AURORA, Colo. — Ten years ago, a shooter walked into a Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, killing 12 people and wounding 70 others.
Lasamoa Lanier, then Lasamoa Cross, went to the "Dark Knight Rises" premiere with her fiancé, AJ Boik. They sat near the front of the movie theater. Not long after the opening scene, Lasamoa remembers seeing the emergency exit door open.
“I could see this black silhouette of a guy standing there and I could see a gun strapped,” she said.
After a canister flies several rows behind her and AJ, she hears a hissing noise and then people start to scream.
“I turn around and look and there were people just jumping out of the rows to get out of the theater,” she said. “It was insane.”
AJ grabbed her hand and told her they needed to leave. She could feel AJ fall backwards, and her reaction was to cover him.
AJ was shot twice. He was 18 when he was killed.
“I think that is what is hard, too. I didn’t even get to say bye, you know,” she said.
When words were hard to speak, Lasamoa found comfort in writing.
“Journaling helps me get it all out. Helps me say the things I can’t say out loud,” Lasamoa said.
She started writing to AJ. She still has all of the journals, along with the hat she wore to the movies that night and the last photo she and AJ took in the theater.
During the trial after the shooting, she heard the testimony of police officers who shared just as much trauma as she did on July 20, 2012.
She decided to write letters to Aurora police officers to thank them.
“Having lost someone doing something innocent like watching a movie – what are they doing? Where are they at? Are they OK?” she thought about the officers.
Officer Cody Lanier got one of those letters. He was Lasamoa’s former school resource officer at Gateway High. Cody responded to the theater before heading to the school, where families were gathering.
Lasamoa saw him the night of the shooting helping families find loved ones.
“I told him to help me find AJ,” she said.
“I had this person in front of me, approaching me, 'where is my boyfriend?'” said Cody.
AJ’s mom came to the school. Cody went up to her to tell her AJ was not on any of the hospital lists.
Cody felt like he had failed the family and Lasamoa. She didn’t see it that way, so Lasamoa showed Cody why his work that night mattered by writing him a letter.
“I have always thought of you as a headstrong determined and courageous person for having the amount of strive to serve and protect Gateway, Aurora and your family. Every single day,” said the letter. “And that alone has changed my life all together.”
“I don’t think I made it through three sentences in that thing and I’m tearing up,” Cody said.
Her note to Cody also included a photo that Lasamoa says was taken by a newspaper photographer. When Cody saw it, he knew it was taken right after he’d told AJ’s mom her son probably didn’t survive.
“And I didn’t know that when I found this photo,” Lasamoa said. “I was just like, oh yeah, that’s Cody. I remember him.”
Cody said he remembers standing in the doorway of his car right after telling AJ’s mom the worst news.
“This is absolutely the worst singular event I could imagine as a cop,” he said.
Even with the bad, came something good. That night sparked a new friendship.
After dropping off the letter at Gateway High School, Cody and Lasamoa went to lunch at Chipotle. What was supposed to be an hour lunch turned into four hours.
Their connection helped them heal as Lasamoa continued to lean on photography. She picked up a camera after the shooting so she could capture happy moments. She loves to be the person that helps others recognize the life they live is a great one.
“Photography was my way of grounding myself and remembering things,” she said. “Taking time to hear what is going on around me. Take a deep breath. Go slower. Relax.”
Cody picked up weights to work through his trauma.
“Mental health stuff is huge, right?” he said.
As the years went by, the friends relied on each other more and became stronger together.
“In a way, La kind of filled this gap,” Cody said. “Beyond that it was just this connection. Every day since she turned into my best friend.”
Lasamoa said Cody was always the buddy. And then she felt something more.
On October 3, 2021, they got married. Even they can’t believe it.
A letter and a lunch at Chipotle turned into something beautiful.
Nine years after that lunch, they got married in October 2021. They served Chipotle at their wedding rehearsal dinner.
“Oh yeah, it’s crazy. Who knew. I didn’t,” Lasamoa said.
“Beauty from ashes, man. I don’t know what I would do without her,” Cody said.
The family Lasamoa and Cody have created shows how far they have come.
They know their life hasn’t been picture perfect, but it led to beautiful moments together.
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