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Area man was in Colorado theater at time of shooting

July 25, 2012
By DAVE GOSSETT - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

WINTERSVILLE - Zac Davis could barely contain his excitement when he made plans to attend the midnight screening of the "The Dark Knight Rises" last week.

He has always been a Batman fan and was enthusiastic about the latest series of Batman movies.

Zac and his girlfriend, Stephanie Ellingson, debated between two theaters in Aurora, Colo., but decided on the Century Aurora 16 movie complex, "because I was afraid the midnight showing might be sold out. I knew we could order tickets online for the Century theater."

Article Photos

A QUIET SURVIVOR — Zac Davis, a former Wintersville resident, sits in his family living room holding the family dog, Zoey, while flanked by his parents, Lynn and Michael Davis. The 27-year-old Catholic Central High School graduate was in the Aurora, Colo., movie theater last week when a lone gunman killed 12 people and wounded 58 additional victims. - Dave Gossett

Zac had moved to the Denver area nearly a year ago after his employer, Frontier Airlines, closed its operations in Pittsburgh.

He told the Herald-Star what happened next, "were the longest minutes of my life and the most terrifying night of my life."

"We got there early and I bought a $7 tub of popcorn because it was a long movie. Stephanie had several bottles of pop in her purse so we were set," related Zac, a 2003 Catholic Central High School graduate.

"It was a truly unique movie experience. People were excited about seeing the new Batman movie. They cheered the opening trailers and applauded the opening scenes where the movie introduces the new characters and sets the stage. I was so excited to see the movie that I kept patting my girlfriend's leg. I looked over at her and she smiled because she knew how long I had waited for this night. There were scenes filmed in Pittsburgh and my girlfriend asked me if a particular city scene was from Pittsburgh," said the 27-year-old.

"We walked into the left side of the theater and immediately turned and climbed the steps into the stadium seats because there were two single seats against the wall. In fact, we moved back one row because the railing was in the way of the screen," he added.

That decision may have saved Zac and Ellingson's lives 20 minutes later when a man later identified as James Holmes walked to the front of the theater, threw a gas canister into the crowd and started spraying stunned movie fans with bullets.

Twelve people were killed in the melee and 58 others were wounded.

"It all started during a quiet moment in the movie when Bruce Wayne was having a conversation with his butler. I saw the gas canister fly end over end through the air and first thought someone had blown up a balloon and then let it go. Then, when the shots started, I thought someone was setting off fireworks and I was annoyed," related Zac.

"But that's when people started screaming and diving to the floor. Stephanie and I sat in our seats for a moment because we were in shock. I pushed her to the floor and I crawled around her to peek out. Everyone was trying to hide behind the seats. That's when the tear gas started burning my eyes and nose. So I moved back next to Stephanie," commented Zac.

"After about 30 or 40 rounds, people started crawling to the exit. I pushed Stephanie up and told her to run. We ran for the exit at the top of the stadium seating. After we got outside, we ran for Stephanie's car and that's when I started to hear the fire alarm go off in the theater," he said.

"We went to my place and started looking for any news about the incident. No one had anything at first. So I called my parents and Stephanie called her dad in San Francisco and we told them they would hear about a shooting in Aurora. We were there, but we were fine. And I started texting my friends to tell them I was fine," related Zac.

"I get angry when I think about the little girl who was shot. I wish I had been sitting in the front of the theater and could have done something to stop the gunman. When my parents came out I knew I had to get out of Denver for a few days so I could escape all of the news coverage and constant talk about the shooting. I feel I was very fortunate. I was lucky to not be shot," stated Zac.

According to his father, Michael, "the phone rang about 3:30 in the morning, so we knew something was wrong. Zac told us what happened, so we started watching television for some type of news. We finally saw a story on the 'Early Today' show. Zac slept for a couple hours and then called us back."

"He called back at 2 p.m. that day and that's when the emotions were in his voice. He asked if his mom or I could come out there so we both flew out Saturday," said Michael.

Zac returned to his Wintersville home Monday after his parents flew to Denver to "hug him and take care of him."

"The first time I cried after this tragedy was when I walked through the Denver airport and saw my mom and dad." noted Zac.

"As a mother, I just wanted to hug Zac. When we saw him at the airport I hugged him and cried," said Lynn Davis.

"I believe God put his hand over Zac and Stephanie that night and protected them," Michael declared.

"We went to the Sunday vigil at the Municipal Center and were very moved by the music, prayers and people there. When people started realizing Zac was a victim, too, they started putting their hands on him and praying for him," said Michael.

"Stephanie and I are attendants for Frontier Airlines. The airline has been great through all of this. I called in and said I didn't feel I could be responsible for myself much less an airplane full of people. I have been overwhelmed by the amount of support from everyone. I have asked people to please be patient. We are getting phone calls, text messages and Facebook messages. I will respond, but it will take a little time," declared Zac.

His parents attended a Catholic Mass Sunday morning in Denver.

"After the Mass I knelt down to pray a prayer of thanksgiving and all I could think of was, 'Thank you God. Thank you God' over and over," said Michael.

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