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Obama: Aurora Responded With Courage

Six-year-old, sailor among 12 killed in mass shooting during screening of "The Dark Knight Rises"

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The suspect in the Colorado movie theater shooting, a graduate of Westview High School in San Diego, was dressed all in black and wore tactical battle gear. Aurora, Colo., Police Chief Dan Oates updates the public about 11 hours after the deadly rampage. (Published Sunday, Jul 22, 2012)

    President Barack Obama arrived in Aurora, Colo. Sunday to offer the nation's sympathy to the families and victims of the deadly movie theater rampage.

    "I come to them not so much as president as I do as a father and as a husband," Obama said, after meeting with family members of the victims and a number of survivors. "We can all understand what it would be to have someone taken from us in this fashion."

    During his address, Obama recounted stories told to him by the victims' families and those recovering from injuries.

    "It reminds you that even in the darkest of days, life continues and people are strong," the president said. "Out of this darkness a brighter day is going to come."

    Holmes Family, SDPD Statement

    [DGO] Family of James Holmes Releases a Statement
    San Diego police Lt. Andra Brown answers questions outside the home of James Holmes' family in Rancho Penasquitos, north of San Diego.

    Get more coverage in our special section: The "Dark Knight" Massacre

    (Published Friday, Jul 20, 2012)

    While Obama gave his televised address, a vigil was getting under way outside Aurora City Hall, which was bedecked with candles, white balloons, flowers and white crosses. Hundreds of mourners, well-wishers and townspeople sang, prayed and chanted in unison to pay tribute to those who died in the horrific shooting.

    "We are good hard-working people who believe in the goodness of our fellow man," said Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan. "We are coming together as a family would."

    The visit came a day after mourners created a makeshift memorial across the street from the Century 16 Movie Theaters where 12 moviegoers where shot dead and another 58 wounded early Friday during a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises."

    Mourners who visited the memorial Sunday left candles, flowers in popcorn boxes, balloons, stuffed animals, and a birthday card for victim Alex Sullivan, NBC News reported.

    Terry Jackson, 50, his wife, Donna, 58, and their 20-year-old son brought a bouquet of yellow and white flowers to the makeshift memorial to pay their respects. Terry told NBC News that they were “very angry” about what had happened.

    “I’d like to say that I felt peace in my life but I don’t,” he said, elaborating that he was “just angry that somebody could come in and be this evil and cause this much devastation.”

    Graduate student James Eagan Holmes allegedly went on a deadly rampage just minutes into the premiere of the latest Batman film. Holmes, 24, opened fire and set off gas canisters during the massacre, authorities said. The suspect, who told cops he was the Joker when he was arrested in the theater parking lot, had planned the attack with "calculation and deliberation," police said.

    Holmes' nearby apartment was booby trapped with bombs and chemicals. Authorities removed the explosives from the suburban Denver home on Saturday during a painstaking operation.

    For more coverage of the Colorado theater shootings visit NBCNews.com. 

    At the makeshift memorial, Gary Ford, 24, said the outpouring of support from well-wishers was helping him deal with the loss of his friend and mentor, Alex Sullivan, whom he last saw a month ago

    “Strangers who’ve never met each other ever in life are now … coming out to pay our respects and it’s helping me keep my composure for my buddy with a lot of people being here,” he told NBC News. But “not being able to see him ever again is going to be kind of hard, it’s going to be really hard.”

    Mourner Shawn Quintana, 40, told NBC News, “Our heart goes out to everybody. We grew up in the community here and it’s in our backyard. It’s just too close to home."

    Speaking on "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, said the motive for the shooting remains a mystery as authorities continue to gather evidence in the suspect's apartment.

    Hickenlooper described Holmes as "a twisted, really delusional individual" who had not been cooperating with authorities.

    "He was diabolical, demonic," Hickenlooper said.

    University of Colorado Denver, where Holmes was a student in a competitve graduate program but had recently withdrawn, said it was investigating whether Holmes used his position as a graduate student to order materials contained in the potentially deadly booby traps that police discovered in his apartment

    On Saturday night, the authorities revelated the identification of all 12 murder victims. Below are their stories.

    Jonathon Blunk was a U.S. Navy veteran who had served three tours in the Persian Gulf and North Arabian Sea between 2004 and 2009, close friend James Gill told the AP.

    "It was guts or glory for him," Gill said. "It always surprised me that he didn't serve in a situation more on the front line. He wanted to be a first responder on the front line."

    Blunk had plans to re-enlist in the Navy and wanted to become a Navy SEAL. He was also a certified firefighter and emergency medical technician.

    He died in the shooting Friday after throwing himself in front of friend Jansen Young and saving her life, she told the Today Show. He told her to stay down.

    His estranged wife, Chantel Blunk, lives with their 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son in Sparks, Nev.

    Alexander J. Boik, known as AJ, was a recent high school graduate and was to start classes at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in the fall, The Denver Post reported.

    His family said in a statement that the 18-year-old 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.

    A friend, Jordan Crofter, said Boik played baseball from when he was a child through his junior year in high school.

    He said Boik and his girlfriend were the "perfect couple" and people expected them to get married.

    Jesse Childress was an Air Force cyber-systems operator based at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo.

    Air Force Capt. Andrew Williams described the 29-year-old from Thornton, Colo., as knowledgeable, experienced and respectful.

    "We're going to miss him incredibly," he said.

    Another co-worker, Ashley Wassinger, said Childress "was a great person fun to be with, always positive and laughing." She said she was "luck to have been his friend."

    Gordon Cowden, 51, went to the midnight showing with his two teenage children. He was the oldest victim to be killed in the shooting. His children escaped the theater unharmed.

    His family described him as a "true Texas gentleman" in a statement.

    "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.

    He loved the outdoors and owned his own business.

    For more coverage of the Colorado theater shootings visit NBCNews.com. 

    Jessica Ghawi was an aspiring sportscaster who moved to Colorado from Texas about a year ago to pursue her career in journalism.

    The 24-year-old recently wrote a blog post after surviving a shooting in a Tornoto mall, saying it showed her "how fragile life was."

    Former colleagues described her as ambitious and hardworking. She went by the name "Redfield," a play on her red hair, because it was easy to say and remember, both professionally and on her social media accounts.

    She tweeted regularly, with her last post being "movie doesn't start for 20 minutes," in all capital letters.

    John Larimer a Navy sailor based at Buckley Air Force Base, where he was a cryptologic technician. The job is described on the Navy's Web site as needing someone with "exceptionally good character, above-average writing and speaking skills, a good memory, curiosity and resourcefulness."

    The 27-year-old who grew up in the Chicago suburb of Crystal Lake, joined the service just over a year ago, the Navy said.

    "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 the victims of this horrible tragedy," said Cmdr. Jeffrey Jakuboski, his commanding officer, in a written statement.

    A family member told the Daily Herald newspaper in Arlington Heights, Ill., that Larimer was the youngest of five siblings.

    "We love you, John, and we will miss you always," his parents said in a statement.

    Matt McQuinn died shielding his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, and her older brother from gunfire in the theater.

    "Unfortunately, Matt McQuinn perished from the injuries he sustained during the tragic events that unfolded in Denver, Colorado, and went home to be with his maker," Rob Scott, an Ohio attorney retained by the families of McQuinn and Yowler, said in a statement. "As both families mourn the loss of Matt, they ask for everyone to give them distance and time. Again, the families thank everyone for their love, prayers and ask that we respect their families' wishes."

    Yowler was recovering from surgery after she was shot in the knee at the theater. Her 32-year-old brother, Nick, who also shielded his sister, was not injured.

    McQuinn and Yowler moved to Colorado from Ohio last fall. A Colorado co-worker told the Springfield News-Sun that McQuinn and Samantha Yowler worked with her at Target.

    "They're really fun people. We always go out together," said Melissa Downen.

    Micayla Medek, 23, lived in a suburb of Denver and was a student at Aurora Community College.

    Her father's cousin, Anita Busch said her death was heartbreaking but also came as a relief after an agonizing day of waiting.

    "I hope this evil act ... doesn't shake people's faith in God," Busch said.

    Her aunt, Jenny Zakovich, 57, of South Milwaukee, Wis., said Medek and her father were both huge Green Bay Packers fans.

    Veronica Moser-Sullivan was the youngest of the victims killed. At age 6, she had just learned to swim and was a "great little girl, excited about life," her great-aunt Annie Dalton said. "She should be at 6 years old."

    Her mother, Ashley Moser, remains hospitalized in critical condition with gunshot wounds to her neck and abdomen. She has been in and out of consciousness at the and was asking for her daughter during moments of lucidity.

    On Saturday, Moser’s mother, a chaplain and a doctor sat by her side and told her the devastating news, according to NBC News. Moser’s aunt, Annie Dalton said her niece was devastated when she heard the news. 

    Dalton said that despite her niece's extensive injuries, Moser's health appears to be improving. She is awake and talking now, Dalton said on Sunday.

    Alex Sullivan was celebrating his 27th birthday and first wedding anniversary at "The Dark Knight Rises" premiere.

    "Alex was a gentle giant, known and loved by so many. He always had a glowing smile on his face and he made friends with everyone. Alex enjoyed all sorts of movies, was an avid comic book geek and loved the New York Mets," the family said in a statement.

    Sullivan had a warm smile and an innocence that endeared him to people, said Shelly Fradkin, whose son Brian was good friends with Sullivan.

    She sat next to a makeshift memorial Friday near the theater where an oversized birthday card with a photo of a smiling Sullivan was displayed.

    "He's amazing. He was just a big teddy bear. Great hugs," she said.

    Alexander C. Teves, 24, of Phoenix, earned a master's degree in counseling psychology in June from University of Denver.

    He was a lovable person who made friends quickly and had a lot of them, said his grandfather, Carlo Iacovelli of Barnegat, N.J.

    As a boy, Teves moved from New Jersey to Phoenix with his parents. Iacovelli and his wife spent their winters there and spent a lot of time with him.

    "He was what you might call an ideal grandson," Iacovelli said. "He was a fun guy. He loved to eat."

    Teves was planning to become a psychiatrist, his grandfather said.

    "He had a lot to look forward to," Iacovelli said.

    Rebecca Ann Wingo, 32, had started a job several months ago as a customer relations representative at a mobile medical imaging company.

    Shannon Dominguez, who worked with Wingo on weekends, said she was friendly with everyone and always seemed to be in a good mood.

    "I didn't really know her well but she had a really bubbly personality," Dominguez said. "She was a pretty happy person. She just never really seemed ... like with work, she never got irritated. She was pretty happy to be here."