Colorado Shooting Victims' Relatives Reject Theater Reopening Invitation

Aurora Colorado Dark Knight Rises Shooting - P 2012
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Aurora Colorado Dark Knight Rises Shooting - P 2012

UPDATED: A letter issued by several family members calls the proposal “appalling.”

Relatives of many of the Aurora, Colo., shooting victims have rejected invitations to attend the theater’s reopening this month.

The Associated Press reports that the parents, grandparents, cousins and widow of nine of the 12 people killed during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in July said they were asked to attend “an evening of remembrance” followed by a movie, as the Aurora theater reopens later this month. The victims’ kin released a harshly worded letter sent to Cinemark, the theater’s owner.

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“Our family members will never be on this earth with us again, and a movie ticket and some token words from people who didn’t care enough to reach out to us, nor respond when we reached out to them to talk, is appalling,” the letter said.

The invitation reportedly was e-mailed to the families by the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance just two days after Christmas, saying that the offer was being sent on behalf of Cinemark.

Cinemark had no immediate comment.

The company, which worked with the community in deciding the fate of the multiplex, announced last month that it would reopen the theater Jan. 17. The Aurora Sentinel reported that plans filed with the city indicated that the theater would be turned into one of Cinemark’s “extreme digital cinema” sites featuring oversized screens.

STORY: James Holmes Told Classmate He'd Kill People Months Before Aurora Theater Shooting

“It was a killing field. It was a place of carnage, and they’ve not once told us what their plans are for the theater other than that they’re reopening it,” said Sandy Phillips, whose daughter Jessica Ghawi, a 24-year-old aspiring sportscaster, was among those killed. Phillips also said she had hoped the theater would be demolished but realized that it was an unrealistic expectation.

Monday, Jan. 7, will mark the beginning of a crucial, weeklong hearing for the alleged shooter, James Holmes, in which state District Judge William B. Sylvester will determine whether the evidence is sufficient to put Holmes on trial. The hearing will provide the public its first officially sanctioned glimpse at the evidence against Holmes, as a judge previously imposed a gag order barring attorneys and investigators from speaking publicly about the case. Many documents also have been sealed.

Holmes is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder during the July 20 massacre, which left 12 dead and 70 wounded, and has not yet been asked to enter a plea. His lawyers say that Holmes suffers from mental illness.

Read the letter in full below, via ABC News:

To the Management of Cinemark USA, Inc.:

During the holiday we didn’t think anyone or anything could make our grief worse but you, Cinemark, have managed to do just that by sending us an invitation two days after Christmas inviting us to attend the re-opening of your theater in Aurora where our loved ones were massacred.Thanks for making what is a very difficult holiday season that much more difficult. Timing is everything and yours is awful.

You (Cinemark) has shown, and continues to show, ZERO compassion to the families of the victims whose loved ones were killed in their theater. You, Cinemark, have never once reached out to the families to offer condolences.

This disgusting offer that you’d “like to invite you and a guest to a special evening of remembrance on Thursday, January 17 at 5 PM “followed by the showing of a movie and then telling us to be sure “to reserve our tickets “is wholly offensive to the memory of our loved ones.

Our family members will never be on this earth with us again and a movie ticket and some token words from people who didn’t care enough to reach out to us, nor respond when we reached out to them to talk, is appalling.

You (Cinemark) refused our repeated invitations to speak parent to parent with no lawyers involved. Instead, we get invited to attend a “special evening of remembrance” at the very theater where our loved ones lay dead on the floor for over 15 hours. We would give anything to wipe the carnage of that night out of our minds’ eye. Thank you for reminding us how your quest for profits has blinded your leadership and made you so callous as to be oblivious to our mental anguish.

We, the families, recognize your thinly veiled publicity ploy for what it is: A great opportunity for you to distance yourselves and divert public scrutiny from your culpability in this massacre.

After reading our response to your ridiculously offensive invitation, you now know why we will not be attending your re-opening celebration and will be using every social media tool at our disposal to ask the other victims to ask their friends and family to honor us by boycotting the killing field of our children.

The Families of the Aurora Cinemark Theatre Massacre

Thomas Teves (father of Alex Teves)

Caren Teves (mother of Alex Teves)

Sandy Phillips (mother of Jessica Ghawi)

Lonnie Phillips (stepfather of Jessica Ghawi)

Jerri Jackson (mother of Matt McQuinn)

Greg Medek (father of Micayla Medek)

Rena Medek (mother of Micayla Medek)

Anita Busch (cousin of Greg and Micayla Medek)

Robert Wingo, (father of Rebecca Ann Wingo’s two children)

Scott Larimer (father of John Larimer)

Kathleen Larimer (mother of John Larimer)

Jessica Watts (cousin of Jonathan Blunk)

Robert Sullivan (grandfather of Veronica Moser-Sullivan)

Sue Sullivan (grandmother of Veronica Moser-Sullivan)

Cassandra Sullivan (widow of Alex Sullivan)