AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — July 20 marks 10 years since the Aurora theater shooting, when a gunman opened fire at a midnight movie, killing 12 people and hurting at least 70 others.
FOX31 is remembering the victims and the heroes on this 10-year milestone and sat down with the first responders leading command that night.
“I carry that that I lost 12 people on my watch and 58 others, with some with just horrific injuries in a city that I love,” Aurora Police Department Division Chief Jad Lanigan said.
Lanigan is going on his 27th year with the Aurora Police Department. Ten years ago, he was a recently promoted lieutenant leading the incident command at the scene of the Aurora theater shooting.
“I hope across America, people look at how the Aurora Police Department handled this incident and learn from our mistakes and learn from what we did well,” Lanigan said.
On mental health breaks, ‘We need to say that’s OK’
Lanigan said successes in saving lives that night came from strong leaders at the scene. Specifically, he reflects on the work of current Boulder Deputy Chief Stephen Redfearn. Ten years ago, Redfearn served as a police sergeant in Aurora, leading as a first-line supervisor at the theater shooting.
“As I’m directing officers to go inside and continue to bring people out, I was certain there were at least two or three of the people that were laying on the sidewalk that were going to die any moment,” Redfearn said. “It was a very frustrating, helpless feeling, because we have limited medical training and I knew that the only thing that could help them is to get to the hospital.”
“Steve gets on the radio and he says, ‘Lincoln 25, do I have permission to start putting these people in police cars and getting them to the hospitals?’ Lanigan said. “Of course, I got on the radio and said, ‘You’ve got permission to do that,’ and really, it’s a national standard now with active critical incidents and active shooters across the country that we have got to get people to a hospital.”
Since the Aurora theater shooting, both Lanigan and Redfearn have traveled across the state and country to speak to other departments and share advice.
“The biggest thing is there’s nothing you can do to fully prepare,” Redfearn said. “You can be the most squared away tactical department, have the best equipment, and it’s the emotional side. You’re never going to fully be able to prepare for something of that scale.”
“We need to make that OK in society that people in public safety can come out and say, ‘I’ve seen just a little bit too much this week, or this month, or this year, and I need a little break,” Lanigan said. “We need to say that’s OK.”