Victim: 'You could feel the anger in the room'

Story highlights

  • Shooting victim McKayla Hicks went to hearing for accused killer James Holmes
  • She said she could feel "all the anger that everyone had for" Holmes
  • The incident has changed her, said Hicks
  • A bullet lodged in Hicks' jaw -- doctors said it is safer to leave it there

McKayla Hicks sat in the courtroom Monday and stared at the man accused of a shooting spree that left her with a bullet in her jaw, killed a dozen people, and traumatized a community.

"I saw him and he's just this freak lookin' dude with some orange hair," the 17-year-old high school student said, calling suspect James Holmes "pathetic looking."

"You could feel in the room all the anger that everyone had for him," she said. "Everyone in America hates this guy."

She wants him to get the death penalty. "He tried to kill people," Hicks said. "So I think he needs to be killed."

Hicks was in the theater next door to the one in which a gunman opened fire at a midnight showing of the new Batman movie on Friday in Aurora.

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One of the bullets -- she thinks it was early in the shooting spree -- pierced the wall and entered the theater she was in, slashing through her mouth and becoming lodged in her jaw.

It will stay there forever, in the lower left part of her jaw. Doctors tell her that removing it would cause too much nerve damage.

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"I like the idea. I think it's cool that I have a bullet in my chin," she said with a smile, calling it "a souvenir."

She considers herself lucky to be alive, and not injured worse.

Lori Schafer helped save her that night, and was in court with her Monday.

"It made it hit home," she said. "It wasn't just a picture on the TV anymore."

"I just want him to be where he's never going to be able to hurt someone again."

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Hicks said that when she was shot, she didn't know what had happened. She started bleeding, but "thought someone had thrown something at me. And when I got up to leave the theater everyone else was still sitting down. So I was really upset, like, 'Who's personally doing this to me?' "

"Then we saw the victims from Theater Nine -- and I realized it wasn't just me."

Schafer, who will begin college in the fall, helped her out of the building, pulled a fire alarm, called 911, and helped get Hicks seated outside on a curb.

It was only then that she touched her face and realized there was a bullet in her.

"It changed me as a person," she said, adding, "I just don't take people for granted -- especially the ones that save your life."

"Being in a real life-or-death situation," she said, helped her realize that "the little things don't matter. It shows you what really does matter."