Memorials begin for Colo. theater shooting victims

July 25, 2012 - 10:38 PM
APTOPIX Colorado Shooting Funerals

Mourners hold onto each other as they depart a memorial service for Gordon Cowden Wednesday, July 25, 2012 in Denver. Cowden was one of 12 people killed, and over 50 wounded in a shooting attack early Friday at the packed theater during a showing of the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." Police have identified the suspected shooter as James Holmes, 24. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

DENVER (AP) — A dad who took his teenage children to the new Batman movie and was killed when a gunman opened fire on the theater was mourned Wednesday, the first memorial service for a victim of the shootings.

Fifty-one-year-old Gordon Cowden was the oldest of the 12 people killed in the massacre at the "Dark Knight Rises." His teenage children escaped unharmed.

Cowden lived in Aurora, the Denver suburb where the theater is located. A family statement described him as a "true Texas gentleman" who loved the outdoors and owned his own business.

"A quick-witted world traveler with a keen sense of humor, he will be remembered for his devotion to his children and for always trying his best to do the right thing, no matter the obstacle," his family said.

Carrying flowers and passing a large portrait of Cowden, about 150 mourners gathered for the memorial at a Denver church. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper paused at the photo before entering the church.

The memorial was also attended by Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan and Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates.

Later this week, families of other victims planned to say their final goodbyes.

Funerals were planned in towns from San Antonio, home of aspiring sportscaster Jessica Ghawi, to Crystal Lake, Ill., hometown of Navy intelligence officer John Thomas Larimer.

Also Wednesday, residents of the apartment building where shooting suspect James Holmes lived were allowed to return.

The small building near the University of Colorado, Denver, medical campus was cleared as a precaution because police said Holmes had booby trapped his apartment with a trip wire, explosives and unknown liquids.

Because many of the shooting victims have families outside Denver, authorities have assigned each victim's family a communications officer to keep them updated on the case.

Holmes is due in court next Monday, when he will hear the charges against him.

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Associated Press photographer Alex Brandon contributed to this report.