Aspiring sports reporter killed in Colorado shooting, brother says

Posted at 5:27 PM, Jul 20, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-20 22:02:09-04
(CNN) — An aspiring Colorado sports reporter — who barely missed a deadly Toronto shooting last month — was among those gunned down at a movie theater in a Denver suburb early Friday morning, according to a statement from her brother, citing the coroner’s office.

“Jessica (Ghawi) has indeed died of injuries sustained in the shooting,” Jordan Ghawi said on his blog.

Their father, Nick, who had asked her brother to head out to Colorado to “confirm what’s happened,” could not be reached for comment Friday following the statement.

His daughter, Jessica Ghawi, had been at an Aurora multiplex to catch a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” the latest installment of the Batman series, when a gunman burst in and began shooting.

Ghawi, a 24-year-old journalist and blogger who also goes by the name Jessica Redfield, had tweeted about the movie just hours before the attack.

“Movie doesn’t start for 20 minutes,” she wrote in her last message.

Ghawi’s friend and fellow movie-goer, Brent Lowek, also was shot during the attack but later emerged from surgery at a medical facility, according to friends and relatives.

“It looks like he’s going to be OK,” his stepfather, Dan Greene, told CNN.

By Friday morning, a Denver radio station where Ghawi had once interned posted on Facebook that she had been killed.

“Sending thoughts, prayers and love to my friend Jessica and her family,” 104.3 The Fan posted. “She is one of the victims who died in the theater shooting.”

Her brother wrote on his blog earlier Friday that relatives had informed him that his sister was among the victims of Friday’s shooting, taking two rounds, including one to the head.

“At approximately 0215 CST, I received an hysterical, and almost unintelligible, phone call from my mother stating that my sister, Jessica Ghawi, had been shot while attending the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Denver, CO,” he wrote.

“I was able to contact the man that was with my sister, mutual friend Brent, who stated that they were in the theatre when an incendiary device was fired into the crowd and that shots rang out immediately afterwards.”

Benjamin Hochman, a reporter for The Denver Post, described his friend Ghawi as an effervescent young woman, brimming with energy and a love of hockey that she sought to channel into the competitive world of sports reporting.

“I woke up this morning and saw that people had been texting me to make sure I was OK,” said Hochman, who then checked Facebook and saw postings about Ghawi.

He’d written her a letter of recommendation just a few months earlier, and the two had become fast friends.

“I thought the world of her,” he said.

In June, Ghawi was visiting Toronto with her boyfriend, a minor league hockey player, when they narrowly escaped a deadly shooting in the city’s main downtown mall.

Peter Burns, a friend of Ghawi’s, said that attack seemed to heighten her zest for life, pointing to reflections she later posted on her blog.

“I can’t get this odd feeling out of my chest,” Ghawi wrote in a June 5 post. “This empty, almost sickening feeling won’t go away. I noticed this feeling when I was in the Eaton Center in Toronto just seconds before someone opened fire in the food court. An odd feeling which led me to go outside and unknowingly out of harm’s way. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around how a weird feeling saved me from being in the middle of a deadly shooting.”

She added that “gun crimes are fairly common where I grew up in Texas, but I never imagined I’d experience a violent crime first hand.”

“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,” she wrote of the June shooting. “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.”

Ghawi further reflected, saying the incident reminded her that “every moment we have to live our life is a blessing.”

“So often I have found myself taking it for granted. Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings. Every second of every day is a gift. After Saturday evening, I know I truly understand how blessed I am for each second I am given.”

Meanwhile, witnesses described Friday’s deadly shooting as harrowing and chaotic, while victims and their families tried to cope with the bloody aftermath.

In the day’s early morning hours, a police officer was seen carrying a young girl, described as bloodied and motionless, after the gunman swung open the door of the sold-out theater and began firing.

“I honestly can’t think of any kind of person who would intentionally hurt a little girl,” Alex Milano told CNN affiliate KUSA. “I don’t know whose little girl that was, but my heart goes out to them.”

A 4-month-old baby was among the youngest wounded, her mother said.

“I saw at least four maybe five people who were limping, wounded,” said Milano. “The most that I saw was a girl that was pretty much covered in blood, and she didn’t have any wounds on her. It made me think the worst.”

He said he was in an adjoining theater when shots rang out and pierced the walls as an acrid gas filled both rooms, disorienting movie goers as the gunman entered.

“I heard (people) moaning like they were in pain.”

“There was this one guy who was on all fours crawling. There was this girl spitting up blood,” Donovan Tate recalled to CNN affiliate KCNC. “There were bullet holes in some people’s backs, some people’s arms.”

Tate said a bullet had grazed his friend’s neck. The man is thought to be doing well and being treated at a medical facility.

But another friend, he said, has remained unreachable.

Police say the shooter, who they believe acted alone, had four guns — an AR-15 rifle, a shotgun and two handguns. He was dressed from head-to-toe in protective gear, wearing a ballistic helmet, throat and groin protectors, a gas mask and a bulletproof vest, Police Chief Dan Oates told reporter.

A 24-year-old Aurora resident, James Holmes, has been arrested in the case.

Authorities say Holmes’ apartment had been booby trapped with trip wires, delaying their investigation.