Obama weeps with shooting survivors

People comfort each other at a makeshift memorial near the cinema  in Aurora where the shooting took place.
People comfort each other at a makeshift memorial near the cinema in Aurora where the shooting took place.

US President Barack Obama has wept with victims of the horrific Colorado cinema shooting and told people in the stricken town of Aurora that brighter days are ahead.

"I come to them not so much as president as I do as a father and as a husband," Mr Obama said, visibly holding back the tears even as he addressed reporters after consoling the survivors and the relatives of those killed.

The president described the shooting incident, which left 12 people dead and 58 injured at a cinema on Friday, as an "evil act".

But he said the attention surrounding the shooter "will fade away and in the end, after he has felt the full force of our justice system, what will be remembered are the good people who were impacted by this tragedy".

Despite welling up, the president fought back his tears and tried to give an upbeat message in a press conference televised across America.

"You see young people who have come in and just two days ago or 36 hours ago or even 24 hours ago, it wasn't certain whether they would make it and now suddenly their eyes are open, they are alert, and they are talking and it reminds you that even in the darkest of days ... life continues," he said.

Mr Obama ended his remarks by recounting one particular tale of heroism he was told by 19-year-old Allie Young and her friend Stephanie Davies.

"When the gunman initially came in and threw the canisters, he threw them only a few feet away from Allie and Stephanie who were sitting there watching the film," he said.

"Allie stood up seeing that she might need to do something or at least warn the other people who were there ... and she was shot in the neck and it punctured a vein and immediately she started squirting blood.

"Apparently as she dropped down on the floor, Stephanie, 21-years-old, had the presence of mind to drop down on the ground with her, pull her out of the aisle, place her fingers over where Allie had been wounded and applied pressure the entire time while the gunman was still shooting."

Mr Obama said that although Allie told Stephanie she needed to run, Stephanie refused to go and instead called 911 with her one remaining hand on her phone.

Once the SWAT team arrived and the shooter had been apprehended, Stephanie then helped others to carry Allie across two parking lots to the ambulance.

"And because of Stephanie's timely actions, I just had a conversation with Allie downstairs and she is going to be fine," Obama said.

"I don't know how many people at any age would have the presence of mind that Stephanie did or the courage that Allie showed.

"And so as tragic the circumstances of what we've seen today are, as heartbreaking as it is for the families, it's worth us spending most of our time reflecting on young Americans like Allie and Stephanie," he said.

"Because they represent what's best in us and they assure us that out of this darkness, a brighter day is going to come."

Among the many tragic stories from the massacre, a young mother shot in the neck and stomach was said to be "absolutely devastated" after finally being told of her six-year-old's daughter's death at the hands of gunman James Holmes.

Ashley Moser, 25, was in a critical condition after the shooting and was unaware that her daughter Veronica Moser-Sullivan was among the 12 people who lost their lives when Holmes opened fire during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises on Friday.

Holmes was due to make his first court appearance today. It is expected he will be formally charged but it could be months before he faces trial. It is thought that he will face at least 71 charges, one for each victim. Reports speculated that he could attempt a defence of insanity.

Prosecutors have to decide whether to ask for the death penalty, which has not been carried out in Colorado since 1997.

The names of all 12 victims were released over the weekend and included that of six-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan. Veronica's father, Ian Sullivan, said of his daughter: "She is the last girl I will ever love." Veronica was "vibrant" and "excitable", and just days before her death had bragged about how she had recently learned to swim, her family said.

"She loved to dress up, and read and was doing well at school. She was beautiful and innocent," Mrs Dalton said. "She was excited about life as she should be. She's a six-year-old girl."

Veronica's mother is expected to survive and have use of her hands but may have some paralysis, her aunt said.

Other victims included Matthew McQuinn, a 27-year-old shop worker who died shielding his girlfriend Samantha Yowler, also 27, from gunfire.

Alex Sullivan, who had gone to watch the film to celebrate his 27th birthday was also named as one of the dead.

Jon Blunk, 26, died trying to protect his girlfriend Jansen Young, she said.

Jessica Ghawi, a 24-year-old sports journalist, was the first person to be confirmed dead on Friday. It emerged that she had survived a similar massacre at a mall in Toronto last month.

One man told how he played dead after being shot twice as the gunman stood over him.

Pierce O'Farrill, a minister from Denver, said he felt Holmes's boot touch his head as he lay on the floor and listened to the gunman open fire on other cinemagoers.

Agence France-Presse; The Daily Telegraph, London

This story Obama weeps with shooting survivors first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.