6-year-old girl, sailor, aspiring broadcaster among Colorado shooting victims
By Martin Wolk, NBC News
Updated July 23, 10:45 a.m. EDT: An aspiring sportscaster. A 6-year-old girl. A man celebrating his 27th birthday. College students who moved to Colorado to blaze paths for their futures.
The names and lives of the victims killed in a horrific mass shooting at a Denver-area movie theater emerged Saturday as families and friends learned the fates of their loved ones.
The Arapahoe County coroner released the identities of the dozen victims who were killed in the attack at a midnight premiere of “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises” early Friday in Aurora, Colo.
“The cause of death in all cases is related to gunshot wounds,” said the coroner, Dr. Michael Doberson. The manner of death is homicide.”
Officials said 58 other people were injured in the rampage. On Saturday night, 26 remained hospitalized, nine in critical condition.
James Eagan Holmes, 24, a graduate student at the University of Colorado-Denver, was arrested outside the theater, clad in black body armor and armed with three weapons.
Survivors of the midnight screening shootings were allowed to return to the theater Saturday to retrieve their automobiles, which were left behind during the evacuation and subsequent investigation. Some of them left flowers and flags as tributes to the dead.
The youngest victim to die in the shooting rampage was Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6, her great-aunt, Annie Dalton, told NBC News.
Veronica’s mother, Ashley Moser, 25, was shot in the throat and the abdomen. She remained paralyzed in critical condition and hadn’t been told of her daughter’s death, Dalton said.
“This is just a nightmare right now,” Dalton said. “It’s a nightmare. “Everything’s surreal. It’s just surreal.”
Residents of Aurora gathered late Sunday and vowed to remember the victims. President Barack Obama visited with survivors and family members of victims.
Here are profiles of others confirmed dead:
Jessica Ghawi, 24 A hockey blogger and aspiring sportscaster, Ghawi had recently moved to Denver from San Antonio to pursue her dream and was working as an intern at a Denver sports radio station.
“One of the things that she had been working on with all the fires in Colorado was she had asked everybody to donate sports equipment for people because she knows how sports brings such joy,” her friend Mike Lavender told MSNBC-TV.
Ghawi had escaped a shooting at a mall in Toronto in June, writing in her blog that an “odd feeling” compelled her to leave the shopping center minutes before a shooting that left two people dead.
Before the movie she had exchanged excited tweets with her friends about the midnight showing from her Twitter handle, @JessicaRedfield.
“Of course we’re seeing Dark Knight. Redheaded Texan spitfire, people should never argue with me. Maybe I should get in on those NHL talks…”
Alex Sullivan, 27 Sullivan had planned to celebrate his 27th birthday Friday, beginning with the midnight showing of the new Batman movie.
“Oh man one hour till the movie and its going to be the best BIRTHDAY ever,” he tweeted before heading to the theater where a black-clad gunman wearing body armor opened fire, killing 12 people and injuring 58.
That was the last his friends and family heard from him.
Heartbreaking photos showed his father, Tom Sullivan, in the nearby Gateway High School parking lot, waving a picture of his son and yelling, “Find my son!”
Late Friday, the family got confirmation of his death.
Jonathan Blunk, 26 Blunk always wanted to be a hero, according to his friends and family.
“He always talked about if he were going to die, he wanted to die a hero,” his estranged wife, Chantel Blunk, told NBC News from Reno, Nev.
Blunk attended the movie with a friend, Jansen Young, who credited him with saving her life.
When the shooting broke out, Young said Blunk, a military veteran, threw her to the ground and told her to stay down.
“Jon just took a bullet for me,” Young told TODAY.
Chantel Blunk said her husband graduated from Reno’s Procter Hug High School in 2004 and enlisted in the Navy, serving out of San Diego aboard the USS Nimitz. The couple, who met in high school, married in 2007.
He left the service in 2009 and after separating from his wife moved to Colorado, where he worked for a hardware store. After a franctic day of trying to get information about her husband’s fate, Chantel said FBI agents arrived at her home Friday evening and confirmed her worst fears.
In addition to his wife, Blunk leaves behind two young children, a girl, 4, and a boy, 2.
Chantel said she plans to bring the body home to Reno, where he will be buried with military honors. She has set up an account through Wells Fargo to raise money for the funeral and transportation costs.
John Larimer, 27 Petty Officer Third Class John Larimer, of Crystal Lake, Ill., attended the opening with another sailor, who was injured in the attack
“I am incredibly saddened by the loss of Petty Officer John Larimer — he was an outstanding shipmate, “said Cmdr. Jeffrey Jakuboski, Larimer’s commanding officer. “A valued member of our Navy team, he will be missed by all who knew him. My heart goes out to John’s family, friends and loved ones, as well as to all victims of this horrible tragedy.”
Larimer, a cryptologic technician, joined the Navy in June 2011 and had been stationed at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora since October.
His family said they were making arrangments to bring the remains back to Illinois.
“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,” the family said in a statement. “We love you John and we will miss you always.”
Matt McQuinn, 27 McQuinn, originally from Springfield, Ohio, went to the premiere with his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, who was injured in the attack, according to family members.
McQuinn was a graduate of Butler-Vandalia High School in Ohio. He and Yowler, from St. Paris, Ohio, moved in November to Colorado, where Yowler’s brother, Nick, lives.
All three were in the theater when the shooting erupted.
McQuinn and Nick Yowler dove on top of Samantha Yowler to shield her from bullets, family attorney Rob Scott told NBC station WLWT of Cincinnati.
Yowler was shot in the knee and is recovering after surgery, Scott said. Nick Yowler was not hurt, he said.
Micayla Medek, 23 Medek was 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 agonizing day of waiting for news.
“I hope this evil act … doesn’t shake people’s faith in God,” she said.
Medek worked at Subway and had taken classes at Community College of Aurora, the Denver Post reported. She was a graduate of William C. Hinkley High School in Aurora.
Jesse Childress, 29 Former soldier and Air Force Reservist Jesse Childress was the kind of guy who would do anything for anybody.
“My brother’s wheelchair broke,” said one long-time neighbor in Lake Los Angeles, Calif., where Childress grew up. “He (Jesse) fixed it and didn’t charge him a dime.”
Childress, a staff sergeant on active duty at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, where he served as a cyber-system operator, was at the midnight showing with fellow reservist Munirih Gravelly when James Holmes allegedly set off a can of tear gas before opening fire in the jam-packed theater. “As soon as that little gas can exploded, I said, ‘This is wrong,’” Gravelly told NBC LA. She dove to the floor and was wounded by buckshot but kept her face down.
“I feel really sorry that he’s gone,” she said. “None of us noticed until the lights, until it was over, that he was gone. None of us were there to hold his hand, look him in the eye while he passed. … I lost a friend.”
“He was a fun-loving individual,” his colleague Sgt. Alejandro Sanchez told the Associated Press. “If you needed help, no matter the time of day he would stay late. He would come in early to help out the unit in any way he can, even if it meant long hours.”
Alexander Jonathan Boik, 18 Boik, known as AJ, graduated earlier this year from Gateway High School in Aurora, his family said in a statement. He was accepted to Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design and planned to be an art teacher and open his own studio.
He attended the movie with his girlfriend, who survived the attack, the family said. She was not identified.
A friend, Jordan Crofter, described Boik as someone who “didn’t hold anything back. He was just his own person.”
“He was a ball of joy. He was never sad or depressed. He wanted everybody to be happy,” Crofter told The Associated Press.
Alex Teves, 24 Teves was a 2006 graduate of Desert Vista High School in the Tempe (Ariz.) Unified School District, NBC station KPNX of Phoenix reported.
University of Denver released a statement saying Teves graduated from the Morgridge College of Education recently, and identified his home town as Phoenix.
Rebecca Ann Wingo, 32 An Aurora resident originally from Quinlan, Texas, Wingo was a mother of two daughters, her friends said in social media postings. She was a waitress at Joe’s Crab Shack and was a student at the Community College of Aurora, the Denver Post reported.
“I lost my daughter yesterday to a mad man,” Steve Hernandez wrote on his daughter’s Facebook page, the Post reported. “My grief right now is inconsolable. I hear she died instantly, without pain, however the pain is unbearable.”
Gordon W. Cowden, 51 Cowden was the oldest victim identified by the Arapahoe County coroner’s office.
Cowden grew up in Austin, Texas, and is the father of four children, his friend Jane Gibson told NBC News. “I had texted him yesterday to see how he was (after hearing of the shooting), I never heard back from him.” His parents and siblings live in Texas, she said.
“A quick witted world traveler with a keen sense of humor, he will be remembered for his devotion to his children and for always trying his best to do the right thing, no matter the obstacle,” his family said.
NBC News’ Miranda Leitsinger, Alex Johnson, Jim Gold, Elizabeth Chuck, Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube, MSNBC’s Dax Tejera, Beverly White and John Simerson of NBC Los Angeles and The Associated Press contributed to this report.