Colorado shooting survivors turn to faith, forgiveness
Apr. 24, 2015
DENVER (AP) — Nearly three years have passed since James Holmes, wearing body armor, opened fire in a deadly attack at a packed Colorado movie theater, and survivors and relatives of the 12 moviegoers who died are still trying to make sense of the shooting.
They have turned to prayer, therapy and activism to recover, and now they will look to the trial, which begins Monday.
Here are stories of a few of the survivors and relatives:
Pierce O'Farrill, who was wounded along with his friend, Carey Rottman, in the July 2012 shooting, said forgiveness and faith long ago gave him what others hope will come out of the trial: closure.
But the trial, or at least its conclusion, can still bring O'Farrill something. When it is over, he envisions sitting down with Holmes in a prison visiting room. "I want to tell him about Jesus," O'Farrill said.
The morning after the shooting, O'Farrill flipped through TV channels from a hospital bed. When he saw a photo of Holmes, he remembered moments in his own teens and early 20s when he had been depressed and suicidal. "I felt forgiveness," he said.
O'Farrill would have spasms of hatred and of guilt at surviving when others died. A childhood friend urged him to seek counseling. That childhood friend is now his wife. Rottman was a groomsman at the August wedding.
"I never have to ask the question, 'Why did this happen to me?'" he said, saying he has seen how his story has inspired others. "I love Jesus and I get to share Christ with a lot of people and share forgiveness."
After losing his son, Tom Sullivan has worked to ensure others don't experience his anguish.
As was family tradition, Alex Sullivan had gone to the movies for his birthday, his 27th. Since then, Tom Sullivan has become a dogged, plain-spoken advocate for gun control.
Before the shooting, "I didn't know it was anything that I needed to worry about. But I was wrong," he said. "Someone else's son having a mental problem, having easy access to weapons, all of a sudden became my problem."
Sullivan does not expect to draw much comfort from the eventual conclusion of the legal process
His loss, Sullivan said, is "not going to get any better. I'm an avid reader and I read about fathers and sons as they get older. You come to realize that, 'I'm never going to have that. I'm never going to see him grow older. I'm never going to see him as a father. He's not going to get to see me get older. It's never going to go away and we will never forget him.'"
"As a father," Sullivan said, "I need to make sure that this doesn't happen to other fathers."
Like his friend O'Farrill, Marcus Weaver has forgiven Holmes.
At first, he said, he tried to see being caught up in a mass shooting as an obstacle he had overcome — one of many in his life, from suffering abuse during childhood to incarceration during young adulthood.
Weaver, who was shot in the arm and who had a friend who died in the shooting, presented himself as in control to reporters and to friends and family. Eventually, the strain became too much and he sought counseling.
Weaver married in the past year. He has a stepson and he and his wife are expecting another child.
After job-hopping since the shooting, he now seems settled, splitting his time between two faith-based nonprofits, DenverWorks, which helps the unemployed, and New Genesis, which focuses on the homeless.
Once the trial is over, he said, "my life is still going to be what it is today. And that's helping people."
W. David Hoover has saved photos of his nephew on his cellphone, and can chuckle over how obviously proud AJ Boik was of the rakish look he gained when a mishit baseball slammed into his nose, breaking it.
One image, of Boik on a camping trip with friends, was taken just a week before he died. He had gone to the movies with his fiancee, in whose arms he died after being shot in the head.
Boik was 18, had just graduated high school and was planning to go to college.
Hoover, a Denver area police officer, is pro-death penalty, but said if Holmes is "put to death, my nephew's still dead."
As he nears retirement, Hoover is thinking of a respite of at least several months from matters of life and death. He plans to buy a boat and sail it from New York to Europe, then back into the Gulf of Mexico, through the Panama Canal and up to San Francisco.
"It's my dream," Hoover said. "I can dream."