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AURORA, Colo. — Jessica Ghawi narrowly escaped a murderous rampage at the Eaton Centre shopping center in Toronto last month by deciding to leave a food court where, moments later, a gunman killed two people and wounded six others.

The incident, and her narrow escape, deeply moved her.

"I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday," Ghawi wrote on her blog. "I saw the terror on bystanders' faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don't know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath."

In a wicked twist of fate, the aspiring sports journalist was killed Friday in the massacre in the movie theater in Aurora, Colo., along with 11 others, by a gunman wielding an assault-style rifle, a shotgun, a handgun and canisters of a noxious chemical. Police said 58 others were wounded.

Officials had not released names of the dead or wounded, but some relatives and friends stepped forward to identify a handful of victims, or used social media to convey their grief.

Ghawi — who went by the name Jessica Redfield professionally — had red hair and a gleam in her eye. She was in her early 20s, with a big heart and big plans, her friends said.

About a year ago, she moved from San Antonio, Texas, to Denver to pursue her career, her brother, Jordan, told Denver TV station KUSA. She worked as an intern at 104.3 The Fan, a Denver sports-radio station, which posted a tribute to her on its home page. She was also involved with the You Can Play Project, a gay-rights group that supports equality in the locker room.

"She was always kind of a sponge as far as how she could be an even better journalist and sports broadcaster," said Peter Burns, a radio sports-show host with Mile High Sports Radio in Denver, where Ghawi recently interned.

Ghawi blogged at length about surviving the Eaton Centre shooting. Burns and his girlfriend, Lauren Anuskewicz, both said the blog reflected everything she told them.

"She was like, 'You guys would never believe what happened,' " said Anuskewicz, who added that Ghawi had been in Toronto visiting a boyfriend.

Burns said Ghawi seemed more enlivened than intimidated by surviving that shooting.

"After the Toronto incident, I think she even looked at that like, 'Hey, even after that, I'm able to pursue my dream,' " he said.

On her blog, Ghawi's personality shone through. "I specialize in sports media and snark," she wrote. "Not your typical sarcastic feisty redhead attempting to perfect the trifecta of class, sass, and crass. Yankee born, Texas raised, Colorado blooming."

Hours before the showing early Friday of "The Dark Knight Rises," Ghawi joked on Twitter that she'd had to "coerce" a guy into going with her.

She was with her good friend Brent Lowak, who was visiting from San Antonio, said Lowak's father, Larry. Brent Lowak was shot and underwent successful surgery, his father told a San Antonio TV station.

Jordan Ghawi, writing on his blog, gave an account of his sister's last moments after he spoke with Brent Lowak.

When shots rang out, Lowak and Jessica Ghawi immediately dropped to the floor, Jordan Ghawi wrote.

Lowak called 911, heard Ghawi scream and realized that she had been shot in the leg. He applied pressure to her wound but was soon shot himself.

"While still administering first aid, Brent noticed that Jessica was no longer screaming," Ghawi wrote. "He looked over to Jessica and saw what appeared to be an entry wound to her head."

Jessica Ghawi was a prolific social-media user, and her last tweet stated in all capital letters, "Movie doesn't start for 20 minutes."

The wounded ranged from 4 months to 45 years old, according to hospitals. Most appeared to be teenagers and young adults.

A Navy sailor was believed to be among the dead.

The Denver Post reported late Friday that the family of Alex Sullivan, 27, confirmed that he was among the dead. "The Sullivan family lost a cherished member of their family today," a release from the family said.

The release also said Friday was Alex Sullivan's birthday.

The family said it was notified at 8 p.m. after it had searched for Sullivan for more than 14 hours.

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.

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