Sports journalist Jessica Ghawi dies in Colorado theater shooting

A Run on of Thoughts | Gordon Keith | Sporting News | Denver Post

Jessica Ghawi, who was killed in the massacre in Aurora, Colo., Friday morning, had escaped another mass shooting in Toronto on June 2. Ghawi, who tweeted and wrote under the name Jessica Redfield, wrote about hockey. A Westword blog post says she was an intern for 104.3 The Fan, a Denver-area sports radio station. She had been an intern for KABB-TV in San Antonio, Texas, the station said in a statement.

In the New York Daily News, Pat Leonard writes about meeting Ghawi at a New York Rangers game.

I was living my dream, just having covered Game 44 in my first season following the Blueshirts in the Big City. Jessica was on her way to achieving hers. ...

I don't remember every detail of our conversation, but what I do remember is that she was one of us. I knew I would see her again, because she was ambitious and she loved hockey and reporting and in another season I'd eventually cover a Rangers game in Colorado, where she lived and worked.

Jay Meloff, a hockey player Leonard identifies as Gawhi's boyfriend, has been tweeting about her:

Ghawi wrote for the sports blog Busted Coverage as "Pucktress."

Busted Coverage remembers Ghawi in a blog post:

It was your typical blog/Internet writing relationship. She understood the madness on this site and was willing to come on to learn the ropes and have fun writing about the sport she loved.

More than anything, Jessica just wanted to be involved. Soon there were calls on how to work through issues on WordPress and her throwing out post ideas. There were calls in the afternoon and calls in the evening. She would update me on where she was; Vancouver, Vegas, Avalanche games. It was the life all 20-somethings dream about.

She was remembered by The Sporting News' Jesse Spector, who wrote:

Jessica Redfield was going to be a sportscaster, and she was going to be a good one. She was sharp, funny, enthusiastic and had the kind of passion for sports and journalism that makes people succeed. ...

Jessica was opinionated about everything, but in a much less obnoxious way than most of us. Her Twitter bio was a perfect example of how snappily yet sweetly she could express herself in just a few words: "You can find me in the TV studio, NHL arena/locker room, on a plane, or writing. Southern. Sarcastic. Sass.Class.Crass. Grammar snob." Only re-typing that do I notice the Oxford comma, which she had expressed her love for on Thursday afternoon, in our second-to-last exchange on Twitter. How can you not enjoy someone who uses four exclamation points in a punctuation lovefest?

The Denver Post's Adrian Dater spoke with Ghawi Thursday about interning at the paper:

Just yesterday, just freakin’ yesterday, I was swapping Twitter direct messages with her about possible internships she was looking at, asking my advice about them, asking if the Denver Post had one I could maybe help her out with. ...

I knew that she was very ambitious and wanted to advance along into the world of sports journalism, and I always like seeing young people like that. It’s a great way to relieve one’s own youth, remembering how I was the same way once.

Ghawi's brother Jordan, a firefighter and paramedic, described on his blog how he got a phone call from his mother telling him that his sister had been shot.

At approximately 0215 CST, I received an hysterical, and almost unintelligible, phone call from my mother stating that my sister, Jessica Ghawi, had been shot while attending the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Denver, CO. I was able to contact the man that was with my sister, mutual friend Brent Lowak, who stated that they were in the theatre when an incendiary device was fired into the crowd and that shots rang out immediately afterwards. Brent further stated that he took two rounds and that my sister took one round followed by an additional round which appeared to strike her in the head. At this time, I do not have confirmation that she is alive or dead. Brent has been transported with non-life threatening injuries to a local hospital. I am on the next flight out of San Antonio to Denver and have already contact Aurora PD, operating jurisdiction, as next of kin.

Jordan Ghawi flew to Denver and has posted an update:

This is what I have been told by Brent, who was with my sister at the time of the shooting. This will be the only statement that I will make on the events surrounding what appears to be her death.

Jessica and Brent were seated in the middle portion of the theatre when a device was thrown into the theatre that produced a “hissing” sound. The theatre than began to fill with smoke which is when patrons began to move from their seats. At that time, shots were fired. Brent and Jessica immediately dropped to a prone position for cover. Jessica advised multiple times for someone to call 911, which Brent immediately attempted to do. Brent then heard Jessica scream and noticed that she was struck by a round in the leg. Brent, began holding pressure on the wound and attempted to calm Jessica. It was at this time that Brent took a round to his lower extremities. While still administering first aid, Brent noticed that Jessica was no longer screaming. He advised that he looked over to Jessica and saw what appeared to be an entry wound to her head. He further stated that Jessica presented with agonal respirations. Brent then took what may have been his only chance to escape the line of fire and exited the structure where he then contacted my mother. Brent’s actions are nothing but heroic. The veracity of any other statements not issued by myself or Peter Burns should be questioned.

The final post on Jessica Ghawi's blog was written after she found herself at the earlier shooting in Toronto:

When I arrived at the Eaton Center mall, I walked down to the food court and spotted a sushi restaurant. Instead of walking in, sitting down and enjoying sushi, I changed my mind, which is very unlike me, and decided that a greasy burger and poutine would do the trick. I rushed through my dinner. I found out after seeing a map of the scene, that minutes later a man was standing in the same spot I just ate at and opened fire in the food court full of people. Had I had sushi, I would’ve been in the same place where one of the victims was found.

My receipt shows my purchase was made at 6:20 pm. After that purchase I said I felt funny. It wasn’t the kind of funny you feel after spending money you know you shouldn’t have spent. It was almost a panicky feeling that left my chest feeling like something was missing. A feeling that was overwhelming enough to lead me to head outside in the rain to get fresh air instead of continuing back into the food court to go shopping at SportChek. The gunshots rung out at 6:23. Had I not gone outside, I would’ve been in the midst of gunfire.

This Q&A with Phoenix Coyotes player Dane Byers shows Ghawi's style. This endearing video shows Ghawi trying to do an interview on ice, laughing as she keeps falling. Notice how she manages to take control of the interview anyway.

Related: How news spread of Colorado theater shootingJessica Ghawi, ‘aspiring sportscaster,’ dies in Aurora shootingABC News speculates theater shooter James Holmes linked to Tea Party | Reddit covers the Colorado movie theater shooting

How to: 7 tips for covering the Colorado theater shooting6 ways journalists can cope when covering traumatic stories like the Colorado theater shooting

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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