Photo: AP Images
AURORA, Colo. — In the Colorado theatre that was the scene of one of the worst mass shootings in recent memory, the heroics did not occur on the screen, but in the darkened aisles.Nick Yowler, 32, was watching The Dark Knight Rises with his younger sister, Samantha, 27, and her boyfriend, Matt McQuinn, 27, when gunfire rang out.
“When the gunman started shooting, Matt and Nick … pulled Samantha to the ground and shielded her,” says Rob Scott, an attorney representing the McQuinn and Yowler families.
McQuinn was shot three times, and died at the theatre, Scott says. Samantha Yowler, shot in the knee, underwent surgery and is recovering, and Nick Yowler was uninjured.
Both men were heroes, Scott says. “I don’t know many (young people) who would stand up and take a bullet,” he says. “As Americans, we’re used to seeing that from our military, but not from private citizens. What Matt did and Nick did certainly demonstrated what’s best about us.”
President Obama also praised the regular people who acted in heroic ways after visiting families Sunday at the University of Colorado hospital in Aurora.
He said he had just met with Allie Young, 19, and Stephanie Davies, 21. Young was shot in the neck. Davies pulled her out of the aisle, placed her fingers on the wound, applied pressure as the gunman continued shooting and dialed 911 with her other hand.
“Because of Stephanie’s timely actions, I just had a conversation with Allie downstairs, and she is going to be fine,” Obama said.
“I don’t know how many people at any age would have the presence of mind Stephanie did, or the courage that Allie showed. … They represent what’s best in us, and they assure us that out of this darkness a brighter day is going to come,” Obama said.
As law enforcement officials pieced together a motive behind the Aurora theatre shooting, stories emerged about the friends and strangers who rushed to shield others and help the injured.
Colorado’s Gov. John Hickenlooper spoke of the many acts of bravery on Meet the Press on Sunday.
One man protected his son’s wounded girlfriend. “They’re in the front row … so the shooter is right over them and instead of running away he stays there and saves her life in the end, kept her from bleeding to death,” Hickenlooper said. Outside the theatre, a woman took off her belt and fashioned it into a tourniquet to bind the thigh of one of the wounded. “I mean one after another, acts of heroism.”
Sometimes, acts of courage were overcome by the terror and chaos of the shooting.
Despite her own panic, Jennifer Seeger, 22, used her training as a firefighter to calm others. “I told people to lay down and pretend they were dead,” she said. When there was a temporary break in the shooting, Seeger said, she checked the pulse of someone who had been wounded in the back.
“I could tell he was fading,” she said. “I put my hands under his arms and started to drag him towards the door. Then someone yelled (the shooter) was coming. I got scared and dropped him. … I ran.”
When Marcus Weaver, 41, saw the alleged gunman toss two canisters, he thought they were firecrackers and part of a stunt. But then there were blasts of gunfire.
He tried to blanket his friend Rebecca Wingo.
“You could hear people praying and people screaming,” including children, he said. “The sounds were unbelievable. I knew I was (a) goner for sure.”
The gunman kept shooting, “spraying rows of seats,” he said. “When it stopped, I tried to make a break for the door. I was tumbling over people and people were tumbling over me. I got shot as I was trying to get away.”
Weaver was wounded twice in the shoulder. Fleeing the theatre he caught a glimpse of Wingo with blood on her forehead before the two became separated in the crowd.
A day later, Wingo was listed among the 12 slain.
Chris Ramos, 20, was caught in the bedlam with his 17-year-old sister, Stephanie. He urged those around him to stay low, beneath their seats before they rushed out into the lobby.
“A guy right next to us got shot,” Ramos says. “I wish I could have grabbed more people. I was just focused on my sister.”
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