AURORA, Colo. — Movie screen superheroes almost never die. But there were superheroes present in a darkened movie theater at Aurora Mall, and some of them did die, like Matthew Robert McQuinn, who threw his body in front of his longtime girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, shielding her from the bullets that took his life.
McQuinn, 27, was one of 12 people who were killed when a gunman opened fire at the theater early Friday, and like many of the other victims, he was young enough to have limitless possibilities ahead of him. He and Yowler, who was wounded and was listed in stable condition, went to see the midnight premiere of the latest installment in the Batman series with her brother. He, too, leaped to protect his sister and pull her from the theater to safety.
Jonathan Blunk, 26, a military veteran, died when he saved his girlfriend, Jansen Young.
Veronica Moser went to the movie with her mother. She was 6, too young to know much about Batman, too inexperienced to know that in the ferocious uncertainty of life, a movie theater could, without warning, become one of the most dangerous places on earth.
Veronica died on the operating table after being wounded during the shooting, her 15-year-old cousin, Katherine Young, said on Saturday.
‘‘She was just a radiant, happy little girl,’’ Katherine said. ‘‘She was just so happy. She could brighten anyone’s day.’’
Katherine said that Veronica, who lived in Denver, had just started swimming and had fallen in love with it.
Veronica’s mother, Ashley Moser, was seriously injured. She was shot twice in the abdomen and once in the neck and remained in the hospital, Katherine said. “They were just over for dinner on Tuesday,’’ she added quietly.
Just after midnight on Friday, the gunman, armed with a small arsenal of weapons, opened fire in the theater, leaving an additional 58 people injured.
By Saturday, officials had identified the 12 who died — 10 at the scene and two others later at hospitals.
The Aurora Mall theater, much like movie palaces everywhere, is a deeply American place where the bonds of popcorn and a refuge from daily cares unite people from all backgrounds.
McQuinn and Yowler worked at Target, having moved to Colorado from Ohio to get a fresh start. They were accompanied to the midnight premiere by Yowler’s brother, Nick Yowler. She was shot in the knee, but is recovering in the hospital, said a lawyer who is serving as a spokesman for the families.
Blunk, who served in the Navy aboard the USS Nimitz, had always wanted to die a hero, his estranged wife, Chantel Blunk, told NBC News. Jansen Young said that is exactly what happened.
“Jon just took a bullet for me,’’ she said on the ‘‘Today’’ show. Blunk moved to Colorado after leaving the service and worked here installing hardwood flooring, his father, Randall Blunk, said on Saturday. He had a 4-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son.
Among the other dead, Alex Sullivan was a huge comic book fan who was at the premiere to celebrate his 27th birthday. Alexander Teves, 24, of Phoenix graduated in June from the University of Denver with a master’s degree in counseling psychology, the school said. And Alexander Boik, 18, as recalled by a friend, Jakob Bolger, as ‘‘a very heartwarming, good-minded person.’’
The first victim to be identified, Jessica Ghawi, 24, had narrowly escaped a mass shooting at Eaton Center Mall in Toronto. An aspiring sports broadcaster, she had written that the experience had convinced her that each moment was precious.
In this city of 325,000, where the military has had a strong presence for almost a century, the Dark Knight sequel also drew in two service members who were killed.
Petty Officer Third Class John Larimer, 27, a Navy cryptologic technician stationed in Aurora since October, died from injuries sustained in the shooting.
Staff Sergeant Jesse Childress, 29, from Thornton, Colo., was an Air Force reservist on active duty with the 310th Forces Support Squadron at Buckley Air Force Base, Air Force officials said.
Rebecca Wingo, 32, was a single mother with two daughters, a ‘‘lovely young woman,’’ her friend Gail Riffle said, who took classes at Aurora Community College and attended Mile Hi Church in Lakewood, Colo.
Micayla Medek, 23, worked at a Subway sandwich shop and was trying to figure out what to do with her life, her aunt, Jennifer Zakovich, said Saturday.
Also killed was Gordon Cowden, an Aurora resident whose family didn’t want to speak to the press Saturday.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.