For "Batman" shooting victim, death was final act of heroism

Aurora, Colo. Tue Jul 24, 2012 7:51pm EDT

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Aurora, Colo. (Reuters) - In the chaos of the shooting spree at a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Colorado last week, one military veteran did not hesitate to sacrifice his life to protect the woman he took to the movie.

Friends and relatives of 26-year-old Jonathan Blunk say investigators told them the U.S. Navy veteran was killed while shielding his date, Jansen Young, from harm as bullets flew around them.

Young said in an interview on NBC's "Today" show that she recalled Blunk pushing her down on the floor and whispering in her ear that somebody had opened fire on them.

During the shooting, she recalled thinking, "I think Jon just took a bullet for me," adding she was alive because of him.

Twelve people were shot to death and 58 others wounded early on Friday when a gunman clad in tactical body armor and carrying three guns opened fire at a screening of the new "Batman" film in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

James Eagan Holmes, 24, was arrested behind the theater minutes later and was in court for the first time on Monday. He will be formally charged next Monday.

Blunk served in the Navy for five years with his best friend and godfather of his two children, 26-year-old Kyle Dawson.

"He had plane tickets for Saturday to be going back to Reno to see his wife and his kids for the first time in a couple of months," Dawson, who is acting as a spokesman for the Blunk family, told Reuters in a phone interview.

"His daughter was ecstatic to see daddy. She had the dress set out that she was going to wear to go pick daddy up at the airport."

Blunk and his wife, 26-year-old Chantel Blunk, who were separated, were the parents of 2-year-old Maximus Blunk and 4-year-old Hailey Blunk.

Dawson and Blunk saw the world together while working in the power plant of a nuclear aircraft carrier. They were thrilled to disembark in places like Hong Kong, Australia, Guam, Hawaii, Singapore, and India.

"We were joined at the hip," Dawson said. "Friend almost doesn't even describe the relationship. That guy was my brother."

Blunk believed in helping others, his family and friends said. He wanted to be a police officer and also rejoin the military as a Navy SEAL. He was also a volunteer firefighter and an emergency medical technician.

The family has received a visit from President Barack Obama, letters from celebrities and an outpouring of love and support from strangers the world over, his cousin Jessica Watts said.

"It's so appreciated. It's something that I can look at and know that I am not alone, that I am grieving with so many other people," she said.

Watts was in court on Monday, saying Blunk was a firm believer in the criminal justice system and would have wanted Holmes to get a fair trial. She plans on being at every court hearing in the case.

Blunk will be buried with full military honors in Reno, Nevada, on August 3.

(Reporting by Mary Slosson; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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