A Hemet native was praised this week by President Barack Obama for her actions that saved her best friend’s life during the chaotic scene inside a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., early last Friday.
As a masked gunman burst into a midnight showing of the new Batman movie and began a rampage that would leave 12 dead and 58 wounded, best friends Stephanie Davies, 21, and Allie Young, 19, were seated on the left side of the theater.
Young was struck by bullets in her neck and liver. Her carotid artery was punctured by the bullet that pierced her neck. As she fell to the floor, Davies likely saved her life when she applied pressure to the wound, minimizing the bleeding and keeping her friend calm as more bullets sailed over their heads.
Davies’ mother, Erin Christen, said by phone Tuesday, July 24, that her daughter was born in Redlands and lived in Hemet until she was about 5 years old, when the family moved to Colorado. Davies still lists Hemet as her hometown on her Facebook page.
Through both her mother and a representative at the University of Colorado hospital, Davies declined to comment.
“There are no words,” Erin Christen said. “I can’t believe what she did. It’s amazing. I think she’s the bravest person I have ever known.”
Christen said Davies has always been calm under pressure and her protective instincts may have come from having a young sister with Down syndrome and always feeling the need to protect her.
Christen said that while others fled the theater as bullets were flying, Davies and Young were there the entire time. And while Davies did not suffer any physical injuries, the emotional ones have already shown.
In the days following the shooting, Christen said Davies walked around with a zombie-like, emotionless expression. Now, she randomly breaks into deep, heavy sobbing as the night comes back to her.
“This was extremely traumatic and even though she did keep a cool head under outrageous conditions, it doesn’t mean it didn’t affect her, because it really has,” Christen said.
On Monday, Davies and Young granted an interview to the Los Angeles Times, which served as the pool reporter for the group of news media that was requesting interviews with the young women after a Sunday news conference in which Obama praised Davies for her heroism.
Davies and Young described a chaotic scene in which James Holmes — the alleged gunman and a graduate of UC Riverside — threw a smoke grenade into the theater and then began shooting.
“He would shout, ‘What are you doing? I said stand up!’ And he would pick people up,” Davies told the Times. “I saw him stand over someone. I just see hair and him holding the shirt, and ‘boom’.
“We were laying there in the mouth of hell — there’s smoke and explosions and guns, bats flying across the screen because the movie’s still playing, it’s dark — it’s every child’s worst nightmare.”
When Young was struck and Davies immediately dived to the floor to help her friend while others fled the theater. Young urged Davies to leave her but she would not, the Times reported. Davies carried her out of the theater — covered in blood — across a parking lot and into an ambulance, unsure what would happen.
“And she was shot in the neck, and it punctured a vein, and immediately she started spurting blood,” Obama said.
“And apparently, as she dropped down on the floor, Stephanie — 21 years old — had the presence of mind to drop down on the ground with her, pull her out of the aisle, place her fingers over where Allie had been wounded, and applied pressure the entire time while the gunman was still shooting.
“As tragic as the circumstances of what we’ve seen today are, as heartbreaking as it is for the families, it’s worth us spending most of our time reflecting on young Americans like Allie and Stephanie,” Obama said. “They represent what’s best in us, and they assure us that out of this darkness a brighter day is going to come.”
Davies and Young met while working together at a Victoria’s Secret store in Colorado and had been friends for less than a year, but both told the Times they immediately bonded and that this moment cemented that friendship.
“She’s a great friend for staying by my side,” Young told the Times. “But that’s not something I just recently found out. She just proved it.”
BY JOHN ASBURY
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