Meet the Faces of the PEOPLE GUNNED DOWN AT A CINEMA IN AUROREA, COLORADO
Pictured: Six-year-old girl shot dead in Dark Knight massacre as America mourns 12 victims gunned down in cold blood. All 12 of those who died in the tragic cinema shooting in Aurora, Colorado on Thursday night have been identified – they range from 51-year-old Gorden Cowden to Veronica Moser-Sullivan, who was just six years old.
Three are believed to have been members of the military, while two died trying to save their girlfriends from the hail of bullets sent out by alleged shoot James Holmes, who launched his vicious attack during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises.
Veronica, the youngest victim, was a ‘delightful’ girl who was looking forward to starting swimming lessons this week, according to her grieving family.
Details about the 12 victims emerged on Saturday, the day before Barack Obama planned to travel to Aurora to meet with those affected by the massacre.
A woman whose boyfriend saved her from death paid an emotional tribute to him, saying ‘he was just a hero last night, he has been a hero forever.’
Ex-serviceman Jon Blunk recognised immediately the gravity of the situation when 24-year-old Holmes burst into the Century 16 showing of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ armed to the teeth with firearms and pushed his girlfriend Jansen Young to the floor.
Telling her to keep quiet and that ‘there is someone with a gun and he is shooting people’, Blunk then whispered to his girlfriend, ‘We have to get down and stay down.’
In a harrowing interview given to the ‘Today’ show this morning, veterinarian technician Jansen spoke of the confusing moment when Holmes launched his massacre on the unwitting audience members of the Aurora cinema.
‘There was a bomb or something and it flew up into the left hand corner and it just went boom and Jon immediately pushed my hips down to the floor and he was like Jensen get down, get down and stay down,’ said Young.
‘And I was like, why? Because I have to question everything. And he pushed me under the seat and pushed me real hard and he whispered in my ear, “There is someone with a gun and he is shooting people”
‘He knew it was real.’
Giving chilling details of the attack, Young spoke to Today with the tragic cinema in view behind her.
‘There was a woman sitting on the row above me who was screaming “I’ve been shot, I’ve been shot,”‘ said Young.
‘I kind of felt a little bit of wet, but I didn’t know what that was and it was like a whole bunch of wetness everywhere and I started thinking this is a water balloon, this is too much wet to be anything but a water balloon.’
Realising that she was indeed covered in the blood of wounded people, Young lay silently where she was listening to the constant ‘boom, boom, boom’ of the assault rifle, handgun and shotgun that Holmes was using to shoot the crowd.
‘There was kind of a break in between each gunshot,’ she said. ‘Every gunshot, I was like, “This is it… I’m done for.”‘
All throughout this she felt Blunk pushing her down onto the ground and then something happened.
‘Jon gave me one good push against that concrete again and then… I didn’t really feel his arms against my back anymore but I knew he was still there,’ said Young.
Unaware of the gravity of what had happened, when the gunfire abated, Young went to leave.
‘I guess I didn’t really know he had passed, up until I started shaking him and saying, “Jon, Jon we have to go … it’s time for us to get out of here,”‘ she said, her voice breaking into tears.
‘I was trying to call 911 and find a cellphone because I didn’t know if they knew. And then I thought, “Oh my gosh, Jon just took a bullet for me and I was thinking about what a great hero he is and he provided me the opportunity to survive.” He just knew.’
Casualties: Micayla Medek, left, and Alex Sullivan, right, were both declared dead after having been missing
As she crawled out to leave she saw bodies strewn across the cinema theatre and survivors running out of any exit they could find.
‘I know I would not be here today if Jon had not been next to me in that movie theater.’ said Young. ‘He was just a hero last night, he has been a hero forever.’
The ex-serviceman was even planning to re-enlist and Young said that serving his country was all he wanted to do.
‘He told me, “Jensen, I was born to serve my country,”‘ said Young. ‘He saved me and gave me the opportunity to live and he would have done it for anyone that day. He went above and beyond to help everyone.’
Tragically, Young went to sleep last night only thinking of her lost love. ‘I was laying down in bed last night thinking, I don’t know if I can sleep and all I could think of was I know the most incredible man and I do, I love him so much.
‘And I prayed to Jon last night saying “on, I love you, I am so grateful for what you done to me.”‘
The mother of the youngest victim of the shooting, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, has reportedly gone into shock after being told her daughter was one of James Holmes’ victims.
Learning this morning that her little girl had been gunned down in the Aurora, Colorado Batman massacre, 25-year-old Ashley Moser was described as ‘absolutely devastated’ at her loss.
Already suffering from bullet wounds to her abdomen and her throat, Ashley has been upgraded from a critical condition at Aurora Medical Center.
‘She took it very badly,’ said Jean Moser of her granddaughter. ‘I know she was shocked.
‘She was a very delightful, lively little girl. She was very engaging. It’s a terrible, terrible tragedy.’
Veronica was to start learning swimming lessons on Tuesday, said her great aunt, Annie Dalton.
‘She was excited about life as she should be. She’s a six-year-old girl. This is just a nightmare right now. It’s a nightmare. Everything’s surreal. It’s just surreal.’
Her father earlier claimed he had not been allowed to see either Veronica or her mother after apparently issuing threats against the gunman.
In addition to Jon Blunk, another victim, Matt McQuinn, threw himself in front of his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, and her brother, Nick, to save them both from a hail of bullets fired by shooter James Holmes.
The selfless act made Mr McQuinn one of the 12 victims of Holmes’s maniacal shooting spree when the 24-year-old former PhD student entered through a fire escape in the Century 16 theatre and began firing indiscriminately into the audience.
For Alex Sullivan, it was to be a weekend of fun: He planned to ring in his 27th birthday with friends at a special midnight showing of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and then celebrate his first wedding anniversary on Sunday.
Preparing to celebrate his birthday, beginning with a midnight screening of ‘Batman: The Dark Knight Rises’, Sullivan tweeted: ‘Oh man one hour till the movie and its going to be the best BIRTHDAY ever.’
Late on Friday, Sullivan’s family confirmed that police told them he was among those killed.
‘He was a very, very good young man,’ said Sullivan’s uncle, Joe Loewenguth. ‘He always had a smile, always made you laugh. He had a little bit of comic in him. Witty, smart. He was loving, had a big heart.’
‘The Sullivan family lost a cherished member of their family today,’ the family said in a statement. ‘Alex was smart, funny, and above all loved dearly by his friends and family.’
Sullivan died just two days before his one-year anniversary to his wife, Cassandra it was also reported.
Micayla Medek, 23, was also among the dead, her father’s cousin, Anita Busch, told the Associated Press.
Busch said the news, while heartbreaking, was a relief for the family after an 19 hours spent waiting for news.
‘I hope this evil act… doesn’t shake people’s faith in God,’ she said.
For the family of John Thomas Larimer, the hours of anxious dread in the aftermath of the shooting turned to the horrible realisation that he was sadly among the dead.
They knew that he had been in the theatre and they could not reach the U.S. Navy serviceman’s telephone.
Releasing a statement this morning, the family asked to be left alone in their time of grief.
‘Last night about midnight, a Navy notification team arrived at our house to let us officially know that our 27-year-old son John was in fact one of the 12 killed at the theater in Aurora, Colorado,’ read the statement.
‘At this point, our other son Noel is in Denver working with the Navy and the family here in Illinois to make arrangements to bring John home.
‘We respectfully ask that the family and friends of John be allowed time and privacy to grieve for John and we send our thoughts and prayers out to the families of the other victims and those still recovering in the hospital.
‘We love you John and we will miss you always.’
Mr Larimer served in the forces with a unit as a Petty Officer Third Class and served with the U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. Tenth Fleet at Buckley Air Force base in Colorado.
‘He was an outstanding shipmate,’ Cmdr. Jeffrey Jakuboski, Larimer’s commanding officer, told Navy News Service. ‘A valued member of our Navy team, he will be missed by all who knew him.’
‘Killer’: James Holmes burst into a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado and fired indiscriminately at audience members at the new Batman film
Weapons of choice: He had a Colt AR-15 Tactical Carbine and .40 caliber glock handgun (file pictures)
Power: He also had a Remington 870 Marine Magnum (pictured) with him, and another glock in his car
Recluse: Holmes went to high school in San Diego, where his parents still live; he is pictured right in his 2005 high school yearbook
Eighteen-year-old AJ Boik is reported to have perished in the shooting too after traveling to the midnight viewing with his friend Jordan Crofter, 19, who was distraught at his friend’s death.
Another named victim is Air Force Staff Sergeant Jesse Childress, who was assigned to Buckley Air Force Base, died in the Denver suburb of Aurora, said Lieutenant Colonel Jack Miller, a Pentagon spokesman.
A confirmed victim is Rebecca Wingo, 32, whose distraught father Steve Hernandez wrote on his own Facebook post: ‘I lost my daughter yesterday to a mad man, my grief right now is inconsolable, I hear she died instantly, without pain, however the pain is unbearable.’
Listed as currently working at Schryver Medical as an intake specialist, Wingo’s Facebook page features two little girls, although it is not known if they are her children.
‘Everybody is hurting right now,’ said a family friend Gail Riffle. She was a gentle, sweet, beautiful soul.’
24-year-old Alex Teves of Phoenix, Arizona was the 11th named victim.
A friend, identified as Caitlin, wrote on Twitter: ‘Alex Teves was a Arizona basketball fan, loved Spider-Man, was an amazing therapist, and died a hero…He could make us all laugh with his Gollum impression. I’ll never forget that.’
The final victim to be named was 51-year-old father of four Gordon Cowden, who was described by friends as ‘a man who loved God, loved his country, loved the outdoors but most of all loved his family’.
Arsenal: The gas mask and assault rifle left at the cinema by James Holmes after the shootings
The death of Jessica Ghawi, the first confirmed victim, who was also known as Jessica Redfield, was a ‘complete and utter shock,’ said her brother, Jordan Ghawi.
He said on his website that a man who was with his sister at the theater described the chaos, saying he and Jessica dropped to take cover when the gunman first started shooting.
She was was shot in the leg, her brother wrote, describing details relayed to him by a man identified on the blog as a mutual friend named Brent Lowek.
Jessica began screaming when she was shot, and Lowek tried to calm her and stop the bleeding, according to Jordan.
Lowek was then shot, but he continued attending to Jessica’s wound before he realised she had stopped screaming.
Jordan Ghawi said that Lowek escaped the theater after being shot twice, but he was expected to survive.
He praised Lowek, saying his ‘actions are nothing but heroic.’
Someone who has grown up in Aurora leaves a note expressing their sorrow for the victims of the massacre
Jessica, 24, moved to Denver from Texas about a year ago and friends and colleagues described her as outgoing, smart and witty.
‘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 mall shooting in Toronto that killed two people and sent several others to the hospital.
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,”‘ Anuskewicz said.
Jessica Ghawi wrote of the Toronto shooting: ‘I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday.
‘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.’
Anuskewicz said Jessica Ghawi had been in Toronto visiting a boyfriend and ‘it obviously was a very scary situation.’
‘And to be just so close to it,’ she added. ‘It’s just impossible to imagine that not even a month and a half later this would happen, and she would be involved. It’s just awful.’
Yet, Burns said, Jessica 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.
Burns said he was close to her family. He moved to Denver from Texas a few years ago and talked with Jessica Ghawi about establishing a sports radio career there, he said.
Former colleague Mike Taylor, a sports host at KTKR-AM in San Antonio described how she reluctantly changed her name for her career, taking the name ‘Redfield’ as a play on her red hair because it was easier to say than her given name.
Jessica Ghawi was a prolific social media user under the new name. Her last tweet stated in all capital letters, ‘movie doesn’t start for 20 minutes.’
Over 24 hours after the shootings, it remained unclear what drove the suspect, identified as 24-year-old James Holmes, to fire round after round at the unsuspecting audience watching The Dark Knight Returns.
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said Holmes used a military-style semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun and a pistol that he had bought at local gun stores within the last two months. He also recently purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the Internet, the chief said.
Sad: Two girls attending the vigil outside the theatre which was the site of the tragic murders
The suspect’s stellar academic record, apparent shy demeanor and lack of a criminal background made the attack even more difficult to fathom.
It also wasn’t known why the suspect chose a movie theater to stage the assault, or whether he intended some twisted, intended symbolic link to the film itself.
The shooting was the worst in the U.S. since the Nov. 5, 2009, attack at Fort Hood, Texas. An Army psychiatrist was charged with killing 13 soldiers and civilians and wounding more than two dozen others.
It was the deadliest in Colorado since the 1999 attack at Columbine High School, where two students killed 12 classmates and a teacher and wounded 26 others before killing themselves.
Holmes had enrolled last year in a neuroscience Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado-Denver, though he left the program last month for unknown reasons.
In academic achievement, ‘he was at the top of the top,’ recalled Timothy P. White, chancellor at the University of California, Riverside, where Holmes earned his undergraduate degree before attending the Denver school.
Those who knew Holmes described him as a shy, intelligent person raised in California by parents who were active in their well-to-do suburban neighborhood in San Diego. Holmes played soccer at Westview High School and ran cross-country before going to college.
Police released a statement from his family Friday that said, ‘Our hearts go out to those who were involved in this tragedy and to the families and friends of those involved.’