Last Updated Sunday 8:13 p.m. ET
(CBS/AP) They had one thing in common: They were eager to watch a new action film.
In the span of a few minutes hundreds of people in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater were terrorized when a masked gunman entered an auditorium at the Century 16 multiplex, threw a gas canister, and opened fire.In the smoky dark, moviegoers tried to run or crawl for cover. In what was the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, 12 people were killed and 58 injured. None remain in critical condition.
Among the victims: A hero who tried to block his girlfriend's body from bullets. A man celebrating his birthday. A young sports reporter, who had coincidentally survived a mall shooting just months before. A Navy sailor from nearby Buckley Air Force Base. A 6-year-old girl.
The identities of those who were killed early Friday are slowly being confirmed by authorities and family members. Below are some of them:
Alexander Jonathan Boik
"AJ" Boik enjoyed baseball, music, and making pottery, and dreamed of becoming an art teacher. A 2012 graduate of Gateway High School, Boik had been accepted at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, where he planned on attending classes in the fall.
His family said he was also dating a beautiful young lady, who was with Boik at the Century 16 theater. She survived the shooting spree.
In a statement his family said AJ was "a wonderful, handsome and loving 18-year-old young man, with a warm and loving heart."
"He enjoyed his friends and family and always brought a smile and quick wit to every occasion.
"A.J. was loved by all that knew him. We want to try and focus on the beautiful lives that were ended and not the evil that is responsible. This is a time for us to remember our loved ones and cherish the memories we have of them."
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 told The Associated Press.
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.
"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.
Alex M. Sullivan
For Alex Matthew Sullivan, it was to be a weekend of fun: He planned to ring in his 27th birthday with friends at a special midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises."
Another reason to celebrate: Sunday would have been his first wedding anniversary.
"He was a very, very good young man," said Sullivan's uncle, Joe Loewenguth.
"He always had a smile, always made you laugh. He had a little bit of comic in him. Witty, smart. He was loving, had a big heart."
In a statement Alex's family said it had lost "a cherished member."
"Alex was smart, funny, and above all loved dearly by his friends and family. . . . 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."
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.
She said Sullivan was such a big movie fan that he took jobs at theaters just to see movies.
Fradkin and her son spent an "excruciating" day trying to find Sullivan before learning of his death, she said.
"We're shocked. We're numb. We're sick," she said. "Our hearts are broken, and we're crushed."
John T. Larimer
Navy officials confirmed that Petty Officer Third Class John Thomas Larimer, of Crystal Lake, Ill., died from injuries sustained when a gunman opened fire in the theater early Friday morning.
Larimer, 27, joined the Navy in June 2011 and was a cryptologic technician third class. He had been stationed at the U.S. Fleet Cyber Command station at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora.
A fellow sailor from the unit was also injured in the shooting. He was treated at the scene and released.
"I am incredibly saddened by the loss of Petty Officer John Larimer," said Cmdr. Jeffrey Jakuboski, Larimer's commanding officer.
"He was an outstanding shipmate. A valued member of our Navy team, he will be missed by all who knew him.
A family member told the Daily Herald newspaper in Arlington Heights, Ill., that Larimer was the youngest of five siblings. Neighbors in his hometown recalled his sense of humor.
"We love you, John, and we will miss you always," his parents said in a statement.
Jesse E. Childress
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.
Tech Sgt. Alejandro Sanchez, a co-worker, told the AP that Childress was his good friend and they were on a bowling team together.
"He would help anyone and always was great for our Air Force unit," he said.
Another co-worker, Ashley Wassinger, said Childress "was a great person fun to be with, always positive and laughing."
"Really just an amazing person, and I am so lucky to have been his friend," she said.
Childress grew up in the Southern California community of Palmdale.
William Grier told CBS Station KCAL, "He was like a brother to all of us, man. Color did not matter. He taught us all the same thing. We played in the front yard here. We played football here. We grew up here. We just hung out. This is just ... so sad.
"He paused and added, "This is crazy, man."
Erik Plascencia remembered his friend for being incredibly smart. "He was a really nice kid. He was probably the first one any of us would go to for advice. A really smart kid."
A blogger who recently wrote of surviving a Toronto shooting, Jessica Ghawi (also known as Jessica Redfield) was among those killed in Aurora. Her death came as a "complete and utter shock," said her brother, Jordan Ghawi.
Ghawi, 24, moved to Denver from Texas about a year ago and talked of a career as a sports reporter. Friends and colleagues described her as outgoing, smart and witty. "She was always kind of a sponge as far as how she could be an even better journalist and sports broadcaster," said Peter Burns, a radio sports show host with Mile High Sports Radio in Denver, where Ghawi recently interned.
Ghawi blogged at length about surviving the Eaton Centre mall shooting in Toronto that killed two people and sent several others to the hospital. She wrote of the Toronto 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."
Yet, Burns said, Jessica Ghawi seemed more enlivened than intimidated by surviving that shooting.
Jordan Ghawi said on his website that a man who was with his sister at the theater described the chaos, saying he and Jessica Ghawi dropped to take cover when the gunman first started shooting. Jessica Ghawi was shot in the leg, her brother wrote, describing details relayed to him by a man identified on the blog only as a mutual friend named Brent.
Jessica Ghawi began screaming when she was shot, and the friend tried to calm her and stop the bleeding, according to the brother. The man was then shot, but he continued attending to Jessica's wound before he realized she had stopped screaming.
The friend escaped the theater but is expected to survive. Jordan Ghawi praised the man, calling his actions "nothing but heroic."
Matt McQuinn was with his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, and her brother Nick at the midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" when a gunman burst into the theater, released canisters of pepper spray and opened fire.
CBS Affiliate WHIO reports that, according to Samantha's grandmother, McQuinn and Nick Yowler tried to shield the young woman with their bodies.
She suffered a bullet wound to the leg; Nick escaped physically unharmed.
But McQuinn, 27, died.
"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.
McQuinn and Yowler had met in Ohio and moved last year to Denver, where they worked at a Target store.
"They're really fun people," said co-worker Melissa Downen.
Ashley Moser drifted in and out of consciousness in the ICU, bullets lodged in her throat and abdomen.
In her waking moments, she called for her 6-year-old daughter Veronica. Nobody had the heart to tell her that Veronica was already dead.
"Nobody can tell her about it," Annie Dalton said of her cousin, Ashley Moser. "She is in critical condition, but all she's asking about is her daughter."
Veronica was to start learning swimming lessons on Tuesday, Dalton said.
"She was excited about life as she should be. She's a 6-year-old girl," her great-aunt said
Her mother Ashley, 25, and 10 others were in critical condition as of Friday night.
Jonathan Blunk had high hopes for the future, with plans to re-enlist in the Navy and the goal of becoming a Navy SEAL.
The 26-year-old served three tours in the Persian Gulf and North Arabian Sea between 2004 and 2009, said close friend James Gill of Brighton, Colo.
"It was guts or glory for him," Gill told The Associated Press. "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 was also a certified firefighter and emergency medical technician, Gill added.
He died in the shooting Friday after throwing himself in front of friend Jansen Young and saving her life, she told NBC. He told her to stay down."That's something he would do," Gill said. "If he was going to choose a way to die, that's how he wanted to go -- defending someone from a (person) like that."
Blunk, a 2004 graduate of Reno's Hug High School in Nevada, most recently worked at a hardware store.
His estranged wife, Chantel Blunk, lives with their 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son in Sparks, Nev.
The death of 23-year-old Micayla Medek was heartbreaking, said her father's cousin, Anita Busch.
But Busch said the news also was a relief for the family after an agonizing day of waiting.
"I hope this evil act ... doesn't shake people's faith in God," she said.
Micayla Medek lived in the Denver suburb of Westminster and attended Aurora Community College.
Her aunt, Jenny Zakovich, 57, of South Milwaukee, Wis., said Medek and her father were both huge Green Bay Packers fans.
In a Facebook posting the father of Rebecca Ann Wingo, 32, confirmed that his daughter died in the Aurora shooting.
"I lost my daughter yesterday to a mad man," Steve Hernandez wrote. "My grief right now is inconsolable. I hear she died instantly, without pain, however the pain is unbearable."
Wingo had been an employee at Joe's Crab Shack and had started a job several months ago as a customer relations representative at a mobile medical imaging company.
She was working towards an associate of arts degree at the Community College of Aurora.
Gail Riffle, a friend of Wingo's, told the Denver Post, "Everybody is hurting right now. She was a gentle, sweet, beautiful soul."
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."
Gordon Cowden loved life and his family, and he had gone to the midnight movie premiere with his two teenage children.
At 51, he was the oldest of the victims killed in the shooting. He lived in Aurora, but was described as a "true Texas gentleman" in a family statement. He loved the outdoors and owned his own business.
"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.
His teenage children escaped the shooting unharmed.
His family declined to be interviewed in their request for privacy, but expressed appreciation for words of concern offered in the wake of the shooting.
"Our hearts go out to everyone that has been harmed by this senseless tragedy," they said.
Alexander C. Teves, 24, of Phoenix, earned master's degree in counseling psychology in June from University of Denver. His aunt, Barbara Slivinske, told CBS affiliate KPHO in Phoenix: "Alex was a very wonderful, kind, caring person. He had a great sense of humor. At one point he grew his hair 10 or 12 inches long so that he could cut it off and donate it to Locks of Love."
Slivinske also told KPHO that Teves was with his girlfriend at the theater in Aurora when the shooting happened: "He pushed her, his girlfriend down, so that she would be safe and he was getting to the ground but the shots got him before he got to the ground."
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 wintered 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.