Real superheroes acted as gunshots shredded Batman movie crowd
As a gunman made blood and death all too real at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater early Friday, some superheroes in the audience saved lives while losing their own.
The New York Times
Jessica Ghawi, 24, of Denver; aspiring sports journalist
Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6, whose mother was critically injured
Matthew McQuinn, 27, of Denver; technical-support provider
Alex Sullivan, 27, of Aurora; bartender at a Red Robin restaurant
Micayla Medek, 23, of Westminster, Colo.
John Larimer, 27, of Buckley Air Force Base, Navy cryptologist
Jesse Childress, 29, of Thornton, Colo., Air Force cybersystems operator
Gordon W. Cowden, 51, Centennial, Colo.
Jonathan Blunk, 26, of Aurora, worked at a hardware store
Rebecca Ann Wingo, 32, customer-relations rep at a mobile medical-imaging company
Alexander Teves, 24, of Phoenix, earned master's degree in counseling psychology in June from University of Denver
Alexander Boik, 18, of Aurora, incoming freshman at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design
Arapahoe County coroner;
The Associated Press
AURORA, Colo. — In the movies, superheroes rarely die. But in a darkened Denver-area movie theater early Friday, real superheroes acted — and some of them died, including Matthew McQuinn, who threw himself in front of his longtime girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, shielding her from the bullets that took his life.
McQuinn, 27, was one of 12 people killed when a gunman opened fire at the early-morning showing of the latest Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," at the Century 16 multiplex in Aurora, and, like many other victims, was young enough to have limitless possibilities ahead of him.
He and Yowler, also 27, who was wounded and was listed in stable condition Saturday, went to see the premiere of the latest installment in the Batman series with her brother. He, too, was a superhero, leaping to protect his sister and pulling her from the theater to safety.
Jonathan Blunk, 26, a Navy veteran and father of two, died when he saved his girlfriend, Jansen Young.
Veronica Moser-Sullivan went to the movie with her mother. She was 6, too young to know much about Batman, too inexperienced to know that a movie theater could, without warning, become one of the most dangerous places on Earth.
Veronica died on the operating table after being wounded during the shooting, a cousin, Katherine Young, 15, said Saturday.
"She was just a radiant happy, little girl," Young said. "She was just so happy. She could brighten anyone's day."
Young said that Veronica, who lived in Denver, had just started swimming and had fallen in love with it.
"She was really good at it. I taught her to long-board, so she loved doing that too," Young said.
Veronica's mother, Ashley Moser, 25, was seriously injured — shot twice in the abdomen and once in the neck — and remained in the hospital, Young said.
"They were just over for dinner on Tuesday," she added, quietly.
Nobody had the heart to tell Ashley Moser that her daughter is dead.
"Nobody can tell her about it," Annie Dalton said of her niece, Ashley Moser. "She is in critical condition, but all she's asking about is her daughter."
A man identified as James Holmes armed himself with a small arsenal of weapons and opened fire in the theater early Friday, fatally wounding at least 12 people and leaving 58 others injured.
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said 10 victims died at the theater and two others later died from their injuries. All died from gunshot wounds, he said.
The Aurora Police Department completed the task of notifying the families of the dead Saturday and released the names of eight men, three women and Veronica. The oldest victim was Gordon Cowden, 51, of Centennial. His family declined to speak to the media.
The Town Center at Aurora theater complex, much like movie palaces everywhere, is a place where people from all backgrounds go in pursuit of popcorn and entertainment, and the dead reflected that diversity.
McQuinn and Yowler worked at Target, having moved to Colorado from a town near Springfield, Ohio, to get a fresh start. They were accompanied to the movie by Yowler's brother, Nick Yowler. He, like McQuinn, leapt to protect his sister and pull her from the theater to safety. She was shot in the knee, but is recovering in the hospital, said a lawyer who is serving as a spokesman for the families.
Blunk, who served in the Navy aboard the USS Nimitz, had always wanted to die a hero, his estranged wife, Chantel Blunk, told NBC News. Jansen Young said that is exactly what happened.
"Jon just took a bullet for me," she said on the "Today" show. Blunk moved to Colorado after leaving the service and worked installing hardwood flooring, his father, Randall Blunk, said. He had a 4-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son.
Alex Sullivan was a comic-book fan, who was at the premiere to celebrate his 27th birthday. "Oh man one hour till the movie and its going to be the best BIRTHDAY ever," he said in a tweet sent shortly before he died.
Compounding the tragedy, Sullivan died just two days before he and his wife, Cassandra, were to celebrate their wedding anniversary, their first.
Alexander Boik, 18, known as AJ, was recalled by a friend, Jakob Bolger, as "a very heartwarming, good-minded person."
"He's hilarious. He loved to make people smile," said Bolger, who added he had been friends with Boik since the two played baseball together in seventh grade.
Boik's family issued a statement saying he was loved by all who knew him and was dating "a beautiful young lady" who was with him at the theater and survived.
"We want to try and focus on the beautiful lives that were ended and not the evil that is responsible," the family said.
Jessica Ghawi, 25, was a sports blogger who had moved to Denver from Texas about a year ago and had narrowly escaped a mall shooting at Eaton Centre Mall in Toronto. The experience, she had written, had convinced her that each moment was precious.
John Larimer, 27, was in the Navy, a cryptologic technician who had been stationed at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora since October. Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Jakuboski said losing Larimer felt like losing "one of my sons."
An Air Force reservist who worked at Buckley also was killed in the rampage. Sgt. Jesse Childress, 29, was a cybersystems operator from Thornton, said Air Force Capt. Andrew Williams.
Williams said Childress was athletic and played in a kickball and volleyball tournament on base. "He was always our star," Williams said.
Micayla Medek, 23, worked at a Subway sandwich shop, and was trying to figure out what to do with her life, her aunt, Jennifer Zakovich, said Saturday.
Rebecca Ann Wingo, 32, was a single mother with two daughters, a "lovely young woman," said her friend Gail Riffle, who took classes at Aurora Community College and attended Mile Hi Church in Lakewood, Colo.
Wingo also had started a job several months ago as a customer-relations representative at a mobile medical-imaging company.
Alexander Teves, 24, graduated in June from the University of Denver with a master's degree in counseling psychology, the school said. The university identified Teves' hometown as Phoenix. School officials said they had no other information.
Those who did not know the victims or their families mourned them as well. Late Friday, candles appeared across from the mall, a sign reading: "7/20 — Lost But Not Forgotten."
Many who stood around the makeshift shrine said they had come because it could have been them, or their brothers or sisters or aunts or mothers, lying bloodied on the ground.
They struggled for words — "shocking," "horrible," "unthinkable" — that were ultimately inadequate, their voices faltering with the weight of the deadly events.
Larimer's father, Scott, said his son John grew up as one of five children in Crystal Lake, Ill. "We're still in shock," the senior Larimer said Saturday. "Unfortunately, in the military you expect him to be in harm's way, but not in a theater."
Material from The Associated Press and The Washington Post is included in this report.