RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And I'm David Greene. Good morning. We're returning this morning to a Colorado community that was stunned when a gunman opened fire in a movie theater, killing 12 people and wounding many more. Tomorrow marks one year since that massacre in the Denver suburb of Aurora. People there say they have struggled to find any sense of closure, and that's in no small part because the case against the accused gunman is dragging and could last for years. Also, the national debate around gun control has been a constant reminder of what happened in that theater. Here's Colorado Public Radio's Ben Markus.
BEN MARKUS, BYLINE: A year ago Marcus Weaver's friend Rebecca Wingo asked him to go with her to the midnight premier of "The Dark Night Rises." He didn't need much convincing.
MARCUS WEAVER: I'm a huge Batman fan because he's a real super hero, you know. He's a real person who is a super hero.
MARKUS: About 30 minutes after the movie started, Aurora police received the first calls.
(SOUNDBITE OF 911 CALLS)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: 315 and 314, fresh shooting at Century Theaters, 14300 East Alameda Avenue. They're saying somebody is shooting in the auditorium.
WEAVER: The first wave of bullets and the sounds just startled everybody and no one moved.
MARKUS: Weaver says he grabbed Wingo and got her onto the floor with him. From in between the seats he could the flash of the gun light up the shooter every time he pulled the trigger. Weaver says he waited for a break in the shooting and then made his escape.
WEAVER: And then I'm standing outside that theater and this little girl comes up to me and said, hey, you're arm's bleeding. And I look at my arm, and that's when I notice I had two holes in my arm.
MARKUS: Later he learned that his friend Rebecca Wingo had been shot to death. Now the hurt of losing his friend and the gunshot wounds in his arm are beginning to fade. Weaver got married. He has a new job that he loves. But every time a court date for the accused gunman gets close, the sleepless nights return.
WEAVER: Get short with people, kind of get tired, weary, because it's working in your mind. It's always in the back of your head that you got to go to this court date.
MARKUS: The trial is months away as state doctors evaluate alleged shooter James Holmes' mental state. He pled not guilty by reason of insanity and the prosecutors are pursuing the death penalty.
KAREN STEINHAUSER: When you combine both of those you're talking about a process that could take not months but years.
MARKUS: Criminal defense attorney Karen Steinhauser was a Denver prosecutor for 20 years. She notes that Colorado's governor recently granted an indefinite reprieve for a killer who sat on death row for 15 years, throwing the reality of putting James Holmes to death in question.
STEINHAUSER: We don't know if there's ever going to be finality, and that in and of itself I know is hard.
MARKUS: Some victims and families have channeled their frustration into activism. Dave Hoover's 18 year old nephew A.J. Boik was killed in the theater.
DAVE HOOVER: Every day people are getting gunned down by individuals who shouldn't have guns.
MARKUS: Hoover and others urged Colorado lawmakers to pass gun control measures this year. And they did - expanding background checks for gun purchases and banning high-capacity magazines.
HOOVER: I'd love to be able to take away all the pain that my whole family feels. The reality is we can't. But we can - we can help, and this is somewhere I think we can make a difference.
MARKUS: Some of the families have also turned their attention to Cinemark, the theater's owner. They've filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the theater chain alleging security that night was lax. The theater reopened earlier this year. In the parking lot after catching an afternoon movie, Glen and Betty Cox said they were happy that their favorite theater wasn't torn down because of the shooter's actions.
BETTY COX: Well, yes, I was afraid that that way he would win.
GLEN COX: This way at least they showed that they have some spunk and reopened.
MARKUS: Families from Aurora and the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut are gathering today in Colorado to read the names of gun violence victims from across the country. They'll read names until just after midnight - the time the gunman opened fire on the crowded theater one year ago. For NPR News, I'm Ben Markus in Denver.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.