Reaction to guilty verdict in the theater shooting trial

AURORA - Victims and family members of victims of the Aurora theater shooting are reacting to the guilty verdicts the judge read around 4:15 p.m. Thursday.

The grandfather of the youngest victim, 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan says the jury came back with exactly what he expected.

"I don't want to say vindicated, but I was certain, that's what it was going to be," Robert Sullivan said. "I felt that only an insane juror could find otherwise. Seriously you could not come back with any other verdict but guilty."

Throughout the trial, he's been wearing a pin with a picture of Veronica on it. He hopes to present it to the jurors during the penalty phase.

"If I get the opportunity to take the stand in the penalty phase, which I believe I will, I have a few things I would like to say about Veronica. When you're talking about a child, a 6-year-old child, you know you're talking about the essence of innocence and she really was a little angel."

Tom Teves, whose son Alex Teves was killed, says the guilty verdicts may seem like closure to some but, there is none for the victims and their families.

"This isn't over for any of these people," said Teves, as he held up a T-shirt showing pictures of the 12 people killed. "Everybody else is going to walk away and it's over right? It's another day at the job. But it's not for any of these families."

He wants the focus to stay on the victims and their families.

"This isn't about a thing who indiscriminately kills," said Teves. "And if you look at it, it would kill again, if it was let out. Thank God the jury saw that and they saw it pretty quick."

Marcus Weaver, who was shot twice in the arm, says he was too overcome with emotion to watch the verdict inside the courtroom.

"It was just very difficult today as I sat, not in the courtroom, there's just no way I could go in the courtroom anymore, it's just too intense, too much."

He bought the movie tickets that night for himself and his friend Rebecca Wingo. She was killed in the shooting.

"When they announced Rebecca's name, the tears flowed out of my eyes. And still, right now, it's just, it's a level of sadness," Weaver said. "There's this pain in my stomach. Then of course, they read my name off too but at the point I was just not even watching anymore. Just trying to hold the tears back."

As the case moves toward the penalty phase, Weaver says he's conflicted.

"No one wants anybody to be killed," Weaver said. "But when you walk into a theater with an AR-15 shotgun and you take lives like he did that night, as a society how do we react to that? What is the proper penalty? And for a person who is anti death penalty I totally agree, I feel the sentence that he may get, which is the death penalty, is the only penalty that fits the crime that he committed that night."

Caleb Medley and his wife Katie talked about how the one of the things that has gotten them through the last three years is their son Hugo. Katie was 9 months pregnant when the shooting happened, and Hugo was born after the shooting.

"The fact that we made it out alive, any of us, is pure miracle," Katie said. "And the fact that we have Hugo has kind of driven us this whole time. So, we've kind of had something driving us the whole time."

Following the verdicts, Yousef Gharbi, who was shot in the head, talked about the trial and coming face-to-face with the man who shot him.

"When I testified we made awkward eye contact," said Gharbi, who was 16 at the time of the shooting. "I broke away after four seconds, I couldn't read him. He's intimidating honestly. He's not someone I want to look at in the face."

On Thursday, he says the verdict took his breath away.

"My body shuddered, a sense of relief came over me," he said. "Like everybody I sighed. I gasped for air. That's what I wanted to hear, but I didn't know if that's what I was going to hear. It was kind of unexpected honestly. A huge relief."

He says justice has been served no matter what happens during the sentencing phase.

"I've got no control over that," Gharbi said. "I have no expectations because I don't want to be disappointed. Whatever happens, happens, justice will be served regardless."

While Gharbi did not want to look at the defendant, Jansen Young did. Her boyfriend, Jonathon Blunk was killed protecting her. She says she couldn't find justice without looking the defendant in the eye.

"I just have to be here for Jon. I just need justice," Young said. "I don't know, it's just not the same closure unless I'm here looking him in the face and looking at his reaction."

However, Young says says she saw none.

"He doesn't react. He never reacts. I've been waiting for a reaction, and he doesn't react," Young said. "I'd love to see a shot of his face straight on. I looked at him when I did my testimony and when we caught eyes he wouldn't look at me again, so...."

Still she says the verdict brought a sense of relief.

"I didn't know what I was going to feel when I came here today, but I feel just so relieved now. It's a weight lifted off my shoulders," Young said.

9NEWS Reporter Brandon Rittiman ran into Jessica Ghawi's parents as they arrived at the courthouse before the verdict. Jessica's mother Sandy Phillips told him, "I'm a wreck." Ghawi, a sports reporter, was killed in the shooting.

After the verdict, the Phillips said they were glad to have the weight lifted off their backs.

"We're very very pleased at the outcome of the trial," said Sandy Phillips. "We're very happy that this animal, this monster, will never see the light of day."

The father of Alex Sullivan says he was confident there would a be a guilty verdict.

"As soon as we heard the first guilty, we knew the dominoes were all going to fall," said Tom Sullivan. "There was really no doubt. I had the utmost confidence in the way everything was presented and you know rightly so other Coloradans saw it that way. We got through this rather quickly."

Now he's focused on the penalty phase.

"I hope I can do everything I can to see that this guy's Colorado privileges are taken away, that he no longer gets to breathe the sweet air that us Coloradans get to breathe anymore."

Earlier this week, Rittiman asked the family of Jessica Ghawi and Micayla Medek what they'd say to the jurors:

Governor Hickenlooper said he will not comment publicly on the case, since its still in the judicial process. His office released the following statement after the verdict was read:

This has been an emotional and difficult time for the victims, their families, loved ones and friends. My hope is that this step brings some peace to each of them, and begins the healing process for all of Colorado. We have great respect for the work of the jury and are so grateful for their service and commitment.

(© 2015 KUSA)

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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