After Colorado theater shooting, families await word of loved ones
AURORA, Colo. — As afternoon turned to evening Friday, dozens of family members gathered at Gateway High School in Aurora waiting to hear the fate of those still not accounted for. Clergy and grief counselors also gathered at the high school, about a mile from the movie complex where a gunman killed 12 and wounded dozens of others.
“We are still waiting to hear from the coroner’s office,” said a grim-faced Pastor Milton Thomas.
Authorities interviewed witnesses at the high school, which also served as a clearing house for information – such as it was – for relatives worried about loved ones. As people waited anxiously for news, rumors began to circulate.
Thomas said that he too had heard a rumor that authorities had compiled a list of the dead, but as of about 5 p.m. it was not true. Family members trickled out of the school as the hours ticked by, some weeping and supported by police, others looking dazed. Thomas said the stress of not knowing was terrible on families and friends.
Along with the 12 people killed, 58 were injured either from gunfire or in the chaotic aftermath, officials said. Of the 30 who remained hospitalized, 11 were in critical condition, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates told reporters during a televised news conference.
Police are holding a suspect, identified as James E. Holmes, 24, who was arrested in a parking lot outside the theater.
Ten of the dead were killed in the theater, and two died in local hospitals, officials said.
Jakob Bolger, 17, who graduated in the spring from Gateway, said he spent the day calling hospitals and had been to his old school five times, trying to find out what happened to his friend, A.J. Boik, who had attended the midnight screening. About an hour earlier, Jake Pravecek, 18, also came by the high school in search of news about Boik. Pravecek was supposed to go to “The Dark Knight Rises” with Boik but decided against it.
Around 2 a.m., Pravecek was awakened by his cell phone. “Are you OK?” came a frantic voice.
He had no idea what had happened. But in the coming hours a network of past and present Gateway students began calling one another and writing Facebook messages to check on friends. “Where’s A.J.?” was a frequent post.
Pravecek said he had heard that another friend had been shot in the leg, but she had already left the hospital. Another, football standout Zack Golditch, was shot just below the ear and was released from a hospital early Friday. Golditch had just committed to play football at Colorado State University.
“This is ridiculous. These are our friends. This affects all of us,” said Shane Eddy, anger rising in his voice.
Resharee Goodlow, 22, also left Gateway shaken and without news of a friend.
Goodlow and a friend went to the movie but were not able to sit together. Goodlow said she lost track of the other woman after the shooting started. “By the third gunshot I knew it was real,” she said. She remembers running from the theater and seeing people lying on the ground in blood-soaked clothes.
“I just don’t want to believe the worst,” she said as she left the high school parking lot.