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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Massacre in Movie Theater
Aired July 20, 2012 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. We're coming to you live tonight from Aurora, Colorado, from a city, from a state in mourning.
Over my shoulder, a few blocks away, you can still see the movie theater where less than 24 hours ago, about 22.5 hours ago, a massacre took place. There is a lot happening right now to tell you about. Bomb technicians have just suspended work tonight at the suspect's apartment, which he booby-trapped to explode, we're told. That's about four miles away from here.
We have got late details on how the place was rigged plain and simple to kill first-responders and to kill neighbors. But before we go any further, I just want to say that I'm only going to mention the alleged shooter's name a few times over the course of this next hour.
Too often after a shooting like this, the killer's name becomes well-known and months, even years later the killer's name is recalled, but the victims, the survivors' names are not. I think that's wrong.
We're going to tell you about the suspect, all we know, all we can, but we want to focus in the hour ahead on the 70 people shot or wounded last night, including the 12 of whom have died.
Now, we don't know many of the names of the dead, but police now do. Just before airtime, they announced that they expect the notifications to begin tonight. It is a brutal job after a brutal 24 hours.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN OATES, AURORA, COLORADO, POLICE CHIEF: Our cops went through a lot. As I told you this morning, they rushed people out of that theater, into police cars. I have heard some compelling stories. One of the things we are working on is how we're going to deal with our own trauma.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: An emotional Police Chief Dan Oates with another rough night ahead of him.
We do not want to speculate on victims' identities of course, because the last thing any of us want is for someone's family to hear that kind of speculation. We do know though of one young woman whose life has been cut short. Her name is Jessica Ghawi, a journalist, a blogger who also went by the name of Jessica Redfield. She narrowly escaped a similar but less deadly shooting last month in Toronto. She was only 24 years old. Her brother joins me tonight to talk about his sister and all the others wounded in that theater.
Again, our focus is on the victims, on the survivors and on the first-responders who rushed in at great risk to themselves.
There were military personnel as well in that theater, in theater number nine of the Century 16 multiplex last night. One sailor is unaccounted for, along with 10 others. Tonight we talk of survival, of loss and of the tragically fine and utterly random line between the two, the line between good and bad fortune, between hugging a loved one who made it out safely and burying one who didn't.
So many people who spent today at a police staging area in a high school nearby from here, not knowing if their son, if their daughter, if their father, if their mother was alive or dead. Waiting for word, waiting for their loved ones to finally be removed from inside theater number nine.
We're going to be telling, talking of them tonight, telling you about them, and talking to people who were inside that theater when the gunman burst in, people who lived through this. That's just a few frenzied moments after people thought what initially appeared to be some kind of a promotional stunt for the Batman premiere -- that's what a lot of people in the theater thought they were watching -- was in fact mass murder.
As for the suspect, we're going to tell you about the search for clues to what may have motivated him, though at this hour much remains unknown.
Nationwide, flags are flying at half-staff. Both President Obama and Mitt Romney have suspended campaigning for the moment, for the day. The president, who was awakened at about 5:30 with the news this morning, spoke about it earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will take every step possible to ensure the safety of all of our people. We're going to stand by our neighbors in Colorado during this extraordinarily difficult time.
And I had a chance to speak with the mayor of Aurora, as well as the governor of Colorado, to express not just on behalf of Michelle and myself, but the entire American family, how heartbroken we are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A short time later, Mitt Romney offered his condolences.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Each one of us will hold our kids a little closer, linger a bit longer with a colleague or a neighbor, reach out to a family member or friend.
We will all spend a little less time thinking about the worries of our day and more time wondering about how to help those who are in need of compassion most.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Again, we will tell you all we know about the alleged killer, but we will focus as little as possible on him.
We do however want to quickly show you minute by minute just what the victims were up against. Take a look.
COOPER (voice-over): It's about 12:30 a.m., 20 minutes or so into the sold-out premier of "The Dark Knight Rises."
A gunman dressed head to toe enters in bulletproof gear and a gas mask throws a canister of what may have been tear gas into the room through the exit door, which he had propped open earlier after purchasing a ticket to the movie and sneaking out of theater.
The canister ignites, causing confusion among theater-goers who don't yet realize the danger they're in.
DONOVAN TATE, EYEWITNESS: When this popping started happening, I thought it was fireworks or firecrackers, like someone playing a prank or joke or something, you know, but and then some smoke started rising in the lower right corner of the theater.
COOPER: Witnesses say the gunman enters the theater, first fires at the ceiling, then turns his gun on the crowd.
JENNIFER SEEGER, EYEWITNESS: When he went straight from the air, he came down with his gun in my face. He was about three feet away from me at that point. In that instant, I honestly didn't know what to do. I was terrified.
COOPER: The terror spreads. Eyewitnesses describe the gunman as -- quote -- "calmly firing into the crowd."
CHRIS RAMOS, Witness: Somehow, I got my little sister. I grab her. Then we just go down on the ground, hiding below, like, the chairs. The guy's just standing right by the exit, just firing away.
He's not aiming at a specific person. He's just aiming everywhere, trying to hit as many people as he can. All I remember was, like, I was down be the ground. I was covering myself. And right when I was going up, trying to see the guy, just like the tear gas was getting me. My eyes were, like, watery. I was, like, crying, like felt weird. And it felt like I was bleeding from my nose. It was hard to breathe. I kept on going down, like ducking down, telling my sister to go forward, pushing her forward, while there's like guys or girls running like on top of me, or like jumping away from the seats, and just trying to escape. The guy was firing. Like, the shooting lasted probably like a minute or two minutes.
COOPER: The gunman doesn't discriminate. Children are also shot. This mother's wounded in the leg as she tries to escape the gunfire with her 4-month-old son and 4-year-old daughter.
PATRICIA LEGARETTA, WITNESS: I just grabbed the baby and I just drug -- I just grabbed my daughter and just got her out as fast as I could and just ran out. I didn't turn around. I didn't look behind me. I just got out.
And then there was a moment where my daughter tripped and I just pulled her up, and I was just dragging her, and I was just thinking, we just got to get out. I just got to get out the doors. And even if I just fall dead, just get my kids out here. It was -- it was just so horrible.
COOPER: At 12:39 a.m., the first calls come into 911.
911 OPERATOR: Three-fifteen and 314 for a shooting at Century Theaters, 14 300 East Alameda Avenue. They're saying somebody's shooting in the auditorium.
COOPER: Police arrive within 90 seconds to soon learn that 70 people have been wounded. This cell phone video shows panicked and bloody victims streaming out of the theater. Inside, 10 people are dead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need rescue inside the auditorium, multiple victims.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got seven down in theater nine, seven down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have got a child victim. I need rescue at the back door, theater nine, now.
COOPER: Two more victims later die at the hospital, bringing the death toll so far to 12.
TATE: There was this one guy who was on all fours crawling. There was this girl spitting up blood. There were bullet holes in some people's backs, some people's arms. There was this one guy who was stripped down to like just his boxers. It looked like he had been like shot in the back.
COOPER: While police and emergency workers help the victims, the suspect is spotted standing by a white car in the parking lot of the theater.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need a marked car behind the theater stable side, the suspect in a gas mask. Everyone, hold the air one second. Cars -- that white car in the rear of the lot, is that a suspect? Yes. We have got rifles, gas masks. He's detained right now. I have got an open door going into the theater. OK, hold that position, hold your suspect.
COOPER: Within seven minutes of the first 911 call, the gunman surrenders to police. He's identified as 24-year-old James Holmes, a student in the process of withdrawing from the University of Colorado's neuroscience Ph.D. program.
Holmes, who lives just four miles from the movie theater, tells police he's left a bomb in his third-floor apartment.
OATES: We're not sure what we're dealing with in the home. They appear to be incendiary devices. There are some chemical elements there and there are also some incendiary elements. They're linked together with all kind of wires. As a layman, it's something I have never seen before.
COOPER: Police won't speculate on a motive for Holmes, who's now in custody awaiting his first court appearance on Monday.
COOPER: Joining us now is Paul Otermat, who was at the premiere with his girlfriend. Also in the theater, Isaiah Bow, who joins me now.
Where you sitting, Isaiah, in the theater?
ISAIAH BOW, EYEWITNESS: I was sitting right near the exit, right where he came in actually.
COOPER: So when he came in, you saw him almost immediately?
BOW: Yes, I think I was the first person to see him and I told my girlfriend to get down right before -- or right when he was throwing the canister.
COOPER: Did you know what he was throwing?
BOW: I knew it wasn't right. I watch a lot of TV and play video games and he was head to toe in gear. And I figured if he was SWAT, they would yell something or people would come with him.
COOPER: So the fact that he was alone raised your suspicion?
BOW: Yes. And was straight stoic. He didn't do anything, just stood there, threw the can and then shot in the air.
COOPER: Where were you? And what did you see?
PAUL OTERMAT, EYEWITNESS: I was on the front left. He was on the front right. When he came in, I saw him just sort of stroll up and toss the canister and it went over the crowd behind me. And I knew it was some sort of irritant because my eyes started burning as soon as he let go of the canister.
COOPER: So you instantly started to feel it?
OTERMAT: Yes. We got out pretty quick, but right after he threw it, he started shooting into the crowd and near exits.
COOPER: Were you able to see him his eyes, his face at all? Because when you wear a gas mask, it pretty much covers your whole face. Because the police are saying his hair had been dyed red because he called himself the Joker to them.
BOW: I couldn't see any of that.
OTERMAT: I couldn't see any of that.
I could see the Plexiglas of his face, of the mask, so I could tell where -- that -- but it was really dark and I saw him pull out -- I wasn't sure what kind of gun it was until it went off, and then it was really loud, so I assumed it was a shotgun that started.
COOPER: Right. They say he was armed with several weapons, a shotgun among them. Did you actually see people getting hit?
BOW: Well, I looked up. I could see because I covered my girlfriend, I got her on the ground and I was covering her. So I was on top of her, so I was slightly elevated. And I could see the people behind us scrambling.
And he was just firing into them. People were stopping moving, but...
COOPER: So you could see people in the back of the theater?
BOW: Yes. I could see everybody. I could see the whole theater. People were crawling and frantically trying to get over and then some people weren't moving. And I thought I don't -- they could have just been laying there, but I'm pretty sure we saw everybody...
COOPER: There was a time too where you were actually in the aisle and he was in the aisle, right?
BOW: Yes. Yes.
I was trying to count the bullets, and it didn't help at all. But he stopped shooting long enough for me to look up. And I saw what he looked like. He was reloading. So I tried to get my girlfriend to come with me, but the two girls in front of us, because I was the third aisle seat in -- I couldn't get them to move. So I thought she jumped the seat with me. And I jumped it. And I ran in the aisle.
And I looked back and I guess she couldn't make it over and I saw him just look at me and was reloading. So I ran out to the exist.
COOPER: He actually looked at you while he was reloading or in your direction?
BOW: Yes, I looked at him and I'm pretty sure he was looking in my direction.
And then I just ran to the door and I couldn't find it at first, and then I found it and I bolted around and went back in?
COOPER: What did you see after he tossed the canister?
OTERMAT: He tossed the canister and I knew something was wrong. And I started to try to get up and then he took out the shotgun and he started firing into the upper deck. And...
COOPER: Were people screaming at this point?
OTERMAT: Yes, that's when the screaming started. When he threw the canister, it was just dead quiet. And then as soon he started firing, there was screaming everywhere.
And I heard somebody screaming from the area he had shot and it somebody was freaking out about somebody getting shot right next to them. And that's when we ducked down to the floor and we started crawling out. We went to the -- we tried to crawl all the way to the exit to where there was like a mini-wall.
I was ducking down when you were running past him. I think that was about the time, because I saw you.
COOPER: You remember seeing Isaiah?
OTERMAT: Yes. I remember seeing somebody running past him right at the start.
COOPER: And was the movie playing during all this?
OTERMAT: Yes. It was a really slow scene. I heard in some other reports that in theater eight there was gunfire, so they didn't know exactly what was going on right away. But in theater nine, it was just a dead scene with like...
BOW: The Batcave.
OTERMAT: ... the Batcave with Alfred and Bruce just talking.
COOPER: When you got out, you actually saw the police and you think you may have been one of the first people to interact with the police?
When I got out at first, I ran around and no one was in the lobby, so I bolted to the side of theater eight, because I didn't know which theater, because I was panicked trying to find her. And then I ran into the cops and they told me to get down and I just yelled at them theater nine.
COOPER: So they were already coming toward the scene? They were already there?
BOW: Yes, but they couldn't get in, because these doors on this side, you can only open them from the inside.
So I ran and opened them. And I let them in.
COOPER: So you let the police in and you said theater nine.
BOW: He didn't understand. I guess I was yelling at him. But I got on my knees and I just yelled at them theater nine and they took off that way.
COOPER: Did you say that there was one gunman or did you tell what the guy looked like or anything or just said theater nine?
BOW: I just kept shouting theater nine at them.
COOPER: Theater nine.
COOPER: And you got out.
OTERMAT: Well, we crawled to the wall. And my girlfriend was trying to, like, was holding her phone trying to call 911 and she dropped it there.
And another guy, his name was Evan, I met him earlier today -- he picked it up, because he thought it was his wife's phone, and he said as he was leaving that same area, there was the upper deck and we were sitting right in front of it on the left.
So, he came around right after us. He was right behind us and he picked up that phone and we were all running out. And he said the people right behind him got shot.
COOPER: How do you deal with something like this? How are you guys holding up?
BOW: A lot of family. I have everybody on Facebook and everyone who is writing us and texting us nonstop.
COOPER: Have you slept at all?
BOW: We slept for like three hours since we got back from the police station, but no.
COOPER: And it's your girlfriend's birthday. Right?
BOW: It is. It's her 20th birthday.
BOW: She got to meet you, though, so that was the highlight. Yes.
COOPER: I'm glad you guys are both OK and that your girlfriends are OK and the friends you were with are all right as well. Thank you so much for being with us.
I really appreciate it. Try and get some sleep.
BOW: Yes, sir.
COOPER: Isaiah Bow and Paul Otermat.
Let us know what you think about all this. We're on Facebook. You can follow me right now on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I have been tweeting over the course of this hour ahead.
Up next, we have new information about how the suspect wired up his apartment to explode and take even more lives of first-responders and neighbors. That's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMMA GOOS, EYEWITNESS: There was a man who was asking the police to help him, and he was absolutely covered in blood. His whole face was spattered and his whole arm.
And he was asking for help. And no one would stop to help him. And I thought, well, I have to at least talk to him. I'm not trained in paramedics at all, but I should talk to him. And I went over. And he had been hit in the head. I thought he was just grazed because there was only a small scratch.
But when I looked again, I realized that it was very, very swollen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's Emma Goos. We talked to her about two hours ago.
And we're hearing from so many people who were inside that theater who when they left tried to help their loved ones or even complete strangers in the case of Emma.
Again, tonight, we're really trying to focus on the victims and the survivors of last night's killing rampage. But we do want to focus briefly on the suspect in custody tonight expected to make a court appearance on Monday.
Drew Griffin investigates.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He'd been living not far from this movie theater for the past year because it was also close to the University of Colorado Medical School, where Holmes was a graduate student in neurosciences.
According to the school, he was in the process of withdrawing as a student last month. The school, frankly, won't tell us much about his grades, the classes he took or anything else. We do know he did give a student lecture this past March on something called micro RNA biomarkers. If you look it up, it's about an emerging area of neuroscience, the study of nerves that relate to cancer research.
And the school says Holmes worked in a paid position there as well, but no details. Before that, it was a middle-upper-class upbringing in California, high school in San Diego, an undergraduate degree from the University of California in Riverside in 2010. School administrators there said he had an outstanding academic record.
TIMOTHY WHITE, CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, RIVERSIDE: He was an honors student. So, academically, he was at the top of the top. You know, he really distinguished himself from an academic point of view during his four years with us, graduating with highest honors.
GRIFFIN: So how is this honors student, this Ph.D. candidate, this budding neuroscientist suddenly becoming a completely different person, dressed and, according to police, armed to kill?
OATES: The suspect was dressed all in black. He was wearing a ballistic helmet, a tactical ballistic vest, ballistic leggings, a throat protector and a groin protector, and a gas mask.
GRIFFIN: Was the person delusional? Was there mental illness involved? As we try to piece this together, I want to share with you what New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly had released on what he learned of the suspect that may have a tie to the actual movie.
RAYMOND KELLY, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: We have some information. I believe most of it is public. It clearly looks like a deranged individual. He had his hair painted red. He said he was the Joker.
GRIFFIN: But that is all really we know about this guy. All the usual avenues to find out if he was on YouTube, any rants there, any online postings on Facebook, any court cases, any arrest records, girlfriends who didn't like him, none of that.
COOPER: He doesn't have a big social media profile or anything?
GRIFFIN: As far as we can tell, no, none of the usual avenues.
COOPER: One of the big questions of course is how much was this planned out? What do we know about how long ago he got the weapons, he got the equipment?
GRIFFIN: Well, we can't tell you how long he's been thinking about this, but this looks like it's been planned and plotted over the last couple of months.
June and July, he buys four different guns, all of them here in Denver. We're going to show you what they look like. These are not the guns, but this is what they looked like, a semiautomatic AR-15, a shotgun, two Glock .9-millimeter handguns, kind of like what police would use.
These were all purchased locally. He checked out with the federal background checks, all legally purchased. And we also got a receipt from a tactical gear company in Missouri. This is an online company, where just July 2, he bought online $306.79 worth of tactical gear.
This is an urban assault vest. This would look like a bulletproof vest, a pistol magazine, a magazine pouch to carry ammunition, and then a knife, all of it, Anderson, in black. He ordered it specifically in black, second-day air, come to his apartment. He ordered it on July 2.
COOPER: Wow. It's fascinating.
Also, is it known if he wore this stuff inside or did he have the stuff outside? Apparently, the police say he came into the theater with everybody and then he left. And then he came back in the emergency exit. We don't know.
GRIFFIN: We can only surmise. The witnesses who say they saw somebody propping a door open, they didn't mention anything about black or anything like. And then some of them even thought it was two different people at one point.
GRIFFIN: It may be that he had to dress outside.
COOPER: Still a lot we need to figure out.
Drew, appreciate the reporting all day.
Also tonight, breaking news about the way in which the suspect allegedly tried to create even more victims. He apparently booby- trapped his apartment.
We have now learned how bomb technicians say he rigged it. Randi Kaye is on the scene, as I said, just four miles from where we are right now. She joins us now.
Randi, what have we learned tonight?
RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Anderson, as we have been learning all day, in fact, James Holmes did booby-trap his apartment. It was well-rigged, according to law enforcement. And we're just getting this information tonight from Reuters. Apparently, when he went to the movie theater that night, when Holmes went to the movie theater that night, law enforcement is saying that he set a timer to go off to turn on some really loud music.
That then would have triggered somebody to possibly file a noise complaint, possibly even have somebody go to the apartment, and if they had opened that door, if they had done anything, a window possibly, that might have triggered some of these explosives that he has ready in that apartment, which could have brought down the whole building or possibly several buildings.
So, law enforcement now aware of that. They have been working here all day trying to figure out what to do with those explosives inside. If you take a look behind me -- and I'm not sure how well you can see it at this hour, but it's the third-floor apartment back there. That is James Holmes' apartment. The windows are broken out.
It's so dangerous inside that they actually had to send in robots with tiny cameras to see what was going on. And they found a web of tripwires and chemical devices and incendiary devices and gasoline just ready to explode. The robots took some pictures. They're now being analyzed. They could go in to that apartment or possibly send those robots in as early as first thing in the morning, Anderson, to try and detonate those explosives already inside.
They have already evacuated five buildings in this area. We are told that some of the residents have been allowed to go back inside tonight to get some medicine, to get some personal belongs. But then, tomorrow, they plan to shut down traffic if they do decide in this area to try and detonate those explosives.
So, Anderson, still tonight, after all these hours, a very tense situation when you do have an apartment full of live explosives -- Anderson.
COOPER: Well, it's very lucky that no first-responders actually entered that apartment and that they were so cautious. Randi, appreciate the reporting on that.
Coming up, so far, there hasn't been much information come out about who the victims are. But we do know the name of one person who was killed, a young woman who had her whole life ahead of her. She was just 24 years old. I'm going to speak with her brother and we're going to learn about who she was and what she hoped for in life. That's next.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
911 OPERATOR: Three-fifteen and 314, there is at least one person that's been shot, but they're saying there's hundreds of people just running around.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COOPER: I want to tell you about one of the people that we know was killed inside that theater, really the only victim whose name we do know, Jessica Ghawi.
She had her whole life ahead of her. She just 24 years old, an aspiring sportscaster. I talked to her brother, who felt it was important to talk about his sister on this day of all days, so that people focus not on the killer, as so many people seem to be focusing, but on the victims.
We will be right back with that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS RAMOS, WITNESS: Little girls were shot, little boys were shot. Elderly people were shot. Teenagers were shot. People that were still in high school, they were shot. He did not care. Death did not care at all, about age, sex or anything. It was all a massacre.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: On a terrible day like this, after a terrible incident like this, so much attention goes to the suspected gunman. History remembers the names of the killers, and there's something about that that just seems wrong. I think history should remember the names of the victims and those survivors and their family members whose lives will be forever changed.
So tonight we've wanted to try to focus on the victims as much as possible, remember their lives. Most of the victim's names have not yet been released. So we want to tell you about the young women -- the young woman who we do know about, whose name we do know.
Her life was cut short by the massacre at the theater. She's the only victim whose name has so far been released by her family. Her name is Jessica Ghawi. She was just 24 years old. She was a sister, a daughter, a friend to many. By all accounts a remarkable young woman with a very promising career ahead of her. Now in a moment, we're going to talk to Jessica's brother.
First, Poppy Harlow has a look at her life.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A fiery redhead, passionate above all else in her personal and professional life, her brother Jordan tells us. Just 24 years old. Jessica Ghawi, beginning life on her own, an aspiring sportscaster who lived in Denver and went by Jessica Redfield on the air.
(on camera) What do you want to tell the world about Jessica, your sister, who lost her life far too young? JORDAN GHAWI, BROTHER OF JESSICA: I want her story to be told. I want her to be remembered and not this gunman. It's -- and it's a tragedy, but we need to focus on the -- on the victims.
HARLOW: Jessica's grieving mother.
SANDY PHILLIPS, MOTHER OF JESSICA: I'll never have her to hug again or get a text message again or get a funny Facebook picture. That's the hard part right now. Just knowing those are things that I'm never going to get to experience again. I was blessed. Only for 25 years, but I was blessed.
HARLOW: She moved from her Texas home to Denver, after begging her parents to let her pursue her dream job.
JESSICA GHAWI, VICTIM: It looks like you got hit with a puck.
HARLOW: She had been looking forward to this big night. Jessica's close high-school friend, Brent Lowick (ph), was visiting her to, quote, "share a special screening of this Batman movie together," Brent's stepfather, Dan Greene (ph) told us. Brent and Jessica were very close, he said.
Brent was shot in the backside and also suffered shrapnel wounds. His stepfather says he's undergone surgery but still has major injuries though is not in critical condition.
Active on Twitter, Jessica's last tweet came around midnight, saying, "Movie doesn't start for 20 minutes."
She had narrowly escaped tragedy just a month ago, a sad irony. Her brother and friends tell us she was at the Eden Center Toronto mall, visiting her boyfriend Jay, a Minor League hockey player, when a shooting broke out in the mall food court just three minutes after Jessica left it. She recounted the horror on her blog.
"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. I say all the time that every moment, we have to live our life is a blessing. I know I truly understand how blessed I am for each second I am given."
Poppy Harlow, CNN, Aurora, Colorado.
COOPER: Earlier this evening I spoke with Jessica's brother, Jordan.
COOPER: I'm so sorry to your loss and for your family's loss. How are you holding up?
JORDAN GHAWI: I don't really have a choice. Right now, I'm just trying to be a pillar of strength for my family and our friends and trying to disseminate the information as I get it.
COOPER: You flew in from San Antonio where you live. You're a firefighter there. You got the first flight in you could. When did you find out what had happened?
JORDAN GHAWI: I'd estimate within 10 minutes of the first shot.
JORDAN GHAWI: From a victim that was with my sister.
COOPER: What do you want people to know about your sister?
JORDAN GHAWI: It's not just my sister. I want people to know about the 11 others and the 70 -- the 11 others that died and the 70 others that have been shot.
But specifically, my sister is her passion and what she stood for and had her dreams cut short and how we're going to be able to try to sustain those dreams and push them forward. She was an asset to her family, an asset to her friends, an asset to her community.
COOPER: She dreamed of being a sportscaster.
JORDAN GHAWI: Correct. She actually left everything she knew in San Antonio to come out here to pursue that dream.
COOPER: And she was doing what she was doing well.
JORDAN GHAWI: Yes. By all accounts. She -- she was pushing forward and making the right contacts and getting her name out there.
COOPER: And she was big on Twitter. She was even tweeting just before the shooting.
JORDAN GHAWI: Twenty minutes, I believe, before the tweet she sent out a tweet about how excited she was regarding the premier.
COOPER: What have you been able to talk to your parent -- have you been able to communicate with your parents?
JORDAN GHAWI: Yes, immediately after receiving the phone call I saw my mother and then saw my father before I left for Colorado. I've been in constant communication with them and more distant relatives throughout the day.
COOPER: What -- why do you want to talk? Some people kind of wonder, in a time like this, why people come forward. And I always think it's because people want their loved ones known and their life known.
JORDAN GHAWI: That's a good question, and a lot of people are questioning my use of social media and why I'm disseminating information that way. I've always been all about transparency. I'm not going to sugar coat anything. I want the word out about my sister, her life and what had happened as soon as possible. But I also don't want the media to be saturated with the shooter's name. The more air time these victims have, the less time the man gets his -- his two seconds on television. I can tell you Virginia Tech the shooter was Cho. I can tell you in Norway, the shooter was Andre Previk. And I can tell you that here in Denver -- in Colorado not long ago, we had Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. I don't want that to happen again here. I want the victims to be remembered, rather than this coward.
COOPER: I think you raise such an important point. And I mean, I said it just actually ten minutes ago. I really don't want to even use this guy's name very much.
JORDAN GHAWI: I don't want to (ph) hear it.
COOPER: Because I just don't think it should be known a month from now, a week from now or even tomorrow. I think it should be forgotten.
JORDAN GHAWI: Of course we're all going to speculate on a motive, but does it really matter? I'm going to focus on the victims and the way we're going to keep those memories alive, rather than a coward with a rifle and who knows what causes. Maybe he had a manifesto. I don't care. I don't want to hear about it. I don't want to hear his name. This is the about the victims.
COOPER: What happens now? I mean, what -- how have you been -- what's your next step?
JORDAN GHAWI: Bring her home. We want to bring her home and celebrate her life with family, friends and anybody that she's touched.
COOPER: Again, I appreciate you talking, and I'm just -- I'm just so sorry for your loss.
JORDAN GHAWI: I really appreciate you taking the time to get the victims' stories out there.
COOPER: And there are still families -- so many families right now who are suffering tonight.
I just want to show you kind of a makeshift memorial. We've seen these always popping up in the incidents and tragedies like this. Here is no different. A small group of people brought candles, a sign that says, "Gone but not forgotten." And really over the last hour or so, just seen people come by, bringing flowers, stop off with candles. And no doubt all throughout the evening tonight, more people will come.
This is about as close as most people can get to the theater. It's about -- it's about a block and a half or two blocks away from the theater. There are people who still don't know what happened to loved once who were there in the theater last night. At least, that's as far as we know. We do know that authorities starting this hour began notifying the families of the deceased. It's a tough, tough duty for everybody involved.
Earlier, I spoke with Marcus Weaver. A young man who was injured in the attack. He actually still has bullets -- shrapnel in his shoulder. He's waiting to hear about a friend of his who was also in the theater. Marcus described to me how it all started, what he saw.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARCUS WEAVER, SURVIVOR: When he first came out, it was after the smoke bomb had went across the theater. And it hit the other side, and it was smoky. And we all thought that maybe it was, you know, a prank, or something that went along with the movie.
And the next two shots, like, hit the front row. It was almost like it hit the iron and made like it was fireworks. And then the barrage of shots started clanging, clanging out.
My friend Rebecca and the people that were next to me, we ducked for cover, and we were behind, just a little -- it would seem like it was only like six inches of seat that were from the next step down in the stadium seating. So we just hold on for dear life, hoping that the bullets didn't hit us, but it was hitting chairs. It was hitting people. People were toppling over us.
COOPER: When did you realize you had been hit?
WEAVER: I didn't realize I was hit until actually I got outside.
COOPER: So you didn't feel the bullet enter you?
WEAVER: No. I think that I had such an adrenaline rush until I got outside, and everybody was coming to me, "Are you injured? Are you injured?"
COOPER: Because your shirt was -- was blood. This is the shirt you got...
WEAVER: This is the shirt. I got sprayed with some bullets right there.
COOPER: And how is your arm now? Obviously, it's in...
WEAVER: Well, it's got like two holes right there where they entered. They thought it might have...
COOPER: Where the bullet entered?
WEAVER: Fortunately, it didn't enter anywhere else, because it had done some damage. And then the shrapnel that's still, like, on my shoulder right here. My friend, she's still missing, her name is Rebecca Wingo (ph). And there was a report somewhere on Goodwill, where they're looking on the Internet. The family and her dad has called me. And so they've been searching the hospital. And she's yet to be found.
What happened was, when we got up off the ground there was a moment where he stopped shooting. And so I picked her up, and she had blood all over her face. And her body was blood, and she was unconscious. So I tried to pick her up with my left hand and get her through the row, but there were people trampling over, the seating coming down. There were people in my aisle who were like laying down, injured, dead, crying. I mean, it was awful. So I ended up tripping and then had to set her down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's Marcus Weaver. He's looking for his friend, Rebecca Wingo (ph), tonight. Since that interview, we've been able to find a photo of her. If anybody has any information about Rebecca, anyone else, or the investigation, there are numbers you can call for information about loved ones. The number is 303-739-1862. If you've got any information about the shooting, authorities would like you to call Crimestoppers at 720-913-7867.
Tonight Aurora, Colorado, obviously is reeling from one of the worst shootings in history. Straight out of a horror film. That's how one witness described the massacre in Theater No. 9 just over there, over my shoulder.
Now when former congresswoman, Gabby Giffords, heard the news, you can imagine the memories it must have brought for her. A gunman shot her and 18 others in a supermarket parking lot in Tucson. Six died in the attack. Giffords is still recovering from her injuries. Earlier, though, I talked to her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly.
COOPER: This is still a city in shock. Obviously, so many in the country are still in shock. People in Tucson, Arizona, know, certainly, what that is like. When former congresswoman, Gabby Giffords, heard the news, you can imagine all the memories it brought up for her.
I talked to Congresswoman Giffords' husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, earlier tonight.
COOPER: It was only one and 1/2 years ago when your wife was shot in Tucson. When you heard about what happened here, what first entered your mind?
MARK KELLY, HUSBAND OF GABBY GIFFORDS: Well, this morning, immediately when I got up, I saw a text message from Gabby's former chief of staff who is now the assistant secretary of homeland security for public affairs, Pia Carison, and she said, "CO Shooting." And my national reaction was, you know, I thought it meant "commanding officer."
So it actually took a while. I looked through my e-mail and then I saw the CNN breaking news e-mail that outlined what happened. And you know, Gabby and I had just gotten up. And you know, we were just horrified over how could this happen again, I mean, just 18 months later.
COOPER: And that was her reaction, as well, obviously?
KELLY: Yes, it was. I mean, it was, you know, just shocked and sad. And sad for the victims and Colorado. This is going to be a really, really difficult time for those folks. It's going to take a long time to recover.
COOPER: As a family member of someone who was shot, as a friend of people who lost their lives, how do you take the next step? I mean, how do you get up the next day? How do you get through something like this?
KELLY: Well, I think -- you know, everybody handles it differently. And I think there are those stages of grief. You know, for me, the first thing was disbelief and shot. And then I very quickly got to anger. You know, even a year and a half later, this is a process that takes a long time. I mean, for me, a year and a half later, I think about this every single day. I think about what Gabby goes through, you know, what the other families of the victims. Christina Taylor Green's family is an example.
I mean, the story you just told that I was listening to about Jessica that her -- you and her brother talked about. I mean, just, you know, a scene much like Christina Taylor Green, even though she was much younger. I mean, this is -- these are tragic, tragic stories. And this is going to take a long time for this community to get over this.
COOPER: What's your -- what's your advice? I mean, there are family members who have lost loved ones who are watching right now. And there are -- obviously the larger family in Aurora, Colorado, is suffering through this. So what's your advice to somebody watching tonight?
KELLY: Well, I think for the folks that were directly -- directly affected by this, the victims, the ones that were not killed, and the family members, I mean, it really helped to come together as a community. That happened in Tucson. I think these -- you know, these towns like Tucson tend to rise to the occasion. And that support really helps those people that are experiencing this. So I think it helps.
You know, as an example, Gabby's staff, I mean, we immediately got, you know, some professional help for them. In January, January 8th of 2011. That happened on a Saturday. And by Sunday or Monday, there was, you know, professional help for those folks. So that is really important to do that as soon as possible.
COOPER: Well, Mark Kelly, we wish you the best. I appreciate you talking on this very difficult day and our best to your wife and her recovery, as well. She's an inspiration. Both of you are inspirations for so many. A help to so many, I think, in this time. Mark, we appreciate it.
COOPER: I talked to him earlier tonight. When we come back, we're going to show you some of the sights and the sounds from this -- this very difficult day here in Aurora, Colorado. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Welcome back to our continuing live coverage from Aurora, Colorado.
Earlier we showed you kind of a makeshift memorial -- candlelight memorial that's been put up about a block from where I'm standing. On Sunday there's going to be a prayer vigil here in Aurora. Today has been obviously heartbreaking, to say the least, as people have struggled to come to terms with what happened in the movie theater just over there, less than 24 hours ago. A senseless attack that left at least 12 people dead, 58 people injured.
Last night's chaos turned into today's grief, and along with grief comes questions, some of which may never be answered. The simplest question is why, and we don't have the answer to that right now.
Right now we want to let everyone who's been affected by this tragedy know our thoughts are with them, our hearts are with them as we take a look at some of what we saw and others saw on this day, a day that none of us will forget.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three fifteen and three fourteen for a shooting at Century Theater, 14, 300 East Alameda Avenue. There's been somebody shooting in the auditorium.
OATES: Approximately 12:30 this morning, a gunman appeared at the front of one of the theaters in the Century 16 theater behind me here. Witnesses tell us that he released some sort of canister, they heard a hissing sound and that gas emerged.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get us some damn gas masks for theater nine. We can't get in it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She said that a man about six feet tall, taller than her, kicked through the door. And he was in, like she said a riot helmet. She said he had a bulletproof vest on. You know, she said that he was completely covered in all black with goggles.
When she turned around all she saw was the guy slowly making his way up the stairs and just firing. RAMOS: He was not saying anything at all. He was just quiet. And he was literally just shooting everyone like it was like hunting season or something.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got seven down in Theater nine, seven down!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was hysterical. I didn't know what to think or what to do. I panicked. I was scared. All I could think about is I probably know somebody in there that's hurt right now.
JAMIE ROHRS, SHOOTING WITNESS: She got shot, just got shot, the shots kept going. And there was an exit at the top, and she ran out the top.
TANNER COON, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I slipped on some blood, fell on a lady and I saw her heels and everything. I shook her and I was, like, you, we've got to go. We've got to get out of here, and there was no response. She didn't -- so I presume she was dead.
DARIUS HARVEY, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: It's really epic and you really can't believe it and feel like I'm in a dream right now.
MAYOR STEVE HOGAN, AURORA, COLORADO: We will always wish that, no matter how much we do now, that we had done more.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If there's anything to take away from this tragedy, it's the reminder that life is very fragile. Our time here is limited, and it is precious.
And what matters at the end of the day is not the small things. It's not the trivial things, which so often consume us and our daily lives. Ultimately, it's how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another.
COOPER: And our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and with their families tonight and all those survivors and those first responders.
That does it for this edition of 360. Thanks very much for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" is next.