July 20, 2012: The Aurora Movie Theater Mass Shooting



WHAT HAPPENED? (1)


I hate this story so much. Honestly, I hate most of these stories but am fascinated by parts of them. But this one, I just hate.


On July 20, 2012, 8 years ago today, James Holmes got dressed in tactical clothing and entered the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado and began shooting into the audience. He killed 12 people and injured 70 others.


The shooting prompted increased security at movie theaters, as people feared that copycat killers would be entering movie theaters with the intent to kill. Additionally, as gun control debates sparked in the U.S., gun sales spiked as people worried that the deaths of 12 innocent people would result in their inability to buy a gun.


Holmes argued he was not guilty by reason of insanity. The trial began on April 27, 2015, and was found guilty on 24 counts of first-degree murder, and 140 counts of attempted murder. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

THE SHOOTING (1,2)


On July 20, 2012, James Holmes bought a ticket to The Dark Knight Rises midnight showing in Theater 9 of the Century 16 multiplex. He sat in the front row, but left the theater through an emergency exit about 20 minutes into the movie. He propped the door open and went outside.


He went to his car and changed into protective, tactical clothing, and retrieved all of his guns. At about 12:30 AM, he re-entered the theater, dressed in all black in a gas mask, a load-bearing vest, a ballistic helmet, bullet-resistant pants and throat protector, and tactical gloves. He played techno music through headphones as to not hear the reactions of the audience when he began his carnage.


When people saw him, some were a bit worried but most believed he was wearing some sort of costume or playing a prank, or was a part of the special effects installation or a publicity stunt. But the indifference, or confusion, turned to panic when he threw 2 canisters of tear gas down, causing the audience's vision to be obscured. Then, he shot at the ceiling and then into the audience.


Survivors recall the terror. People running, ducking, or being shot in their seats before they even had a chance to remove. Children screaming "I don't want to die!" They remember the carnage happening around them. Everyone of the 400+ people in the theater has a story. Either they tried to run, or they hid, or they watched as their boyfriend or friend or child died.


People laid on top of others or created human shields to protect those they loved. They watches as bullets ripped through seats and flesh, heard as children cried and adults screamed. Heroes were born and loved ones were lost as a psychotic, monstrous human being listened to music over top of the screams and cries, shooting aimlessly into a crowd of unsuspecting, innocent movie goers.


A girlfriend was pushed under the seat as her Navyman boyfriend took several bullets protecting her. She laid under the seats as a river of her love's blood poured over her. An EMT who was at the movies began making a makeshift triage station for the injured, after he himself had been shot. Another girlfriend tried to shake her boyfriend and wake him up after he had been shot 9 times, and laid next to his dead body, unable to move from her physical, and emotional, injuries.


A wife, 9-months pregnant, had to leave her shot husband behind to protect their baby. He survived, but after being shot in the head, is learning to walk and talk again. He missed the birth of their son because he was in brain surgery.


A girl's leg was hanging on by a thread while her friend slapped her in the face to keep her conscious. Her other friend held her organs in with his one good arm, his other arm shot.


Police officers said they had never seen anything like it. Even those who survived, their lives are not what they once were. They lost a loved one, or were injured themselves, unable to walk or unable to pay their mountain of medical bills. Even if they made it out mostly unscathed, they watched a traumatic carnage happen in front of them. They heard children scream and cry, watched people die, saw lives shatter in front of them.


The police received a 911 call at 12:39 AM and arrived within 90 seconds. The massacre had been reported via Twitter and text messages, additionally, as people were too scared to make a call and make their presence known. Ambulances were delayed because of the traffic within the parking lot, and victims were sent to hospitals in squad cars.


Holmes was apprehended next to his car without resistance. He was originally mistaken for another officer due to his clothing, but was quickly identified as the shooter and arrested. He admitted he had booby trapped his apartment with explosives before heading to the theater, and nearby buildings were evacuated. The police were able to disarm the explosive device safely.

THE VICTIMS (2,3)


AJ Boik, 18, was shot in the head. His girlfriend tried to drag her beloved boyfriend out of the theater, but had to leave him behind, promising him that he would be okay. He had just graduated from high school where he played baseball. He had planned on attending Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in the fall, and hoped to become an art teacher and open his own studio.


Jonathan Blunk, 26, was the Navyman, who had done 3 tours of duty in the Middle East, and died in an American movie theater. He died protecting his girlfriend who he pushed under the seats as he took various bullets to save her. He was a father of 2 and had high hopes for the future, planning to become a Navy SEAL.


Jesse Childress was a 29-year-old Staff Sergeant at an Air Force base. He spent every day playing recreational sports, and loved comics and superhero movies. He had just purchased a new care and named it the "Batmobile".


Gordon Cowden, 51, was a father of 4. He had taken his 17 and 16 year old daughters to the new Batman film, all so excited to be there. After he was shot, he yelled out to his girls, "I love you! I love you, both!" He was remembered as a gentleman who loved the outdoors and owned his own business. His girls escaped unharmed.


Jessica Ghawi, 24, was an aspiring sports reporter and had gone to the movies with her best friend, Brent. She was hit in the leg. Brent, an EMT, began to apply pressure on her wound when another bullet ripped through the seat and blew off part of Jessica's face in front of him. He prayed over her, and then called Jessica's parents so they wouldn't have to wonder for hours if she made it or not. He was shot, and was the EMT who set up a triage station. Her mom remembers Jessica as a woman with a huge heart who cared deeply about others.


John Larimer, 27, another Navyman, pulled his girlfriend and his other Navy buddy behind the seats. He laid on top of his girlfriend. Eventually, she tried to wriggle out from under her boyfriend, her savior. She and his buddy tried to move him, refusing to leave him behind. He died saving his girlfriend and his best friend. His friends remember his good character, intellect, curiosity and resourcefulness.


Matt McQuinn, 27, was the man shot the most times, 9, while protecting his girlfriend. She was shot, as well, and wound up laying next to his dead body, unable to move from her injuries. His stepfather hailed him as a hero. He was originally from Ohio, and had just moved to Colorado a few months earlier.


Micayla Medek, 23, yelled "I'm hit" before dying in the theater. Her cousin wrote the amazing article, telling the victims and survivors stories, that I got most of this story from. She had been working to save money to travel to India. She loved the color pink and Hello Kitty, and both were used to symbolize and memorialize her at her funeral.


Veronica Moser-Sullivan was only 6 years old. She went to the movie with her mom, who had just had an ultrasound earlier that day to see Veronica's new baby sibling. Her mother, and 13-year-old babysitter, tried to save the child, but she was shot 4 times. Veronica's mother lost her unborn baby, and is paralyzed from the waist down and no longer has control of bodily functions, and has to be on oxygen. Veronica was a "vibrant little girl" and had just learned how to swim for the summer.


Alex Sullivan, 27, was celebrating his birthday, so excited to see the film that he stood up and cheered when it started. He was the one who was holding in his friend's organs while he tended to his own injury, but did not make it. He had said seeing the movie would make this the bst birthday ever, and his friends and family remember him as a smart, funny and loved real life super hero.


Alex Teves, 24, pulled his girlfriend down and cradled her head in his arms, whispering that everything would be okay while the shooting happened around him. He was shot in the head, the image so gruesome that it was not allowed to be shown at the trial. His girlfriend refused to leave him, until a woman sitting next to them pulled her out of the theater to safety. She changed her last name to his after his death. His father remembers his son as a hero, knowing he would do anything to save the love of his life.


Rebecca Wingo, 31, was one who never got the chance to duck or run when she was shot where she was seated. She was a mother of 2 with a bubbly personality and was always in a good mood. She loved her children and always sat in the front row at church.


Other victims, of course, include those who were shot and had their lives forever changed from their physical, or emotional, injuries from that night.

LEGAL PROCEEDINGS AND AFTERMATH (1)


Ultimately, Holmes was found guilty of 24 counts of first degree murder and 140 counts of attempted murder. .


His sister testified at his sentencing, claiming he had become withdrawn from family in recent years. His father pleaded for his son's life, stating he was severely mentally ill. While he was not given a death sentence, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.


President Obama ordered flags to be flown at half staff, and he visited the victims families and the survivors in the hospital. Leaders from around the world sent their condolences. Warner Bros was deeply saddened by the event and moved many of the releases. The director said he was devastated, and Christian Bale, who played Batman, visited victims in the hospital, as did members of the Colorado Rockies and Denver Broncos.


Various people were arrested in the coming days for making threats, or engaging in suspicious activities, near screenings of the movie.


Gun control debates sparked again, as the shooter had 3 different guns and took the lives of 12 people in minutes with them. But as always, gun sales spiked. Overall, the Pew Research Center suggested that the massacre did not change Americans' views on the gun control debate. The father of one of the victims started a movement to encourage media outlets to limit the use of the killer's name and image, and instead, focusing on the victims.


A memorial was installed in Aurora, featuring a park-line dell with 83 birds, one for each victim. 13 of the birds have translucent wings and are featured in the center, 12 for the murdered and 1 for the unborn child who was lost.


The firsthand stories of this tragic shooting are so very horrific. Innocent people ranging from ages 6 to 51 had their lives taken from them because they wanted to go see a movie. Their love for superheros and movies were so strong, and those who survived may never look at them the same way again.


In the spirit of Alex Teves' father's initiative to not give notoriety to the shooter, I did not include a section about him, I swapped out the photo of him for a photo of the victims, and I tried to keep the sections about him short, and his name mentioned few times. He is the reason this happened, but he is not the part we should remember.


Today, it has been 8 years since one of the many horrific mass shootings in American history. The families and loved ones of the victims are still trying to move on, to live their lives without the light they brought to their worlds. The fight continues for stricter gun control laws to ensure this doesn't happen again, but has happened so many times since.


Today, I remember the victims of this senseless, avoidable tragedy, and think of their families and hope they are still putting one foot in front of the other.

REFERENCES:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Aurora,_Colorado_shooting

https://deadline.com/2015/07/aurora-shooting-three-year-later-what-happened-inside-theater-1201460855/

https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/remembering-the-12-victims-of-the-aurora-theater-shooting-7-years-later


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