Twenty-five minutes into the premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises,” current Gateway High School student and 2013 CSU football recruit Zack Golditch was hit in the neck by a stray bullet that came through the wall from theater 9.
“In this scene [of the movie], there is actually gunfire and stuff, and it sounded like some guy took Black Cats or little dynamite sticks and was tossing them up, and I think there was three pops,” said Golditch, confused about the commotion in the darkness of the theater. “Everyone looked up and was like ‘What are you doing, lighting fireworks in the theater? I get you’re trying to get into it but don’t do that, you know?’”
The sound was actually shots fired from suspected gunman James Holmes in theater 9 next door.
“Next thing I know I hear a BANG! right beside my ear,” Golditch said. “My ears are ringing, I just kind of like fall into my friend’s lap and let out like a yell or something cause it was hurting a lot.”
He was attending the premiere with many of his friends and teammates, some of which were in theater 9 with the gunman. They all made it out safely.
Friend and CSU freshman Martin Varela was sitting close to Golditch when he was hit. Varela also thought that fireworks were the cause of the commotion, until he saw theater attendees screaming from pain and Golditch running out the door. He followed.
“I’m outside looking for Zack, and I just see everybody come out, and then everybody who got hit,” Varela said. “Supposedly the guy who was shooting the theater was outside, I don’t know, but luckily I didn’t see him or anything.”
When Golditch’s football coach Justin Hoffman got the flood of texts from his 10 to 15 players who were at the same premiere, his mind started running.
“It first starts off as, ‘Did this really happen?’ because it’s so early in the morning, and then ‘How did this happen?’ and ‘Thank God everyone is OK that I know of,’” Hoffman said.
With so many members of his team involved in the incident, Hoffman says it’s going to take the player’s strong bond to make it through.
“It’s a great family, and we’ve really tried to build that and instill that into our program, and it is going to take some time,” Hoffman said. “Just like any family there’s some ups and downs and there’s trials and tribulations, and we’ve got to make sure that we handle this appropriately.”
Hoffman mentioned that CSU football coaches Jim McElwain and Marty English called Golditch early this morning to make sure he was doing alright.
“Coach McElwain said it was good to see me get out because it’s sucks to see good people, I don’t know about the people that were killed or anything, but it’s just sad to see really good people to get killed like that,” Golditch said.
After Golditch fled the theater, he headed towards the mall parking lot where he bumped into a few men working construction. One of them had been an army doctor for more than 10 years.
“He got a towel and put it on my cut and kept me until the police officer came and took me over to the police car, and we got there and it was just crazy, people with just blood all over just yelling and screaming,” Golditch said.
Varela witnessed the aftermath of the shooting while waiting for his friends to come out of the theater.
“I see everybody coming out with the blood and yelling ‘Help me!’ and I was like, ‘I can’t take this,’ so I ran over to my car and I was calling my friends, calling and calling and I couldn’t get through because they were calling Zack to see where he went,” Varela said. “Finally I see them come out and actually they were fine.”
Once his friends were in the car they headed to the Aurora South were Golditch was taken, and where the the reality of being struck with a bullet set in.
“I can’t believe I got shot, because after they put me through the CAT scan or whatever they were like, ‘Hey man, you got shot with a bullet,’ and I was like ‘What? I heard firecrackers! I thought my ear was blown off!’” Golditch said.
The bullet entered the left-front side of his neck and exited in pieces out the back. Nothing critical was hit and Golditch’s wound is expected to heal in the next three to four weeks.
For now, he is focusing on his survival.
“I try not to think about it really, that much, because it’s a lot to deal with, you know, so I just try not to think about it and just appreciate it right now,” Golditch said.
Starting both classes and football at Colorado State University in 2013, he is looking forward to his coaches, the campus, the food, and he wants to live in the dorm with the “mongolian grill.” He also wants to push himself on the field.
“Just to see if I can play at the next level and be successful. I came into high school with the mentality of like, ‘OK I’m big, maybe I can play varsity as an underclassman,’ and I was able to, and I’m just trying to see if I can take that to the next level,” Golditch said.
“CSU has done a very good job of making sure that Zack has felt important. It’s important to be liked and they’ve done a very good job of making sure that Fort Collins feels like home,” Hoffman said.
[Zack Golditch, 2013 CSU football recruit and victim in this morning's Batman premiere shootings in Aurora, Colo., shows the bullet wounds to his neck. Golditch was in theater 8 next to theater 9, and received the wound after a bullet came through the wall. Photos taken by Golditch family]