Randy Morris, 65, saw “The Dark Knight Rises” Friday afternoon at Cinemark Tinseltown in Medford. He said the Aurora, Colo., shootings may prompt more people to see the movie. - Mail Tribune / Julia Moore

Colorado shooting hits close to home for some here

A mass shooting that left 12 dead and 58 wounded at the premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colo., early Friday hit a little too close to home for Medford Fire-Rescue Chief Dave Bierwiler.

His two children, Brian Bierwiler, 34, and Jennifer Wallace, 37, live in that area. Both frequent the Century 16 theater. But neither, fortunately, was there that fateful night.

"We both feel pretty lucky," said Dave Bierwiler, who was on vacation with his wife and daughter.

His son works as a security guard across the street from the Aurora theater and often goes to the movies with his girlfriend after his shift.

"This is the kind of movie he would like to go to," Bierwiler said.

Wallace said her friend and her friend's sister and two children were in the theater when the shooting erupted, but escaped unharmed. She said she has been able to communicate with her friend only through Facebook.

"I'm having a hard time with it — I have an 8-year-old son," Wallace said. "I was there when Columbine happened. It's very similar."

A massacre at Columbine High School, about 15 miles from Aurora, left 12 students and a teacher dead on April 20, 1999.

Wallace said the Century 16 theater is the best in the area, but is known for gang-related problems. There always is a strong police presence at the theater, she said.

"I think that's why they caught the (alleged) shooter so fast," Wallace said.

Though Wallace realizes a mass shooting could happen anywhere, the enormity of a tragedy so close to where she lives has been difficult to comprehend.

"It was very hard," she said. "I was very emotional this morning."

In Medford, police view the killing spree as an isolated act. But Chief Tim George said extra officers would walk through Tinseltown Friday night to provide more of a presence to help reassure moviegoers.

"It will be more than likely just a calming effect," he said.

Cinemark Holdings Inc., which owns the theater in Tinseltown and in Aurora, issued a statement Friday expressing sadness for the victims. No mention was made of increasing security at theaters.

Local residents standing in line Friday morning to see "The Dark Knight Rises" thought the show must go on, despite the tragedy less than 12 hours earlier.

Aja Reichenbach, a 25-year-old Ashland resident, said the shootings saddened her. Such horrific acts have become more commonplace as the killers try to make a name for themselves, she said.

"I think he just decided this will be a good summer blockbuster to kill 12 people," Reichenbach said.

Her boyfriend, 24-year-old Henry Buchanan of Ashland, said he was still going to see the movie.

"It's pretty unlikely that it is going to happen anywhere else," he said.

He agreed with his girlfriend that the shooter saw the summer blockbuster as an opportunity to make a statement.

"It was pretty sad," Buchanan said. "It seems to me like a political stunt. You have a summer blockbuster and you know a bunch of people are going to be there."

Randy Morris, a 65-year-old Medford resident, said the movie might even get a boost from the shootings.

"It probably glorifies the whole thing for some people," Morris said. "For a lot of people, what happened in Colorado makes them want to see it."

Morris said he wasn't surprised that the suspected shooter, James Holmes, is a 24-year-old graduate student in neuroscience at the University of Colorado Denver.

"You've got to watch out for the geniuses," Morris said.

John Worden, a 47-year-old White City resident, said he was saddened to hear about the shooting, but brought his 12-year-old son to see the movie Friday.

"This type of violence happens over and over again," Worden said. "I'm sure he just picked that theater because he knew a lot of people would be in there. It really makes people stop and question — why."

Pat Tabiss, a 57-year-old Tucson, Ariz., resident who was visiting Medford for the summer, said she had no intention of watching "The Dark Knight," adding it reflected the kind of violence that is all too prevalent in society.

"I'm really not going to see it after today," Tabiss said. "But who would think that you go to a movie and get shot?"

She said this violent act reminded her of the shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords during a gathering outside a Safeway store in Tucson in January 2011.

Tabiss said she was going to see "Magic Mike," unlike most in line who were going to see "The Dark Knight Rises" or "Brave."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email

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