Aurora’s victims: Learning who we lost

posted at 1:21 pm on July 23, 2012 by Mary Katharine Ham

Jonathan T. Blunk
Jonathan T. Blunk

Blunk, 26, was a father of two and Navy veteran who had three Middle East tours under his belt. He’s one of four men who died Friday shielding their girlfriends from the shooter’s bullets. His girlfriend Jansen Young survived with only shrapnel wounds. Jansen’s mother describes him:

“He was loving, the kind of guy you want your daughter to be with, and ultimately, she’s alive because of this, because he protected her,” Shellie Young said.

She said Blunk, a security guard, had served in the Navy and had recently filled out papers to reenlist with a goal of becoming a Navy SEAL. “To her, he was a hero anyway because he wanted to serve his country,” she said of her daughter, who was left with shrapnel wounds to her side. “He said that all the time: ‘I was born to serve my country.’”

Alexander J. Boik
Alexander J. Boik

Boik, 18, was planning to attend art and design school in the fall, and dreamed of becoming an art teacher. He went to “The Dark Knight” premiere with his girlfriend, who survived:

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 said.

The 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.

Crofter said Boik and his girlfriend made a “perfect couple,” and people expected them to get married.

“If he were still here, he’d try to make everyone have a positive outlook of the situation and not allow it to affect their outlook of life,” Crofter said.

A.J.’s high-school friends have set up a Facebook page to memorialize him.

Staff Sgt. Jesse Childress
Jesse Childress

Childress, 29, also lost his life protecting a friend and fellow Air Force servicemember:

When the alleged shooter, James Holmes, opened fire, Childress threw himself in front of a friend, Munirih Gravelly, an act she said saved her life.

“I feel really sorry … that he’s gone,” she told NBC4, fighting tears, “that none of us were able to at least hold his hand and look him in the eye while he passed.

“I lost a friend.”

Childress was a big comic-book fan and spent his Sundays cheering for the Broncos. His Air Force colleagues gathered to honor him this weekend:

“He was a huge part of our unit, and this is a terrible loss. The person that did this was an incredible coward,” Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Schwald said Saturday at the memorial site. She declined to give her first name.

Gordon Cowden
Gordon Cowden

Cowden, 51, was the oldest victim of the shooting. He attended the movie with his two teenage children, both of whom escaped unscathed. His family described him:

“Loving father, outdoorsman and small business owner, Cowden was a true Texas gentleman that loved life and his family. 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.”

Cowden was the son of a noted Texas politician.

Jessica Ghawi (Redfield)
Jessica Redfield

Ghawi’s story— pen name Jessica Redfield— was one of the first to come out of Aurora, and remains hard to believe.

The aspiring sportscaster, 24, had been tweeting her excitement about the premiere right before the shooting. In what seems like a impossibly horrible twist of fate, Redfield was also present at the Toronto Eaton Center food court shooting in June, which injured five and killed one. Right before that shooting, Ghawi’s intuition led to a narrow escape from harm. From her own essay on the incident:

I can’t get this odd feeling out of my chest. This empty, almost sickening feeling won’t go away. I noticed this feeling when I was in the Eaton Center in Toronto just seconds before someone opened fire in the food court. An odd feeling which led me to go outside and unknowingly out of harm‘s way. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around how a weird feeling saved me from being in the middle of a deadly shooting…

I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. 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. For one man, it was in the middle of a busy food court on a Saturday evening.

Ghawi’s boyfriend, a hockey player she met working on a story, had been video chatting with her before the movie.

“I was kinda falling asleep, and she told me to sleep well, and that was five minutes before it all happened. And so that was the last thing she ever said.”

Petty Officer John Larimer
John Larimer

Larimer, 27, was one of two servicemembers killed in Friday’s shooting. The youngest of five, the Illinois native served as a cryptological technician in the Navy, and was stationed in Aurora.

He, too, took a bullet for his girlfriend, Julia Vojtsek.

“He held my head tight and put his body in front of mine,” Vojtsek, 20, of Algonquin, told WFLD-Channel 32. “He’s just a hero.”

Matt McQuinn
Matt McQuinn

McQuinn, 27 of Ohio, died shielding his girlfriend Samantha Yowler from harm. The two met working at a Target store in their home state, but had transferred together to a Denver-area store. Yowler survived a gunshot wound to the knee. A friend said of McQuinn:

“He was a great outgoing person,” a co-worker at the Colorado Target told The News. “We lost a great person and we still can’t picture or realize that he’s gone.”

Micayla Medek
Micayla Medek

Medek, 23, was working at Subway, saving money for a trip to India, her parents said. They described her as the youngest of three, but independent and responsible.

“I’m just a guy trying to make it, to trust in his Lord as best as he can,” [father Greg] Medek said. “I lost a precious soul.”

She went by Cayla, and described herself this way on Facebook: “I’m a simple independent girl who’s just trying to get her life together while still having fun.

Veronica Moser
Veronica Moser

Moser, 6, went to the movie theater Friday with her mom, Ashley. In one of the most heart-wrenching tales from the night, Ashley was shot twice and in critical condition for several days before learning of her daughter’s death. Ashley is pregnant with another child, who survived the attack despite a wound to Ashley’s abdomen:

Battling for her own life and the life of her unborn child, Moser’s family did not tell her about Veronica’s death until late Saturday. A solemn delegation — her own mother, a doctor and a chaplain — broke the unforgiving news. Bubbly, blond, blue-eyed, ice cream-loving Veronica was one of the 12 massacred innocents.

Veronica had just learned to swim:

Veronica loved school and dressing up, and was bragging to her family about the swimming lessons she just started. “She was a wonderful 6-year-old girl — proud that she learned how to swim this summer,” Dalton told Bloomberg News.

“She loved to go to school, loved her grandpa who just passed away recently — that was hard for her.”

Alex Sullivan
Alex Sullivan

Alex Sullivan went to “The Dark Knight” with his Red Robin co-workers to celebrate his 27th birthday. Sunday would have been his one-year wedding anniversary. He’d recently posted on his Facebook page about his bride, “Just took the wife to DIA going to be gone for 3 and a half weeks going to miss her a lot. I love you cassie.”

He a big man and a big movie buff, friends said:

“We just clicked,” [high-school friend Bryan] Beard said. ”We’re both big guys, and big guys stick together.”

Beard said Sullivan stood 6 feet 4 inches and weighed about 280 pounds.

He played football and wrestled before graduating from high school in 2003 and later going to culinary school, Beard said.

Maneka Singh, another high school friend, said Sullivan was ”always smiling and the type of guy who had too many friends and loved them all.”

You’ve probably seen Alex’s father, Tom Sullivan, in this gut-wrenching photo, which has already come to embody the tragedy.

Alex Teves
Alex Teves

Alex Teves died protecting his girlfriend, Amanda Lindgren. Those who knew him aren’t surprised he left this world like a hero.

“He pushed her to the floor to save her and he ended up getting a bullet,” said his aunt, Barbara Slivinske, 57. “He was gonna hit the floor himself, but he never made it.”

Teves was from Phoenix, but graduated from University of Denver. His aunt described him:

“He always put everybody else ahead of himself and that was typical of his behavior yesterday. He was a hero,” Slivinske said. “He was a wonderful nephew. He was a wonderful person. Loving, caring, intelligent, and had a good sense of humor. Everybody loved him who met him.”

Teves had “beautiful, thick hair” that he kept short, but once grew it long in order to donate it to Locks of Love.

Here he is sinking a 3-pointer at halftime of a college basketball game:

Rebecca Ann Wingo
Rebecca Ann Wingo

Wingo, a 32-year-old mother of two girls, had just started a new job in customer service for a medical company months before she attended “The Dark Knight” premiere with a friend Friday. She was from Texas, and her friends described her personality as bubbly, saying she was always cracking jokes. Wingo was also an Air Force veteran, fluent in Mandarin, who had served as a translator. Her last Facebook post was about her daughters: “My little baby started kindergarten today. She is so excited to be in the big girl school with her sister. Oh how the time flies.”

So many, so young, so much lost potential. God bless them and their families and friends.

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Great tribute Mary.

FireBlogger on July 23, 2012 at 1:26 PM

Wow. thank you MKH. My heart breaks for these individuals and their families.

My friend is a physician who just recently moved to the area and is stationed at Buckley AFB. He is assisting the wounded and we should keep them in our prayers.

ted c on July 23, 2012 at 1:26 PM

It just shatters the heart to pieces to look at these people.

And then I see that murdering red-headed freak show clown sitting in court rolling his eyes and acting totally unclear in the concept, and my blood boils! You really wish they would just throw him into the general population at that jail he is being held at and let the prisoners tear him to shreds.

pilamaye on July 23, 2012 at 1:26 PM

O GOD, whose mercies cannot be numbered; Accept our prayers on behalf of the souls of thy servants departed, and grant them an entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Akzed on July 23, 2012 at 1:27 PM

May God consume thier love ones with the peace that only He understands…

Ltlgeneral64 on July 23, 2012 at 1:29 PM

*their*

Ltlgeneral64 on July 23, 2012 at 1:30 PM

I actually knew John Larimer. He is the som of a couple I know from the Chicago area. Horrible loss.

Warner Todd Huston on July 23, 2012 at 1:31 PM

God bless them and their families and friends.

Schadenfreude on July 23, 2012 at 1:32 PM

Looking at the gilded plaque in my room that commemorates my departed father, I spy the phrase “The Measure of Man is not ‘How did he die?’ but ‘How did he live’?”

Many of these men died as heroes. Still, I hope that their families can stay strong in this time of immense grief, and remember how their loved ones lived, not only how they died.

Good Solid B-Plus on July 23, 2012 at 1:34 PM

The losses are horrific and the agony made all the more Bitter by douche bags like the somehow still employed Brian Ross. Our prayers need to go out to the survivors and their families. Our wrath belong to the shooter and Brian Ross.

SWalker on July 23, 2012 at 1:34 PM

So many, so young, so much lost potential. God bless them and their families and friends.

gwelf on July 23, 2012 at 1:36 PM

May God hold their families in the hollow of His hand.

kingsjester on July 23, 2012 at 1:38 PM

Our wrath belong to the shooter and Brian Ross.

SWalker on July 23, 2012 at 1:34 PM

I agree with the sentiment but would expand the definition of douche bag to include the many left-leaning politicians that jumped on this atrocity to further their political agenda.

Happy Nomad on July 23, 2012 at 1:43 PM

Our wrath belong to the shooter and Brian Ross.

SWalker on July 23, 2012 at 1:34 PM

I agree with the sentiment but would expand the definition of douche bag to include the many left-leaning politicians that jumped on this atrocity to further their political agenda.

Happy Nomad on July 23, 2012 at 1:43 PM

That works for me…

SWalker on July 23, 2012 at 1:44 PM

So horribly sad. So much loss. So much young life cut short. God be with the families of these souls and with the wounded survivors.

Bitter Clinger on July 23, 2012 at 1:45 PM

Thank you for telling us their stories. They and their families are in my family’s prayers.

skatz51 on July 23, 2012 at 1:48 PM

hearbroken hearing their sories over the weekend.

ToddPA on July 23, 2012 at 1:48 PM

It’s so much worse seeing the pictures of these people. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace, and God’s consolation on the families.

JoAnn1965 on July 23, 2012 at 1:50 PM

Happy Nomad on July 23, 2012 at 1:43 PM

And rightist idiots like Peter King of NY, who otherwise is pretty sane.

Schadenfreude on July 23, 2012 at 1:50 PM

May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace, and God’s consolation on the families.

JoAnn1965 on July 23, 2012 at 1:50 PM

Amen…

SWalker on July 23, 2012 at 1:52 PM

Such fine young people, just out to have some fun…there but by the Grace of God goes I…prayers for their families and friends…so sad.

right2bright on July 23, 2012 at 1:52 PM

Heartbreaking. May God bless and keep them and their Families…

sandee on July 23, 2012 at 1:56 PM

…thank you MKH…great job…I have no words…

KOOLAID2 on July 23, 2012 at 1:56 PM

pilamaye on July 23, 2012 at 1:26 PM

my blood is also boiling when i look at that stupid POS on t.v. in court. beyond boiling. but that is nothing compared to how the families must feel and what they are going through. my prayers are with them.

GhoulAid on July 23, 2012 at 1:57 PM

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

Trafalgar on July 23, 2012 at 1:59 PM

God Bless and may they rest in peace. Thanks for writing this side of the story.

January on July 23, 2012 at 1:59 PM

It’s so much to take in. Such horrible evil. I cannot imagine the pain and suffering of these families. It’s so sickening.

It’s been repeated, but the evil scum who did this needs to be tried quickly and put to death quickly! I don’t care if he’s insane or not.. execute him!

JellyToast on July 23, 2012 at 1:59 PM

Lots of heros in that group of young men who died in order to save a loved one. They did not die in vain. Terrible, terrible thing.

a capella on July 23, 2012 at 1:59 PM

Impossible to comprehend.

the_nile on July 23, 2012 at 2:02 PM

Thank you so much, MKH.

The Rogue Tomato on July 23, 2012 at 2:04 PM

So tragic, so devastating and so random.

Life is so precious and each day a gift.

Please, tell your loved ones how much they mean to you and how thankful you are for them as often as possible.

May the God of mercy take them to Himself and may those who remain find comfort in Him.

Jvette on July 23, 2012 at 2:07 PM

Great tributes. Great people.

SnowSun on July 23, 2012 at 2:11 PM

Just as sad…every long weekend in Chicago, this is repeated.

right2bright on July 23, 2012 at 2:14 PM

Thank you for this story. May the victims rest in peace, and may their families and friends know the consolation of God’s love.

mkenorthshore on July 23, 2012 at 2:16 PM

Thank you, MKH.

Again, eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let the Perpetual Light shine on them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

PatriotGal2257 on July 23, 2012 at 2:17 PM

I have one child, a daughter, and she is six. And she too is bubbly, blonde, blue-eyed, and loves ice cream.

Each of these twelve people deserves to have lived and to be remembered, but it’s real hard for me not to obsess over one of the twelve.

May all twelve rest in peace.

Chuckles3 on July 23, 2012 at 2:31 PM

As if we needed yet another reason to remain vigilant.

Evil does not know or care about borders, race or economics.

True Evil exist. We forget and marginalize it at our own peril.

God Bless the Aurora 12.

BlaxPac on July 23, 2012 at 2:31 PM

What on earth was a six-year-old girl doing in that theater, watching a violent movie like that? I’ve got three girls, aged eight, ten, and eleven, and I wouldn’t take any of them to see it, or let them see it.

Ward Cleaver on July 23, 2012 at 2:49 PM

What on earth was a six-year-old girl doing in that theater, watching a violent movie like that? I’ve got three girls, aged eight, ten, and eleven, and I wouldn’t take any of them to see it, or let them see it.

Ward Cleaver on July 23, 2012 at 2:49 PM

Gee, I don’t know, maybe they “lost” a babysitter, or maybe the girl was asleep, maybe that’s the only time two working parents got together…why don’t you ask them personally why they took their little girl to the movies so she could get killed, it seems to be a priority for you. Not that so many lost their lives, but an aberration, you focused on someone who lost their child to critique them, as if they were at fault…what a disgusting question, what a perverted question? You are a sicko!

right2bright on July 23, 2012 at 2:59 PM

Gee, I don’t know, maybe they “lost” a babysitter, or maybe the girl was asleep, maybe that’s the only time two working parents got together…why don’t you ask them personally why they took their little girl to the movies so she could get killed, it seems to be a priority for you. Not that so many lost their lives, but an aberration, you focused on someone who lost their child to critique them, as if they were at fault…what a disgusting question, what a perverted question? You are a sicko!

right2bright on July 23, 2012 at 2:59 PM

So I guess you’d have no problem taking a six-year-old to see it.

Ward Cleaver on July 23, 2012 at 3:08 PM

So incredibly heart wrenching. RIP

txag92 on July 23, 2012 at 3:11 PM

right2bright on July 23, 2012 at 2:59 PM

So I guess you’d have no problem taking a six-year-old to see it.

Ward Cleaver on July 23, 2012 at 3:08 PM

As RightBright posted, there were more than a few reasons *why* the child was there. Maybe her parents took her as a reward for something she did.

Point being, i think writing what you did was more than a little insensitive too. Don’t you think the girls parents wish they never took her to the theater that night too?

Lets not lose focus on the issue…or the monster here.

BlaxPac on July 23, 2012 at 3:16 PM

An awful tragedy. What is Holmes’s story? Is it true, like someone speculated, that maybe he got into the neuroscience field to figure out what made him tick, what made him different? And why the fixation on Batman? He’s not cooperating with the cops, so may never get an explanation from him. Just waiting for some answers.

Ward Cleaver on July 23, 2012 at 3:18 PM

Point being, i think writing what you did was more than a little insensitive too. Don’t you think the girls parents wish they never took her to the theater that night too?

Lets not lose focus on the issue…or the monster here.

BlaxPac on July 23, 2012 at 3:16 PM

I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to come off as insensitive. It’s just that our society is so desensitized to violence, and movies like the Batman series don’t help. I just can’t see taking any of my kids to see it. I’d figure out some place for them to go, or see it when I could find a babysitter. My wife was stunned yesterday when I described what I’d read about the movie, and that it is only rated PG-13.

Ward Cleaver on July 23, 2012 at 3:21 PM

Thank you Mary for this tribute. Thank you also for those who gave their lives to protect others.

It gives an old man like me hope. In the hearts of these young women and men are the seeds of greatness. May our country survive on the goodness these people inspire in others.

itsspideyman on July 23, 2012 at 3:31 PM

Thanks, though this is hard to read.

Incredible to hear about the men who sacrificed themselves. It’d be nice if these people became more famous than the shooter. It’s rare, but it does happen. I have no idea what the animals who hijacked United 93 called themselves, but I do remember “Let’s roll”.

Esthier on July 23, 2012 at 3:56 PM

My wife was stunned yesterday when I described what I’d read about the movie, and that it is only rated PG-13.

Ward Cleaver on July 23, 2012 at 3:21 PM

I can’t imagine what you’ve read. The movie is extremely tame at least by today’s standards. There’s no gore, and even the deaths are relatively subdued.

I’d even argue that it’s “better” (in that respect) than the last film.

Esthier on July 23, 2012 at 4:04 PM

What on earth was a six-year-old girl doing in that theater, watching a violent movie like that? I’ve got three girls, aged eight, ten, and eleven, and I wouldn’t take any of them to see it, or let them see it.

Ward Cleaver on July 23, 2012 at 2:49 PM

That is a decision her parents will have to endure for the rest of their lives.

Call me a bigot, but I don’t think anything else needs to be said.

EnglishRogue on July 23, 2012 at 4:05 PM

I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to come off as insensitive. It’s just that our society is so desensitized to violence, and movies like the Batman series don’t help. I just can’t see taking any of my kids to see it. I’d figure out some place for them to go, or see it when I could find a babysitter. My wife was stunned yesterday when I described what I’d read about the movie, and that it is only rated PG-13.

Ward Cleaver on July 23, 2012 at 3:21 PM

Different times my friend.

One of the first movies i ever got to see in theater was “Heavy Metal” in 1980…and lets say I was old enough that PG-13 didn’t come anywhere *close* to covering me.

As far as the violence goes; I don’t think it was any worse (or not by THAT much) than the sequels to the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies…and *those* weren’t the happy Disney films that the first one was.

BlaxPac on July 23, 2012 at 4:10 PM

this is really so important- that we focus our sympathy and attention on the victims , their families and friends.

in incidents like this- and even in murders of only one person- the default position of the media and culture ( our heavily politicized left leaning pro-criminal , social justicin’, anti-incarceration culture) is both unhealthy fascination and over identification with the perpetrator. this very attitude and the resulting fall back of the criminal as the real victim (especially if he is a protected minority or/ and if his victims aren’t of the protected hate crime class of victims) is at the very core of the radical liberal left- their championing of sociopaths like say serial bombers named brett and cop killers named mumia. this is their ethos at play- the ethos of radical leftists since the mid 1800s. we must do all we can to reverse it- especially when it comes to serious crime and loss of innocent life to the dehumanizing brutality of violent crime.

as many bodies can be brought to the morgue on a bad weekend in one of our crime ridden cities- and that rarely makes the news with such fanfare. only when crime and slaughter become so concentrated and dramatically unhinged is it paid any mind except by those who are left, often abandoned with their personal loss.

we cannot abandon these people and their loved ones. as a society we must stand with them because in truth that is exactly what our justice system (that is suppose to serve and protect the law abiding) largely does not do-hijacked by radicals a long time ago. the question really is will we stay shocked and aware for a mere moment at the horror and just go back to ignoring the sociopathy encouraging approach to violent criminals our prison and court systems are mired in?

mittens on July 23, 2012 at 4:19 PM

I dare some radical feminazi to go up to one of the four women who are still alive because their boyfriends took a bullet for them and tell them that men are unnecessary in their lives.

Moose Drool on July 23, 2012 at 4:51 PM

You made me cry. This is saddening. So many heroic stories that makes us realize that a Batman lives in each of us, if ocasion arises. God bless them.

Batman2000 on July 23, 2012 at 5:07 PM

Jonathan T. Blunk
Alexander J. Boik

Staff Sgt. Jesse Childress

Gordon Cowden

Jessica Ghawi (Redfield)

Petty Officer John Larimer

Matt McQuinn

Micayla Medek

Veronica Moser

Alex Sullivan

Alex Teves

Rebecca Ann Wingo

Miss you

RushBaby on July 23, 2012 at 5:32 PM

Just heartbreaking.

That 4 of the twelve were active duty or veterans hits close to home. My son is currently in Air Force tech school and is in the Air National Guard at Buckley. He received a phone call early Friday from Buckley, they were doing an accountability check on all personnel and their families. Our military isn’t perfect, they are part of the Federal government after all, but they do their best to take care of their own.

As for the young men who died protecting their girlfriends, I hope my daughter can find such an honorable man like they were.

Common Sense on July 23, 2012 at 6:40 PM