Gateway junior Josh Butler poses Feb. 14 at Gateway High School in Aurora. (Heather L. Smith/Aurora Sentinel)
AURORA | Gateway High School student Joshua Butler, 17, and his 14-year-old brother were in the adjacent theater to the one shot up by a gunman at the Century 16 theater in Aurora early Friday morning at the premier of “Dark Knight Rises.”
Butler, a wrestler and football player at nearby Gateway, had a ticket to see the movie in Theater 9 where the shooting took place, but instead went to Theater 8 to find friend Zack Golditch and others he knew from school.
He and his brother sat a few rows away from Golditch — who had a bullet pass through his neck — and were enjoying the first few minutes of the movie before they heard several popping sounds, which coincided with an action sequence in the film. The movie kept playing and there was uncertainty in the theater about what was going on, as many people believed there were either prank fireworks going off or something to do with the movie.
“My original thoughts were ‘why are they popping fireworks in the theater?’ and then we saw a cloud of smoke,” Butler said. “There was shooting going on in the movie and it made it really confusing. We thought the theater was adding new effects to the movie, but then we realized something was happening. …we heard a lot of gunshot sounds and people yelling and then the fire alarm got pulled. I didn’t see Zack run out, but we were looking for him.”
With his brother in tow, Butler made his way out of the theater with a number of panicked moviegoers, then gave his dad a call.
“He really helped me through the whole situation, guiding me through what to do and this and that,” Butler said. “He just told me stay calm and pray, pray, pray. My brother was right next to me the whole time.”
Butler said he and other Gateway students won’t be able to see the school the same way when classes start in a couple of weeks. The school was being used as a Red Cross station for victims and families trying to locate love ones.
“It’s just really emotional and a lot of people are going to be affected by it,” Butler said. “Gateway is going to be a different environment since that’s the place where everybody went after it happened. Things won’t be the same. My prayers and thoughts go out to all the families and people involved.”
Reach Sports Editor Courtney Oakes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-750-7555