In one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, 12 people were fatally shot, with another 58 injured, after a masked gunman opened fire at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises early Friday. The shooter, identified as 24-year-old James Holmes, went on a rampage in Aurora, Colo., just 20 miles from Columbine High School, where another notorious shooting occurred in 1999.
Ten victims in Friday’s massacre were killed in the theater, and another two were later pronounced dead from injuries. All victims’ names have been released, and their friends and families have shared memories and reflections.
Jonathan Blunk, 26
Blunk, a Navy veteran, was also a certified firefighter and an emergency medical technician. He served three tours in the Middle East between 2004 and 2009 and hoped to one day become a Navy SEAL. He attended Friday’s movie with his friend, Jansen Young, who told TODAY that he took a bullet for her and saved her life. Another friend, James Gill, told the Associated Press that if Blunk were “going to choose a way to die, that’s how he wanted to go — defending someone from a (person) like that.” Blunk leaves behind his estranged wife and two young children.
Alexander Boik, 18
Known as AJ, Boik graduated this year from Gateway High School in Aurora. He had plans to study art and design in college and eventually become an art teacher. Boik’s friend, Jordan Crofter, described him as “a ball of joy” who “wanted everybody to be happy.” He attended the movie with his girlfriend, who survived the attack but hasn’t been identified. “If he were still here, he’d try to make everyone have a positive outlook of the situation,” Crofter told the Associated Press, “and not allow it to affect their outlook of life.”
Jesse Childress, 29
An Air Force cyber-systems operator, Childress was based at Colorado‘s Buckley Air Force Base. He suffered from gunshot wounds at the theater and died at the hospital Friday. Air Force Capt. Andrew Williams described the Air Force reservist as “knowledgeable, experienced and respectful.” A co-worker, Ashley Wassinger, said Childress “was a great person fun to be with, always positive and laughing.”
Gordon Cowden, 51
Cowden, who attended the film screening with his two teenage children, was the oldest of the 12 victims killed in the shooting. “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 told the Associated Press. Though he lived in Aurora, his family described him as “a true Texas gentleman.”
Jessica Ghawi, 24
A young sports broadcaster and blogger, Ghawi had narrowly escaped a mass shooting at a Toronto mall just last month. In a blog entry about that incident, she’d written, “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.” She was an avid social media user, and had posted enthusiastic tweets about The Dark Knight Rises just minutes before the shooting. Colleagues and friends described Ghawi, who also went by the surname Redfield, as ambitious, hardworking and witty.
John Larimer, 27
Petty Officer Third Class John Larimer served as a cryptologic technician in the Navy after enlisting just over a year ago. The youngest of five siblings, Larimer grew up in suburban Chicago, where neighbors fondly recalled his sense of humor. He attended the movie with another sailor, who was injured but survived. “A valued member of our Navy team, he will be missed by all who knew him,” said Cmdr. Jeffrey Jakuboski, his commanding officer, in a statement.
Matt McQuinn, 27
McQuinn died attempting to shield his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, from the gunfire. She was shot in the knee but is recovering, her family attorney said. Also present at the theater was Yowler’s brother, Nick, who also attempted to shield her from the bullets, but was not injured. Both families thanked everyone for their love and prayers, but have declined talking to the media.
(MORE: Who Is Suspect James Holmes?)
Micayla Medek, 23
Medek lived in the Denver suburb of Westminster and had attended Aurora Community College. Family members said the news of her death was “heartbreaking.” Her aunt, Jenny Zakovich, said she was a huge Green Bay Packers fan. Medek graduated from William C. Hinkley High School in Aurora.
Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6
The youngest of the victims, Moser-Sullivan sat beside her mother, Ashley, who remains in critical condition with gunshot wounds to the neck and abdomen. Drifting in and out of consciousness, she has yet to learn the news about her daughter’s death, the Associated Press reports. The 6-year-old had just learned to swim and was a “great little girl, excited about life,” said her great aunt, Annie Dalton.
Alex Sullivan, 27
Sullivan attended the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises to celebrate his 27th birthday. “Alex was a gentle giant, known and loved by so many,” his family said in a statement. “He always had a glowing smile on his face and he made friends with everyone.” Sullivan was also gearing up to celebrate his first wedding anniversary. Shelly Fradkin, whose son was Sullivan’s close friend, said they spent an “excruciating day” trying to track him down before learning of his death. “Our hearts are broken, and we’re crushed,” she said.
Alexander Teves, 24
A native of Phoenix, Teves earned a master’s in counseling psychology in June from the University of Denver. His grandfather, Carlo Iacovelli, described him as a lovable guy who had many friends. He said Teves had plans to become a psychiatrist in the future. Iacovelli also described him as the “ideal grandson” who was “a fun guy” and “had a lot to look forward to.”
Rebecca Ann Wingo, 32
Originally from Texas, Wingo, a mother of two daughters, resided in Aurora. She attended Aurora Community College and worked at Joe’s Crab Shack, the Denver Post reported. “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,” wrote her father, Steve Hernandez, in a Facebook post. Wingo’s friend, Gail Riffle, described her as “a gentle, sweet, beautiful soul.”