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On Reporting What Matters In The Aurora ‘Dark Knight Rises’ Tragedy

By 07.23.12

By now you’ve probably seen plenty of sensationalized, tactless TV news reports about the mass murder during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, last Friday. You won’t find the shooter’s name or picture here for an obvious reason: screw that guy. We have no interest in making that taintbadger into some kind of celebrity and poring over everything he’s ever said as if he deserves a platform. He’s nothing. He’s nobody. Let’s talk about the people who matter.
Below you’ll find our reporting on this matter, and we’ll try to follow the suggestions made by forensic psychiatrist Dr. Park Deitz, who talks about how to report a case like this in the video below. His guidelines, transcribed by SFTN, are quite simple. “If you don’t want to propagate more mass murders:

  • Don’t start the story with sirens blaring
  • Don’t have photographs of the killer
  • Don’t make this 24/7 coverage
  • Do everything you can NOT to make the body count the lead story
  • [and] not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero
  • DO localize this story to the affected community and make it as boring as possible in every other market.”

With those suggestions in mind, we’d like to talk about the victims, the community, and share the official statements released by Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, and Christopher Nolan.
If you’d like to help the Aurora community, there’s a good list of reliable local organizations here. For a full timeline of aggregated coverage, The High Definite tipped us off to Redditor integ3er‘s comprehensive timeline here, here, here, here and here.
[Additional sources: Mashable, CBM, MTV, Buzzfeed, Producer Matthew, Reuters, LA Times, Independent Mail; banner image by Frank Miller via Newsweek]
A short video on how most TV news covers mass murders, and how it feeds into creating copycats:


On following pages, you’ll find pictures and information on the victims in Aurora.
Jon Blunk, aged 26

The 26-year-old military veteran was attending the movie with a friend, Jansen Young, who says Blunk “took a bullet for me.” Blunk enlisted in the U.S. Navy shortly after graduating high school in 2004. Blunk leaves behind a wife and two young children. [Reuters]
Blunk had told her that he was born to serve his country, Young said, and was re-enlisting in the armed forces. “It was just what he wanted to do, and he loved it,” Young said. “He saved me, and he gave me the opportunity to live – he would have done it for anybody that day.” [LA Times]

Alexander “A.J.” Boik, aged 18

Alexander “A.J.” Boik, a recent high school graduate who planned to attend Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in nearby Lakewood, was celebrated at an impromptu gathering Saturday evening at his alma mater, Gateway High School in Aurora.
Many recalled Boik, 18, as a warm, loving young man who played the violin, loved making pottery and dreamed of teaching art. As Boik’s closest friends and relatives stood shoulder to shoulder, mourners circulated a poem written by a fellow student, Barbara Barocio: “You’re one of the reasons why/Almost all of our days remain bright/Thank you, you are one of our most/Special friends.”
He liked to sketch romantic scenes of couples kissing and walking under clouds that formed the words “I love you.”
His friend Tre Freeman said Boik was a “carefree spirit” who had once grown a handlebar mustache; “I don’t know any other teenager who would do that,” Freeman said. [LA Times]

Staff Sgt. Jesse Childress, aged 29

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.
But Childress was also a “big nerd,” his friend Kevin Thao told the newspaper. Childress loved comics and superhero movies. He had recently bought a black Scion, a car he nicknamed the “Batmobile.”
Thao said he and another friend had tickets to “The Dark Knight Rises” in theater 8, and tried to get Childress to sneak into their theater. Childress had tickets to theater 9 and decided to stay there in order to be with a friend.
Thao said Childress was shot when he dove in front of his friend, a female Air Force member from Buckley. “He would have done that,” Thao told the newspaper. [Independent Mail]

Gordon Cowden, aged 51

Gordon W. Cowden, 51, was at “The Dark Knight Rises” premiere with his two teenage children, who escaped the shooting safely, according to the Denver Post.
“Loving father, outdoorsman and small business owner, Cowden was a true Texas gentleman that loved life and his family,” Cowden’s family said in a statement released to the media. “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.” [LA Times]

Jessica Ghawi, aged 24

In early June, Jessica Ghawi walked out of a Toronto mall moments before a gunman walked in. The shootings that followed killed two people and wounded half a dozen more.
“I was shown how fragile life was,” Ghawi wrote on her personal blog. “… I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end.”
Ghawi, who went by Jessica Redfield professionally, had moved to Denver from Texas a year ago to pursue a career as a sports journalist. She worked as an intern at Denver sports radio station 104.3 The Fan, and with the You Can Play Project, a gay-rights group that supports equality in the locker room.
“I specialize in sports media and snark,” Ghawi wrote on her blog. “Not your typical sarcastic feisty redhead attempting to perfect the trifecta of class, sass, and crass. Yankee born, Texas raised, Colorado blooming.” [LA Times]

“I say all the time 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.” — Jessica Ghawi
Petty Officer 3rd Class John Larimer, aged 27

Larimer was a U.S. Navy sailor. His commander Jeffrey Jakuboski said “I am incredibly saddened by the loss of Petty Officer John Larimer — he was an outstanding shipmate. A valued member of our Navy team, he will be missed by all who knew him. My heart goes out to John’s family, friends and loved ones, as well as to all victims of this horrible tragedy.” [Buzzfeed]

Matthew McQuinn, aged 27

Matthew McQuinn, 27, threw himself in front of his longtime girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, saving her but not himself. Yowler was listed in stable condition Saturday after surgery. The pair had met at a Target store where they worked in Springfield, Ohio, and had applied for transfers to a store in Aurora, according to the Dayton Daily News. “They’re really fun people; we always go out together,” Melissa Downen, a Colorado coworker and friend to the couple, told the Daily News. McQuinn graduated from Vandalia-Butler High School in 2004. [LA Times]

Micayla Medek, aged 23

On her Facebook page, Micayla identified herself as a Subway “sandwich artist.” A graduate of William C. Hinkley High School in Aurora, she said she was a member of the class of 2015 of the Community College of Aurora. “I’m a simple independent girl who’s just trying to get her life together while still having fun,” she wrote. […]
“She was so easygoing. She never asked anybody for anything. She wouldn’t hurt a fly,” her older sister Amanda Medek said. “She was the most loving person. You couldn’t hate this girl. She was amazing in every way.”
A brown-eyed brunette who loved Hello Kitty, hot pink, fairies, boas and Beanie Babies, Medek, 23, was saving money to travel to India, the homeland of some of her co-workers at Subway.
Her parents, Greg and Rena, recalled her their “sweetheart angel girl.” The Medeks waited for news all day Friday. Soon after two police officers arrived with the sad news, the medical examiner’s office contacted the family about an autopsy. Greg Medek said he agreed after the medical examiner promised she would fulfill one request: “Will you go down there and squeeze my Cayla’s hand and tell her Mom and Dad love her and it’s not going to hurt?’” [LA Times]

Veronica Moser, aged 6

The youngest shooting victim was described by a family member as a “vibrant, excitable” girl who was enthused about learning how to swim just days prior. “It’s a nightmare right now,” her aunt Annie Dalton told the Denver Post. Moser’s mother, 25-year-old Ashley Moser, is listed in critical condition at an area hospital. [Reuters]

Alex Sullivan, aged 27

Friday was Alex Sullivan’s 27th birthday, and he apparently died a hero.
Based on his wounds, friends said, Sullivan shielded those around him from the bullets.
“He was on the end and he stood up to cover the girls,” said Shelly Fradkin, whose son grew up with and was best friends with Sullivan. She said his love for Batman and other stars shaped his character. “His heart was ready to be that real life superhero.”
Sullivan graduated from Grandview High School in 2003 and studied culinary arts, Fradkin said. In the past, he had worked at movie theaters but was most recently working at Red Robin. He was a newlywed and had no children. [LA Times]

Alexander Teves, aged 24

Alexander Teves, 24, had recently earned a master’s degree in counseling psychology at the University of Denver, according to the Denver Post.
“Alex Teves was an Arizona basketball fan, loved Spider-Man, was an amazing therapist, and died a hero,” a friend who was with him at the theater, Caitlin, wrote on her Twitter account (@dingos8myTARDIS). “He could make us all laugh with his Gollum impression. I’ll never forget that.” [LA Times]

Rebecca Wingo, aged 32

Rebecca Wingo had two daughters, ages 4 and 6. She worked at a medical company in Aurora, friends said, and had gone to see the new Batman movie with Marcus Weaver, 41.
As the bullets flew in the theater, Weaver said he tried to protect her as best he could. “… When I lifted her up, she was unconscious,” Weaver said. “She may have already passed.”
According to her Facebook page, Wingo was born in Quinlan, Tex. and spent 11 years working for the United States Air Force. She most recently worked as an intake specialist at Schryver Medical in Denver. [LA Times]

“Words cannot express the horror that I feel. I cannot begin to truly understand the pain and grief of the victims and their loved ones, but my heart goes out to them.” — Christian Bale
“My prayers and deepest sympathies are with the victims and their families of this horrific act.” — Gary Oldman
“Speaking on behalf of the cast and crew of The Dark Knight Rises, I would like to express our profound sorrow at the senseless tragedy that has befallen the entire Aurora community. I would not presume to know anything about the victims of the shooting but that they were there last night to watch a movie. I believe movies are one of the great American art forms and the shared experience of watching a story unfold on screen is an important and joyful pastime. The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me. Nothing any of us can say could ever adequately express our feelings for the innocent victims of this appalling crime, but our thoughts are with them and their families.” — Christopher Nolan


TAGSAJ BOIKALEX SULLIVANALEXANDER TEVESAURORAaurora coloradoCHRIS NOLANCHRISTIAN BALEColoradoDARK KNIGHT RISESGARY OLDMANGORDON COWDENJESSE CHILDRESSJESSICA GHAWIJOHN LARIMERJON BLUNKMATTHEW MCQUINNMICAYLA MEDEKREBECCA WINGOtragedyVERONICA MOSER

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