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Aspiring sports reporter killed in Colorado shooting, brother says

By David Ariosto, CNN
July 21, 2012 -- Updated 0427 GMT (1227 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Jessica Ghawi's brother said victims deserve the attention
  • Mother says her daughter had a "huge heart"
  • Aspiring sports reporter was among those gunned down at a movie theater
  • She was at a Toronto mall last month just before a deadly shooting there

(CNN) -- An aspiring Colorado sports reporter and the others killed or wounded in a mass shooting at a movie theater in suburban Denver should be the focus of the public's attention, rather than the suspected killer, her brother said.

"The more air time these victims have the less time that man has his two seconds on television," Jordan Ghawi told CNN's "AC360" on Friday night.

Jordan Ghawi traveled to Aurora, where his sister, Jessica, was killed. He called the suspected gunman a "coward."

The young woman in her mid-20s -- who barely missed a deadly Toronto shooting last month -- was among 12 patrons killed, according to police.

Their father, Nick, who had asked her brother to head out to Colorado to "confirm what's happened," could not be reached for comment.

After narrowly missing a mass shooting in Toronto, Jessica Ghawi wrote in her blog: \
After narrowly missing a mass shooting in Toronto, Jessica Ghawi wrote in her blog: "I was shown how fragile life was."

Gunman turns movie into real-life 'horror film'

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.

A journalist and blogger in her mid-20s who also went by the name Jessica Redfield, she had tweeted about the movie not long before the attack.

"Movie doesn't start for 20 minutes," she wrote in her last message.

Ghawi's mother, Sandy Phillips, said she will miss communicating with her daughter.

"I'll never have her to hug again, or get a text message again or get a funny Facebook picture," Phillips told CNN affiliate KSAT in San Antonio, Texas, where her daughter grew up. "That's the hard part right now ... knowing those are things I'm never going to experience again."

Phillips told KSAT her daughter was excited the two would soon spend some time together.

"She had a huge heart," Phillips said. "Cared deeply for other people."

Theater security stepped up nationwide

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.

Parents, 4-month-old survive shooting
A timeline of the Colorado shooting
Listen to theater shooting 911 calls
Friend: Ghawi was 'spunky and vivacious'

"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."

Baby among victims treated

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.

Later Friday, Jordan Ghawi wrote, "essentially, she died quickly and painlessly. Now we will begin the process of bringing her home to celebrate her life."

Shooting suspect was a doctoral student

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.

Jordan Ghawi told CNN his sister was working hard to succeed in sports journalism.

"She left everything she knew in San Antonio to come out here to pursue that dream," he said

Shooting unfolds in real time on social media

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."

U.S. service members among casualties

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."

CNN's Phil Gast contributed to this report.

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