Elizabeth Sumrall was driving home cross-country from Seattle to Baton Rouge, but didn't want to make the trip by herself. She asked her friend Bonnie Kate Pourciau, also from Baton Rouge and just back from a three months' mission trip to Haiti, to ride along. The two ended up stopping in Denver for the night and decided to go to the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Theater 9 at the AMC Aurora Century 16.
The two first sat in the front row, but moved to a back row just before the film started-narrowly escaping the gunman who released teargas and began firing into the crowded theater minutes into the July 20 showing. When Pourciau heard the shots she grabbed Sumrall and they ducked under the chairs, but Pourciau's leg felt like it had been hit by a two-by-four. When the shooting stopped, the room filled with screams and moaning. The toll: 12 theatergoers dead and 58 wounded, including Pourciau. A bullet embedded in the bone of her left leg required 17 hours of surgery to save the leg from amputation.
In a theater crowded with young people, the dead included a man celebrating his 27th birthday, a Navy sailor, a 6-year-old girl, and two men who shielded their girlfriends from the gunfire. Police arrested 24-year-old James Holmes at the scene with an AR-15 assault rifle, a Remington 12-gauge shotgun, and a .40 caliber Glock handgun. Police found another Glock in the theater. Holmes bought the four guns legally from local gun shops and ordered more than 10,000 rounds of ammunition online. Pourciau likely took her hit from the assault rifle.
Holmes told police there were additional explosives in his apartment, and authorities evacuated five apartment buildings as the FBI, ATF agents, the Aurora police and fire departments spent three days disarming the suspect's apartment. Holmes made his first court appearance July 23, with formal charges scheduled July 30. The incident recalled another Colorado shooting spree targeting young people, the 1999 Columbine High School massacre that killed 12 students and one teacher.
Pourciau, who is 18 and the oldest of seven children, was homeschooled and hopes to pursue missions work. Two days after the shooting she had hospital visits from Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and President Barack Obama. She faces further surgery but said of Holmes: "Part of me is really angry ... that someone would do such a thing and take so many lives and hurt so many lives and affect so many lives. But at the same time, I feel so much for him and feel compassionate for him and I just hope and pray he will come to know forgiveness and the mercy that God has and that his heart will be changed."
-with reporting by Sarah Padbury, in Denver; Ruth Gibson is an intern with World on Campus
A news report from a Tyler, Texas, television station on Bonnie Kate Pourciau:
"Midnight nightmare: An exciting night at the premiere of the latest Batman film turns into tragedy in Colorado" | by Sarah Padbury | July 20
"Chaos theories" | By Janie B. Cheaney | July 23
"A state of prayer: In the aftermath of Friday's shooting massacre, a Colorado community gathers to heal" | by Sarah Padbury | July 23
"Dark night" | by Cal Thomas | July 24
"Healing opportunities: Colorado shooting victim's family courageously faces a 'double-whammy' of health issues" | By Sarah Padbury | July 27
"John Stonestreet commentary: The Aurora shootings and the problem of evil" | The World and Everything in It | July 28