The 12 victims of Friday morning's movie theater shooting were honored at a prayer vigil on Sunday night, as their families and survivors received a visit from President Obama. Thousands of people gathered at the Aurora Municipal Center for a public memorial as Colorado's governor, Aurora's mayor, and several local church leaders offered remembrances of the victims and praised rescuers and law enforcement for their actions on Friday, when a gunman shot 71 people in a local movie theater.
You can see videos of some of the speeches at 9News.com.
On Monday morning, accused shooter James Holmes will make his first court appearance, an event that is likely to be highly guarded and emotionally charged. Prosecutors are not yet ready to file all the formal charges against him and no plea will be entered, but the brief "initial advisement" hearing is when the judge will explain the accused's rights and briefly lay out the crimes being investigated. Police say he has been assigned a public defender and has not been talking to the police since Friday.
There is also the possibility that prosecutors will discuss whether they plan to seek the death penalty, an outcome that seems highly likely. There are only three people on Colorado's death row and the state has not executed a prisoner since 1997, but the District Attorney who will lead the case, Carol Chambers, has famously pursued most of the state's capital cases since taking office in 2004. At one point when the entire state had seven pending capital cases, Chambers was in charge of six of them. This 2010 profile from The Denver Post provides more background on "hard-nosed" attorney and her sometimes controversial career.
Although the trial will naturally receive tremendous interest and media coverage, the overriding theme of the memorial was to ignore the shooter's infamy and focus on the victims. Governor John Hickenlooper pointedly refused to refer to him by name and when reading a list of the victims' names, asked the crowd to repeat "We will remember" after each one. Speakers recounted the numerous acts of heroism from people in the theater, including at least three of the victims who died saving the lives of others.
President Obama did not speak at the memorial, but gave a brief address to the media after spending a few hours meeting the wounded and families of the victims in the hospital. During his remarks, he told the story of Stephanie Davis who saved her friend Allie Young's life, by holding the wound in her neck to stop the bleeding and then helping to carry her across two parking lots to a waiting ambulance.
Several member of the Denver Broncos also visited the hospital where survivors were recovering. Residents have also set up an impromptu memorial site across the street from the theater, with people leaving homemade crosses, flowers, and other mementos in honor of the victims.
Not everyone was pleased with how the service was handled, however. One woman who was in theater and a friend of one the deceased victims has complained that families were not allowed to grief privately, and were forced to sit in full few of photographers. She tweeted after the ceremony that "I'm glad the vigil was helpful for a lot of people, but it really felt like a media circus w/ politicians patting themselves on the back."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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