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Year after mass shooting, Dayton family remembers

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — One year after an Ohio man died protecting his girlfriend during a mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater, his family is spending the day comforting each other and remembering what they've lost.

Matt McQuinn of Springfield in southwestern Ohio and 11 others, including a 6-year-old girl, were killed on July 20, 2012, at a midnight screening of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colo., after a gunman opened fire on the crowd; 70 others were injured, some of them paralyzed.

McQuinn, 27, jumped on his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, to protect her from the bullets. Yowler survived, McQuinn didn't.

"It's been a long, hard year," McQuinn's stepfather, David Jackson, told the Dayton Daily News, (http://bit.ly/198Bweu). "It's never out of our minds. I still sometimes don't believe how it could happen."

Jackson said that his family was invited to a day of remembrance in Aurora but that they decided to spend Saturday together at their Springfield home.

His mother, Jerri Jackson, hasn't been able to return to work since the shooting. Getting out of bed and out of the house to buy groceries is hard some days.

"I just don't want to be around people," she said.

She recalled the last conversation she had with her son, just hours before the shooting.

He talked about plans to move back to Ohio to work at a car parts factory; perhaps he would marry Yowler. He was homesick after struggling for a year to find full-time work in Colorado. Jackson offered to let him live with her to get started.

Then McQuinn said he had to go. He was going to the movies.

"I told him, 'Be careful,'" Jackson said. "He said, 'I know ... I'll talk to you later, Mom. I love you.' And that was it."

Now she keeps close the blanket that she wrapped McQuinn in when he was a baby; she found it in his apartment after his death.

The family hasn't been back to a movie theater since the shooting, David Jackson said.

"We just can't go," he said. "(There's) just too much pain, and we don't feel safe anymore."

He said the family takes comfort that McQuinn "died a hero."

"He wasn't somewhere where he wasn't supposed to be and he wasn't anyplace doing something he wasn't supposed to be doing," he said. The theater "just should have been a safe place and not a place to die."

In Colorado on Saturday, families of the other victims and survivors of the shooting gathered on the lawn outside Aurora's City Hall for a ceremony of prayer, song and remarks from Mayor Steve Hogan and Gov. John Hickenlooper.

A group of about 40 volunteers held a moment of silence at 12:38 a.m. Saturday, the time the shooting began one year earlier. The silence lasted for 82 seconds to represent the 12 people killed and the 70 who were wounded.

The man accused in the massacre, James Holmes, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to more than 160 counts. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

 

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