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Actions of theater shooting survivors questioned

9:14 PM, Aug 15, 2012   |    comments
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Brandon Axelrod, a man whose new wife credits him with saving her life, says some have called him a coward. 

"We had only been back for a little under 24 hours from our honeymoon," Brandon said.

The night Brandon and Denise Axelrod went to see the Dark Knight in theater 9 they hadn't even been married two weeks.

They were with their friend Joshua Nowlan when the shooter stormed in the theater.

"It was very, very fast," Denise said. "He just came in and threw a canister and started firing."

Denise said her husband immediately pushed her to the ground.

"He (Brandon) kind of grabbed me and just threw me down and Josh was on the other side of me," Denise said. "I was in the middle and he got down too. He just held my head down and, you know, told me 'don't scream.' As much as I wanted to run away, you know, I just stayed down and did what he told me to do."

Joshua was shot in his leg and arm.

"She gave me her shirt and I wrapped his arm," Brandon said.

"My hand went inside of his wounds, and I knew that that was not good," Brandon said. "There were parts that were just dangling. And we were covered in little bits of flesh and blood, and you know, sticky popcorn."

Denise still has a bullet lodged inches below her spine.

"No matter what I do, it's just uncomfortable," Denise said. "It's just a very uncomfortable place to get wounded."

Shrapnel from a theater seat was lodged all along Brandon's side.

"I have lacerations up and down the right side of my body. I partially tore ligaments in my knee and my ankle. And that was all from where I wedged myself between her and Josh and the seat in front of us. My leg slipped into the tiny crack and got stuck, Brandon said. 

"And by the time that we needed to start moving, we couldn't get it out. So I ended up yanking my leg out. I'm pretty sure that's when the ligaments tore. The lacerations are all from just the exploding chair."

"We were both were covered in blood," Brandon said. "My blood, her blood, Josh's blood. There was just a lot of blood.

The couple did a network interview immediately after the incident and were shocked by some of the responses.

"I'm not entirely sure how, but like my e-mail was given out to the public," Brandon said. "I got, you know, some genuine nice emails, but then I also received some unfortunate emails that were not kind.

He said some emailers called him a coward.

"They were just focusing on, you know, the negative aspects of it - that I ended up leaving Josh in the theater."

"We tried getting up, all three of us together," Brandon said. "I peeked my head up like a groundhog and looked around, and didn't see anybody coming in. I couldn't lift Josh because I at that point I yanked my leg out."

Brandon said it was hard to figure out what to do amid the chaos in the dark theater.

"We didn't know if he (the shooter) was going to go aisle by aisle," Brandon said. "We didn't see anybody coming in. So we needed to go."

They needed to go find help for their wounded friend.

"We had to get someone else in that theater to kind of counter balance what was going on," Denise said.

"You could hear people crying in agony," Brandon said.

When they realized the shooter was gone they made their way out of the theater to get help.

"We ran out and started yelling, 'there's people in there and you have to get them out. You have to go get Josh.'"

They said a police officer ran in, grabbed Josh, and took him to the hospital in a police car.

What bothers them the most is that people who weren't there are judging their actions.

"They (emailers) expected us to do more," Brandon said. "Because we didn't act the way they thought we should have, or because I kept [Denise] from running. Initially there was one [email] that said that I put her life in danger by keeping her with me in the aisle."

"[I was] really confused," Denise said. "How someone who wasn't there could have said 'well this is how you should have acted.' Even you wouldn't know how to react in that situation until you're actually in it."

"One thing this has taught both of us is you never know what's going to happen," Brandon said. 

"And you never know what you're going to do," said Denise.
Denise will have surgery soon to remove the bullet. The couple says the incident has made their already strong bond even stronger.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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