AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — July 20 marks 10 years since the Aurora theater shooting, when a gunman opened fire at a midnight movie, killing 12 people and hurting 58 more.
FOX31, FOX21’s sister station in Denver, sat down with the first responders leading command that night.
“In my watch that night, I watched 126 men and women go into something that they had no idea what they were going into and never asked a second question of why, they just did what they did,” Aurora Police Department Division Chief Jad Lanigan said.
Lanigan is currently the division chief of the department’s special operations. Ten years ago, he was a recently promoted lieutenant leading the incident command at this scene.
“It was hours before I really realized the magnitude of it,” Lanigan said. “It really hit me when I watched a young man walk in front of me and his shirt was bloody. I looked at him as he walked past me and he just, he looked like a zombie just walking. He was in such shock and as he walked past me, I could see a hole in his back.”
Officers rushed theater shooting victims to the hospital
“I distinctly remember thinking this, ‘This might be it,’” Boulder Police Deputy Chief Stephen Redfearn said. “Your brain is not processing what you’re seeing. You just know there’s a lot of people that are hurt and we’ve got to make sure this isn’t still going on. We’ve got to take out the bad guy.”
Redfearn is currently the deputy police chief in Boulder. Ten years ago, he was a police sergeant in Aurora, leading as a first-line supervisor.
“There was no time to sit there and try to look around and go, ‘Oh my God, this is so horrible,’” Redfearn said. “It was, alright, I have limited first aid training. I’m just going to do what I can.”
Redfearn and Lanigan made decisions a decade ago that saved many lives. With an overwhelming amount of people suffering from life-threatening bullet wounds, there weren’t enough ambulances that could respond fast enough.
“Out of frustration, I looked at an officer that was there and I said, ‘Just grab your car,’ and he pulled up,” Redfearn said. “Initially, I thought maybe we’ll just take a couple of the worst injured people to the hospital.”
Officers rushed dozens of victims to the hospital.
“These guys were driving as fast as those cars would go with the cop in the back, straddling somebody, saving their lives, and an injured person in the front,” Redfearn said. “Just ridiculously heroic things that went on that night.”
“I saw officers with their hands inside of the body cavities of a young lady, holding her organs inside of her,” Lanigan said. “You just never expect to see that in, not only in this career, but any career.”
After seeing and responding to the unfathomable, FOX31 asked these leaders about what sticks out to them most a decade later and what they want others to remember.
“The biggest thing I think of most of the time is the 12 people that we couldn’t save,” Redfearn said.
“We still have survivors out there that struggle every day, that will live with this every day and have the wounds from this every day,” Lanigan said. “Think about those people and their families and those victims that didn’t make it out of the theater that night.”