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Colorado Shooting

Aired July 21, 2012 - 20:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. I'm Don Lemon live tonight in Aurora, Colorado. This is a special hour here on CNN. We are going to focus not on the events of that horrified theater shooting of the man witnesses say killed 12 people in cold blood.

Instead, you're going to see everything we know about the people forever affected by this unspeakable tragedy. Those who saw what happened, those who were shot but survived and those who lived in the same building as the suspect, James Holmes.

That was James Holmes' apartment today. That small explosion was set up by police and the FBI after they found out that the front door was rigged to blow up in the face of whoever opened it. The police who lived in that area, the people who lived in that area and in that building had been out there all day yesterday and all today. They don't have a place to stay. We are going to hear from them in just a moment.

But first, I want to show some live pictures right here. Not far from where I am standing, people are gathering for a second night outside the movie theater where 70 people were either killed or wounded in one shooting rampage. The people of Aurora, Colorado are mourning today.

And then over in my shoulder behind me at the theater where it happened, there were police officers just on the scene moments ago. They were removing evidence and looking into that.

But in the meantime, police are releasing the names of all of the victims as their families are informed now. The last of the 12 names were made public just a short time ago.

And just look at this picture and these words? The front page to today's "Denver Post," "our hearts are broken." Certainly are all across the country.

I want to get now straight to our Ed Lavandera. HE is near the suspect's apartment building.

So, Ed, we just so that controlled explosion. Why did they do that? And are the people who live there, are they allowed to go back home now? So many people have been displaced.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They will begin to allow people in the surrounding buildings that have been evacuated over the last 36 hours to begin the process of coming back. But the building where James Holmes lived, that is still cordoned up, that is still roped off and people will not be allowed to go back in there, so. But just a short while ago, the police department here in Aurora, Colorado said that all of the materials that need to be removed, the explosive and dangerous inside of the apartment of 24-year-old James Holmes have indeed been removed. So the heavy presence, with all the bomb technicians, and all of those sorts of people have now left the scene. And what was described inside that apartment was extremely eerie. The police chief here in Aurora is saying that what -- he says James Holmes left behind in his apartment is a very sophisticated trap designed to seriously injure if not kill someone. And they're not happy about it, either.


DAN OATES, CHIEF, AURORA POLICE DEPARTMENT: Make no mistake, OK? This apartment was designed, I say, based on everything I've seen, to kill whoever entered it, OK? And who was most likely to enter that location after he planned and executed this horrific crime? It was going to be a police officer, OK? So make no mistake about it what was going on there. And if you think we're angry, we sure are angry.


LAVANDERA: Don, they talked about there was a trip wire just along the front door to the apartment that if anyone had un- suspectedly opened that door and tripped that wire, that would have triggered a large explosion that could have been deadly for whoever was walking into that apartment which is terrifying to think for the neighbor who lives below James Holmes in that apartment. And they were saying that some of my colleagues spoke with the person who lives right below him and said at some point, the night before, all of that loud music, that she had actually gone in there and almost opened up the door. The door was open. So imagine just how much worse this could have been had that happened. Those authorities have been nearly 36 hours cleaning out that apartment. And that very dangerous work has now come to an end - Don.

LEMON: Just think if the suspect had made some sort of mistake when he was having the stuff delivered and putting it together. And large, I mean large volumes of delivers we were told by law enforcement over the last couple of months, Ed. Why?

LAVANDERA: And this is one of the things that the police chief here in Aurora talked about. And they shared a little bit of this yesterday. The work that had been done over the last few months, getting the guns. We learned from law enforcement officials, that the guns were purchased in several area gun stores here in the Denver area. During the last three months, there was a great deal of ammunition. Some say 6,000 rounds that authority says James Holmes purchased online and had delivered to him as well as all the explosive material and all the gear that he wore to the theater early Friday morning. That all of them was purchased and delivered to him.

They say that what that shows is a great deal of deliberative process, planning out this attack and, obviously, authorities putting that out there because they're trying to anticipate what his defense attorney night be saying. And if they go for a defense of insanity or some sort of mental condition, authorities here want to be able to show just how well thought out and how planned this attack was.

LEMON: All right, Ed Lavandera, standby. Because I want our viewers to imagine living in that area, in that apartment complex where James Holmes lived. That booby-trapped apartment right near there and not being able to go back to your home and not knowing when the possibility of an explosion.

CNN's Poppy Harlow spoke to people who lived there and here's her story.


PAU MCQUEEN, EVACUEE: It's still frightening, because we don't know when we can go home. They said it could be tonight, it couldn't be another couple of days.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN MONEY.COM CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Forced to evacuate, following Friday's horrific mass movie theater shooting, Paul McQueen is shaken, his children, terrified, their apartment building right next to the suspected shooter. For those who live here, forced to leave their home, it has been a day full of angst and questions.

SGT. CASSIDEE CARLSON, AURORA, CO POLICE DEPARTMENT: First and foremost is, we need to render the area safe. The most immediate threat is the trip wire.

HARLOW: Two hours later, progress.

CARLSON: We have been successful in defeating the first threat, which includes defeating the trip wire and the first incendiary device.

HARLOW: But also, this.

CARLSON: This trip wire was set up to clearly detonate when someone entered that apartment, and it was set up to kill that person.

HARLOW: Kaitlyn Fonzi says she lives in the apartment below the suspected shooter. She heard loud techno music coming from his apartment Friday, went upstairs to confront him, found the door unlocked, but decided not to enter.

KAITLYN FONZI, NEIGHBOR OF JAMES HOLMES: Just hearing the latest news that that device was designed to kill whoever entered that apartment, that's a lot to swallow right now.

HARLOW: A little before noon Saturday, firemen shout, "fire in the hole!" and then this.


CARLSON: We have been successful in detonating the second triggering device. We are confident that we have eliminated all major threats at this point. However, there are many hazards that remain inside this apartment.

HARLOW: And much unease for the evacuated families.

What has this been like for you as a mother?

YESENIA LUJAN, EVACUEE: It's been really horrible. Like, it's terrifying, because I'm a mother of four children and just knowing what happened in the theater to the families, the loved ones --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he lived right next to us.

YESENIA LUJAN: Come to find out he lived right next to us, and you know, it's kind of hard. Because what if he would have just come out and he happened to just start shooting the kids.

TANYA LUJAN, EVACUEE: I don't know if they were going to be, like, OK. If that place was going to blow up while I was at work or you know what. It was just really scary.

HARLOW: For now, that risk well not eliminated at least in the FBI's words, significantly reduced.

Poppy Harlow, CNN. Aurora, Colorado.


LEMON: Right, Poppy.

And amid this tragedy, we are learning about some major stories of survival. Corbin Dates saw in this theater right behind us when the gunman opened fire. He saw the whole thing happen along with his friend Jennifer. I spoke to last night here on CNN. He joins us now.

Jennifer said last night that she was doing OK. How are you holding up?

CORBIN DATES, WITNESSED THEATER SHOOTING: I'm doing a lot better today as opposed to the night that it happens. But I'm getting along. I'm glad to talk to people to have some gone through the same thing and letting them know that I'm also there for them when they needed.

LEMON: Yes. We've heard over and over from a number of different people about their experienced inside that theater. But I have to ask you, as someone who is in there, I didn't ask anybody last night and yesterday when I was here. What is it like being here with that building so close?

DATES: Honestly, when I look at that building, I just get a - I just have a blank feeling inside. Its kind a hard to look at it at time. I try not to think of the event that took place because I'm still seeing flashbacks, so, the things I first saw.

LEMON: You said that you don't even like to look at -- you don't want to look over at it. DATES: I will look over. And you know it will give me a very uncomfortable feeling.

LEMON: Yes. Do you - so very close, Jennifer last night said that the gunman that got really close to her and then pointed the gun at her but - then, didn't shoot her but shot behind her. And you were right next to her. So what happened to you? Why didn't you get shot?

DATES: The gunman came into the auditorium, first thing he did, he threw a canister into an audience which we later found out was a toxic gas. And soon it was went off about two seconds, when the gunshots started firing; I immediately went to the ground. And, instead, we stood there and Jennifer fell right behind me and we stayed there for probably about a dead ten seconds before we decided that we need to crawl to the other side.

LEMON: And you say, when I ask you, why he didn't shoot you, you said that's a good question. You don't know.

DATES: I don't know. Until this day, I still don't know.

LEMON: You never know when your number is up.


LEMON: Are you all right?


LEMON: I'm sure your family is glad to have you back. What do you say to the people around the world who are watching this and thinking, my God, Colorado, what's going on? There was Columbine and now, this shooting. What do you say about it to the country and the world about that?

DATES: Well, for the countries of the world, I would say that events are sort of under circumstances can happen at any time. And as you were saying, you will never know when your number is up. So while you're still here, try to make the most that you can with your family, your friends, colleagues, people that you probably had bad house relationships with because you don't want to leave knowing that you said something or didn't say enough.

LEMON: Take care of yourself. Tell Jennifer we said hello. Thank you very much.

Up next, he is one of mini heroes of this shooting. A young man pulled two teenage girls to safety and comes face to face with the shooter in the process. He joins me and this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's the whole reason we all went, so --.


LEMON: A victim of the shooting speaks from her hospital bed and the best friend she lost.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: A.J. Boik was a student at Gateway High School in Aurora, Colorado. He liked lacrosse and had a girlfriend. He went to the movies that night with a friend. A.J.'s girlfriend and a friend survived a barrage of bullets from suspect James Holmes, but A.J. did not. He died in the theater.


LEMON: And we just talked with a witness who survived the horror in the theater just behind me here. I'm joined now by Eric Hunter. He was watching the batman movie next door in theater eight. The horror happened in theater nine. And then, you came face-to-face with the gunman. So, thanks for talking to us.

What was your reaction when you heard the gunfire? Did you think it was - as witnesses saying, some people thought he was part of the promotion for the movie?

ERIC HUNTER, SURVIVED COLORADO THEATER SHOOTING: Right. When it first happened, we heard three gunshots that came through the wall. We thought they were firecrackers or something on that nature. We thought it was the movie-goings experience that they are trying to create.

LEMON: Did you try to head to an exit or --?

HUNTER: I mean, when that happened, we sat back down after that and we seen some commotion and some people, you know, staggering out. But we thought they are just get you know, the attention of the theater. At that point, we heard nine more shots and we seen it come through. And that's when we knew, we had to, you know, tried to find a way out. That's when I step go down the stairs.

LEMON: He pointed the gun when the space was pretty much covered, but you could see his eyes or maybe his mouth. Did you see any expression? Did you see just look into his eyes?

HUNTER: I mean, when I did get a glimpse of him, I did see his eyes, I couldn't see anything else because he has gas mask on. But I did see his eyes and it looked pretty intense but it didn't really so much emotion.

LEMON: OK. Did he ever come over to the other theater, or is it just one?

HUNTER: No, it was just nine. With us, I think he was going to try to enter the theater after seeing the girls were over there. Once I put them in, he closed it. He (INAUDIBLE). Thank God.

LEMON: Right. So, how are you feeling being back here, I asked, you know, the guest before you being back here at this theater and seeing all of these people out here?

HUNTER: I mean, this is just emotionally, I mean, you want to, I mean, it's just emotionally your happy that you're alive. But then, again, you're sad because you know certain people died. You know children died. And wish, you know, why not, you know me instead of them? You just feel bad, you know.

LEMON: We've been talking a lot about the suspect in this. And many people are say I don't want to hear so much about the suspect. I want to hear about the survivors. I want to hear about the victims and their families. Do you feel that way? Are you angry with him and does it upset you to talk about him?

HUNTER: I mean, it doesn't upset me to talk about him. But I'm angry with the fact that he did what he did. I mean, we have to talk about him if we are going to figure out how to convict him and how to, you know, and have not like this happen again. I mean, we have to talk about him. But I understand where they're coming from, I mean. I don't want even turn on the TV and watch it because I'm affected by it.

LEMON: It's changed your life?

HUNTER: I'm going to be more cautious. I'm going to live my life a little bit, you know, just better and just enjoy myself.

LEMON: All right. Eric, thank you very much. We appreciate it. Good luck to you, OK?

HUNTER: Thank you, sir.

LEMON: All right. Thank you very much.

Up next here in CNN, she served a tour on Iraq only to be shot in a movie theater. And I talked to her about the shooting in Aurora. If it was anything she had seen in a war zone and about the loss of a good friend.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: The first known victim at the Aurora, Colorado mass theater shooting, Jessica Ghawi was an aspiring broadcaster that moved from Texas to Aurora within the last year to chase her dream. Last month, she survived a mall shooting in Toronto while visiting her boyfriend. According to witnesses, she died from a gunshot wound to the head.


LEMON: A good friend of Alex Sullivan, Christina Blache is another victim of the shooting massacre in Aurora, Colorado. She was with Alex at this theater at midnight and she survived. And earlier, we talked as she recovered in her hospital bed. Here's what she had to say. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: A couple of hours ago, a day or so ago, though, you were normal life, manager at a restaurant and then this.

CHRISTINA BLACHE, WOUNDED IN THEATER SHOOTING: Yes. You can't ever expect it. You're always the person that says oh, that will never happen to me. And then when it's going on, I actually didn't even know it was going on for the first three minutes that it happened. I thought it was like movie theater antics. You know, when there's mid night movie premiers, they kind a sometimes put on shows or, you know, like have people dressed in costumes and come around and went on. I honestly thought that might be what was going on. Because it was in the middle of a movie scene when they're fighting.

And when the thing was thrown, you could literally count to five and then this, like, bomb went off. That was like two things in front of me. Like two rows. And then, all of the sudden, you just hear pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. Just gunfire. And that's when it hit me, oh, my God, this is actually happening. As you get to the floor, and so, that's when I went to go to the floor and that's when I was shot.

LEMON: Some people were like oh my God, I've been hit and then I started to run and dock.

BLACHE: Everybody is like the gun is here. The gun is here. And then, there are certain people like transferring over other people that have falling down. Whether they were hit or not, I don't know. But like people are falling over each other. And then the next thing you know, you're hearing everybody, oh my God, help me. Oh, my God, help me.

There was blood everywhere. You could see it. You just turn your head, kind a look around, there's blood everywhere. So it kind of clicks once you see that much blood and people not moving. And then my friend, that was sitting next to me, he was face down next to me, blood coming out of his head. I didn't get an update until this morning about what did actually happened, if he made it or not.

LEMON: Your friend, Alex?

BLACHE: Alex Sullivan. Yes.

LEMON: What did you learn? This morning?

BLACHE: I learned that he died.

LEMON: Hard to fathom.

BLACHE: He's the whole reasonable we all went. So it just sucks, you know. Nobody deserves something like this.

LEMON: Christie as they call you. I mean, you were in a war zone. Like, you were in Baghdad. Why is this worse than being in a war zone? BLACHE: They just weren't -- nobody saw this coming, you know what I mean? Nobody that was there saw it coming. Nobody was prepared for it, no. If you're going over to a war zone, you know there's the potential that you're going to be shot at. Potentials that murders are going to come over the law, potentials that somebody is going to throw a grenade at you. If you're sitting in a movie theater, trying to watch a movie with your friends, who expects to be shot in a movie theater? None of us did.

LEMON: Can you forgive him?

BLACHE: Can I forgive him? Probably not today. Not tomorrow. Eventually. I'm a pretty -- I guess laid back and kind of outgoing person. I like to move on. I don't like to keep dwelling on the past. So eventually, yes, forgive him just not right now. He killed somebody I cared about and injured a heck of a lot of friends. So for right now, no. Down the road, yes.


LEMON: My thanks to Christina Blache.

Here's a look at the Colorado shooting story. How it was told around the world.

On the left, there's the front page from "on Nuevo Diaz" (ph) from Puerto Rico. Translated the headline reads, night of terror in Colorado.

And on the right, the front page of the telegraphic from India. The headline, vampire at bat night.

And, next, the investigation into the alleged shooter, James Holmes, explaining his actions by looking into his past.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Matt McQuinn's family agonized for hours before they found out he was killed in the Aurora movie theater shooting. He was at the movie with his girlfriend and her brother. Witnesses say he died while trying to shield his girlfriend from the barrage of bullets from suspected gunman, James Holmes. To make matters most for his girlfriend, the hospital wouldn't confirm his condition to her because she was not related.


LEMON: All right. We're going to get some new video. This is just in to CNN.

We heard earlier that all of that explosive material had been removed from that suspect's apartment. This is undisclosable case that you are looking at outside of Aurora and you can see police disposing of the material they found inside of that apartment blowing some of it up. They said that the one incendiary device in that apartment appeared to be improvised, nay palm. There are also so- called hyperbolic mixtures which cause an explosive reaction, can cause an explosive reaction if it mixes with other things and that would be nay palm and then other substances, as well.

So, all of that material that they removed from the apartment, it is being disposed of at this hour. And these new pictures are just in to CNN. We'll continue on this story and follow up if we get more information and more pictures on this.

In the meantime, our investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin is here. He joins me now and he's been looking into the background of this theater-shooting suspect, James Holmes. And he has been described as clean cut, responsible, smart, but hardly anyone seemed to, had known him well.

So Drew, when you're looking into this and when you hear about these explosive materials, this doesn't surprise you considering what you have found about this?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Actually, it really only deepens the mystery what we found out today. Late this afternoon, a university of official at the school that he attended, where he was withdrawing said this guy, James Holmes gave no reason whatsoever as to why he was leaving the school and withdrawing. Not in writing. Not verbally to anyone.

We also know from a police dispatcher that the University of Colorado's campus police, they did do a search of all their records, Don, and everything they have on that campus. And James Holmes' name did not come up at all.

Earlier today, we were at the building where he studied, where he worked at the lab, the neurosciences building. We do know that the police did a dog sweep of those buildings. Today, the campuses were closed. It looked more precautionary than anything else. But we did contact one student who said, look, I was beside him for three months in one of those labs last summer. And he said quote, "I couldn't say I was close to him. I couldn't say anyone was close to him." And we're not finding anyone in this town or anywhere else where James Holmes lived, that gives any indication as to why this happened.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): He had 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.

So how is this honor student, this Ph.D. candidate is butting neuroscientist suddenly becoming a completely different person? Dressed, and according to police, armed to kill.

DAN OATES, CHIEF, AURORA, COLORADO POLICE: The suspect was dressed all in black. He was wearing a ballistic helmet, a tactical ballistic vest, ballistic leggings, a throat protector and growing protector, and a gas mask and black, tactical gloves.

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.

RAY KELLY, COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT: We have some information. Most of it is public. Clearly looked like a deranged individual. He had his hair painted red. He said he was the joker.


GRIFFIN: We're finding no evidence from friends, from teachers, from the university officials that said what would lead to that behavior. I think the fact that they were able to take that apartment without blowing anything up inside. There might be clues there or there might be clues from the family himself. But, really, this guy was a ghost in this town.

LEMON: Yes. And this investigation is far from over. We told you about all of the material that that's been removed from the apartment. And then over our shoulders where it happened, investigators are on the scene now. And we saw them circling around the building and bringing things out. So again, as you said, the mystery deepens and - but also the investigation continues.

Thank you, Drew Griffin. And ahead of this hour, a look at James Holmes' life prior to his moved to Colorado. We are going to learn more about his family, his upbringing, and even his time as a camp counselor for underprivileged children. That's ahead. And this.


LEMON: Here's the scene in Washington. The U.S. flag above the White House lowered half-staff. President Barack Obama has ordered that all flags nationwide be lowered until sun set on Wednesday in honor of the victims of the Colorado shootings.

Next, the gunfire. The chaos and the police scanner traffic as the tragedy unfolded. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Alex Sullivan worked at the Century 16 Theater in Aurora and planned to ring in his 27th birthday with a special screening of "Dark Knight Rises." His relatives described as a gentle giant. He was funny, witty, smart with a big heart. He and his wife were expected to celebrate their first wedding anniversary on Sunday.


LEMON: Well, the horror of that night is almost unimaginable. Starting out, the thrill of being first to see one of the biggest movie of the year. And as Anderson Cooper explains, the excitement turns into confusion and then a fight for survival.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's about 12:30 a.m., 20 minutes or so into the sold-out premiere of "the dark knight rises." A gunman dressed head to toe in bullet proof gear and a gas mask, drills a canister what may have been a teargas into the room through the exit door which he propped open earlier after purchasing a ticket to the movie and sneaking out of the theater. The canister ignites causing confusion among theater goers who don't yet realize the danger they're in.

DONOVAN TATE, WITNESS: When this popping started happening, I thought it was fireworks, like someone playing a prank or joke or something, you know, but then some smoke started rising in the lower right corner of the theater.

COOPER: Witnesses say the gunman enters the theater, first fired at the ceiling, then turns his gun on the crowd.

JENNIFER SEEGER, WITNESS: When he went straight for 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. Eyewitness described 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. And 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 is, like, I was down be the ground. I was covering myself. Right when I was going up, like the tear gas was getting me. My eyes were, like, watery. I was, like, crying, like a girl felt weird. And I felt like I was bleeding from my nose. Like it was hard to breathe. So, I kept on going down. Like ducking down. Telling my sister to go forward. Pushing her forward. Where there's like guys, girls, running on top of me, jumping away from the seats, just trying to escape it 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 tried 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 drugged -- 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. Then there was a moment where my daughter -- tripped and I just pulled her up, dragging her, just thinking, we got to get out. I just got to get out the doors. 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 FEMALE DISPATCHER: 315 and 314, first shooting at Century Theaters 14 300 East Alameda Avenue. They're saying somebody's shoot in the auditorium.

COOPER: Police arrive within 90 seconds to soon learn that 71 people have been wounded. The cell phone video shows panicked and bloody victims streaming out of the theater. Inside, ten people are dead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE POLICE: We need rescue inside the auditorium, multiple victims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE POLICE: I got seven down in theater nine! Seven down!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE POLICE: I've got a child victim. I need rescue at the back door, theater nine, now.


LEMON: That was CNN's Anderson Cooper. The death toll now stands at 12. At least 26 people are still in the hospital.

If you want to learn more about victims of the Colorado shooting, paid tribute to them or post messages to their loved ones, you can do so by logging onto our web site. Just go to

Most victims are sharing their stories now. In some cases, there are tales of incredible sacrifice.


I was just in so much pain and agony. Of course I have many other best friends.

LEMON: Calling it crossfire, this vet didn't panic. His quick thinking may have saved the lives of his two friends.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Only enlisted with the U.S. Navy for less than a year, 27-year-old serviceman, John Larimer was in his first posting. In a phone call with CNN, his father, Scott, said they're struggling with the news that he was shot and killed with the movie theater. They say his thoughts and prayers are with the families of the other victims.


LEMON: And many who survived the rampage in that theater feel lucky for dodging death. Some can think more than faith.

CNN's Kyung Lah has the story of one man who didn't think twice before trying to save his friends.


JOSH NOWLAN, SHOOTING VICTIM: My mind is completely clear of what's going on. Guys, here's a gun. He's shooting at people. Stay down. It's the best chance we have.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The second thought for Josh Nowlan? Protect his friends. The 31-year-old navy veteran deployed to Iraq twice proved himself on top of his friends. Nowlan was Brandon underneath Axelrod. Dozens of bulletins flew through the air. One briefly cap and then lodge in his arm breaking the bone.

NOWLAN: I just see this big hole in my leg and big hole in my arm. And as I did, and this is like stay down!

LAH: Nolan says he flattened himself on the theater floor with his friends beneath them. Hearing the gunman walk and wait. He must survive for his two sons, he says, whose pictures he carries in his wallet, 9-year-old Eric and 7-year-old Brian. And then the gun jammed.

If that gun had not jammed, that you'd be here.

NOWLAN: I know I wouldn't be here. If that gun did not jam, I am full certain that I probably would not be here.

LAH: How are you feeling today?

NOWLAN: Scared. You know, of course, I'm glad it is over with. And yes, I'm glad I'm alive. And I get to see my kids. But I also think about the other people that are not as lucky as I was. There were kids, mothers and fathers that were there and they're dead and I'm still alive.

LAH: Amid the horror of what happened inside theater number nine, we are hearing an extraordinary story repeated among the survivors. The number of people who threw themselves on top of friends and family members to shield them from the flying bullets.

NOWLAN: Brandy and Denise are two of the best people that you would ever get to meet.

LAH: Is that why you jumped on top of them when those bullets started flying?

NOWLAN: I did. They had every right to live. They just got married.

DENISE AXELROD, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: It's no longer a friendship. It's not even family. It's like something deeper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because there is something that will never leave.

LAH: His friends won't leave his side now, helping Nowlan through a second surgery and physical therapy. As soon as he can, Nowlan has only one thing he says he must do for his emotional recovery.

NOWLAN: I want to go back into that theater. I want to go back into that auditorium. I'm going to look at that same seat and say I beat you. You did not take this life.


LEMON: Boy, oh boy. Kyung is here. She joins me now in Aurora.

Any idea when he's going to get out of the hospital? What an emotional interview, too.

LAH: Yes. It was very moving. And he says he does have a better road ahead. He has to have surgery on Monday and then there is going to be physical therapy after.

LEMON: What about his military training? Does he - does he thinks that that helped him?

LAH: Well, you know, he said he is actually allergic to bullets; that's why he went in to the navy. Buy, he does say that sense of camaraderie, service of being there for other people that really did come into play.

LEMON: And you shared something like that he doesn't want people to feel sorry or sad or anything?

LAH: No, he wants people to remember that this - yes, what happened here is terrible.

LEMON: For him, I mean.

LAH: Yes, but what he wants is for people to understand that there are positive things that happen. People came together. People fought and he says that this community is going to fight to get ahead.

LEMON: We wish him well. Great story, great reporting. Thank you, Kyung. We really appreciate that.

We want to give you another look now at how Colorado, the shooting here in Colorado is being seen around the world.

The "Irish Daily Mail" with the headline, I'm the Joker he shouted.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: 23-year-old Micayla Medek was one of the victims killed in the mass shooting in Aurora. A very spiritual person. Medek is described as an independent woman who is great fun.


LEMON: And one of the mysteries surrounding the movie massacres are on the alleged shooter himself. Was there anything in this path that might have poor shadow the horrifying crime he has accused of committing?

CNN's Dan Simon went to his hometown to find out.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The face seemed familiar. Then he remembered.

David Casper owns a San Diego pawnshop and recalls Holmes looking at some guns a few months ago.

DAVID CASPER, PAWNSHOP OWNER: To find out that he used firearms in the commission of his crime and that he had been in here looking at firearms is kind of a little bit unsettling.

SIMON: A few miles away in the middle class neighborhood where Holmes grew up, a portrait is e merging. Not of someone who was violent or had an intense interest in weapons, but a quiet, intellectually astute young man.

TIM WHITE, CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA RIVERSIDE: Obviously, he had the intellectual capacity to be successful at anything he wanted to do.

SIMON: Out of the 21,000 students at the University of California Riverside, Holmes was among the very brightest, according to the school's chancellor. Admitted on an academic scholarship, he graduated in 2010, with a degree in neuroscience, considered one of the most challenging scientific curricula.

WHITE: It's one of our most rigorous majors and it leads to careers in medicine, in science, in research, in a whole host of allied health areas.

SIMON: Holmes appeared to come from a stable family. His father, seen here, understandably distressed, is a manager at a software company. His mother, a nurse.

LISA DAMIANI, FAMILY ATTORNEY: It's very, very sad day. They are, you know, they're working with and communicating with authorities and that's all we can say.

SIMON: Julie Adams is among those who gathered near the family's house. Her son played on the same high school soccer team as Holmes.

JULIE ADAMS, NEIGHBOR: It's a quiet neighborhood. It's a neighborhood that people move to because the Poway unified school district is probably one of the top school districts in the nation, and that's why people move to this community.

SIMON: At this point, we haven't discovered anything in his upbringing that points to a troubled individual.

Holmes spent one of his college summers here, working as a camp counselor to underprivileged children. He was responsible for the care and guidance of approximately ten kids. We're told there were no incidents and nothing happened out of the ordinary during his time here.

Few answers for those looking to understand how this academically gifted young man could now be accused of being a violent killer.


LEMON: Dan Simon Reporting.

You know, the people of Aurora Colorado, they are numb from shock and from sadness. But have really excruciating days still to come.


LEMON: The death of 12 people in Aurora on the minds of all Americans tonight.

Here, in Aurora, vigils like this one that you are seeing, they're being held all across the city. Residents searching for an answer to why this tragedy had to happen here. Mourning and much the same way that they did 13 years ago at the Columbine High School tragedy. This is an area that understands better than most. How to respond to these types of tragedies. A place where people, in the words of Governor John Hickenlooper, have a remarkable ability to support one another in times of crisis. This is certainly one of those times. And the whole world is watching and whole world is raying and thinking about the folks here in Aurora, Colorado.

I want to tell you something that we have here into CNN. We are learning that the White House is announcing just moments ago that President Barack Obama will come to Aurora, Colorado tomorrow, that is Sunday, to honor the victims of the shooting. The president will be here tomorrow. CNN just learning that from the White House.

I want to take a moment to look ahead at what the people of Aurora, Colorado will face in the coming days. The sad and shock people of this city will certainly take their grief to their churches and houses of worship tomorrow. And then the most agonizing funerals and burials of 12 people killed in that movie theater. One of them is a 6-year-old girl.

And then there are the people who live here, in this apartment building. The former home of James Holmes where police found a pile of explosives rigged to explode. What a frightening thing to learn that the apartment next door, the place where you live, contained a bomb and an arsenal.

And then one final note to tell you about tonight, James Holmes is set to face a judge on Monday. And CNN, of course, will cover that for you. That's when the wheels of justice will start to turn for him. And finally, we might find out when he faces a judge, when he goes to that hearing, exactly what happened. May believe he'll say something. We don't know.

But, in the meantime, as I have been saying throughout this broadcast and throughout our coverage here on CNN, the world is watching. People are praying. Our thoughts and prayers are with the folks here. And of course, we're not going to leave here until we deem it's necessary. We want to continue to cover this important story, of course.

This is the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. It may be a black eye for this community. They may feel that at this moment, but not really. We love you guys here and we are praying for you.

And, again, we are going to be here until we decided that the story is no longer warrants that. Anyway, I will see you back here an hour from now at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

In the meantime, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" begins right now.