Colorado carnage: In real life, superheroes rise
AURORA, Colorado—Movie screen superheroes never die. But there were superheroes present in a darkened movie theater at Aurora mall, and some of them did die, like Matthew Robert McQuinn, who threw his body 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 theater early Friday. Like many of the other victims, he was young enough to have limitless possibilities ahead of him.
He and Yowler went to see the midnight premiere of the latest installment in the Batman series with her brother, Nick Yowler. He, too, leapt to protect his sister. He pulled her from the theater to safety, escaping uninjured.
Samantha was shot in the knee but is recovering in the hospital, said a lawyer for the families.
Jonathan Blunk, 26, a military veteran, died when he saved his girlfriend, Jansen Young.
Craved a hero’s death
Blunk served in the US Navy aboard the Nimitz and had always wanted to die a hero, his wife, Chantel Blunk, from whom he was separated, told NBC News.
Young, whose life Blunk saved, said that was 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 here installing flooring, his father, Randall Blunk, said on Saturday. He had a 4-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son.
Too young to know
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 in the ferocious uncertainty of life, 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.
“She was just a radiant, happy little girl,” her 15-year-old cousin, Katherine Young, said. “She was just so happy. She could brighten anyone’s day.”
Veronica’s mother, Ashley Moser, was also seriously injured. She was shot twice in the abdomen and once in the neck and remained in the hospital, Katherine said.
Death on his birthday
Just after midnight, the gunman, armed with a small arsenal of weapons, opened fire in the theater, leaving an additional 58 people injured.
The Aurora theater, much like movie palaces everywhere, is a deeply American place where the bonds of popcorn and a refuge from daily cares unite people from all backgrounds.
Alex Sullivan was a huge comic book fan who was at the premiere to celebrate his 27th birthday. “Oh man, one hour till the movie and it’s going to be the best BIRTHDAY ever,” he wrote on Twitter shortly before he died.
The first victim to be identified, Jessica Ghawi, 24, had narrowly escaped a mass shooting at Eaton Center mall in Toronto. An aspiring sports broadcaster, she had written that the experience had convinced her that each moment was precious.
Soldiers shot, too
In this city of 325,000, where the military has had a strong presence for almost a century, the Batman sequel—“The Dark Knight Rises”—also drew in men schooled in combat but hoping, for a few hours, to forget about the business of war.
Petty Officer 3rd Class John Larimer, 27, a Navy cryptologic technician stationed in Aurora since October last year, died of injuries he suffered in the shooting.
“We’re still in shock,” Larimer’s father, Scott, said. “Unfortunately, in the military you expect him to be in harm’s way, but not in a theater.”
‘Gone but not forgotten’
Another victim was S/Sgt. Jesse Childress, 29, who was an Air Force reservist on active duty with the 310th Forces Support Squadron at Buckley Air Force Base, according to Air Force officials.
Rebecca Wingo, 32, was a single mother with two daughters, a “lovely young woman” who took classes at Aurora Community College, her friend Gail Riffle said.
Micayla Medek, 23, worked at a Subway sandwich shop and was trying to figure out what to do with her life, said her aunt, Jennifer Zakovich.
Those who did not know the victims or their families mourned them as well. Candles appeared across the street from the mall. A sign read: “7/20—Gone Not Forgotten.”
And the victims’ families, now bonded in their loss, recalled them with a mixture of love and the numbness of disbelief.
Police said the suspect, James Holmes, planned the attack with “calculation and deliberation,” receiving deliveries for months which authorities believe armed him for battle and were used to rig his apartment with dozens of bombs.
Authorities removed dangerous explosive materials from inside Holmes’ suburban Denver apartment a day after the shooting.
His apartment was rigged with jars of liquids, explosives and chemicals that were booby trapped to kill “whoever entered it,” Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said.
All hazards have been removed from the Holmes’ apartment and residents in surrounding buildings can return home, police said.
The exception was Holmes’ apartment building, where a man in an ATF T-shirt could be seen measuring a poster on a closet that advertised a DVD called “Soldiers of Misfortune.” The poster showed several figures in various positions playing paintball, some wearing masks.
Authorities wouldn’t discuss a motive for one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent US history.
Scraps of information about the life of the suspected killer continued to emerge. On an adult-themed dating site created earlier this month, a person representing himself as Holmes sought a “casual sex gal” who would “visit (him) in prison.”
A resumé that Holmes apparently penned portrayed him as an “aspiring scientist” who had “provided guidance to underprivileged children” at a California summer camp.
And a peek inside his bomb-rigged apartment seems to contradict suspicions that Holmes was a comic book fanatic, a theory fueled by assertions that he told police that he was “The Joker” upon his arrest.
But the biggest question about the Friday morning attack—why a young man would turn an arsenal on a room full of strangers, killing 12 and wounding dozens—remains unanswered.
Police said the FBI’s behavioral analysis unit was “fully plugged in” to the investigation, but determining Holmes’ motive could take weeks or months. AP