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Funerals held for 3 Colorado shooting victims

More victims of last week's Aurora movie theater shootings were laid to rest Saturday. NBC's Mike Taibbi reports.

Funerals were held Saturday for three of the Colorado shooting victims -- Matt McQuinn, who shielded his girlfriend, aspiring sportscaster Jessica Ghawi and Navy Intelligence Officer John Larimer. 

Mourners packed a church in McQuinn's hometown of Springfield, Ohio, the same morning that others came together in San Antonio to remember Ghawi. Other victims' funerals were held earlier this week, and more are set for next week.

When gunfire broke out in the Aurora, Colo., theater, McQuinn, 27, dove in front of his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, and was shot three times.

Yowler, who was shot in the knee and survived, arrived at McQuinn's funeral on crutches and wept quietly with his parents and other family during the funeral. Neither she nor his parents addressed Maiden Lane Church of God.


Pastor Herb Shaffer, who is also McQuinn's uncle, said his nephew had been a gift to his family since he was born and that his actions in Colorado were just one example of his selflessness.

Marshall Gorby / Springfield News-Sun via AP

Samantha Yowler, second from right, is comforted at the casket of Matt McQuinn on Saturday at the Maiden Lane Church of God in Springfield, Ohio.

He spoke of how McQuinn called his mother three times the day before she had surgery because he was upset that he couldn't be there in person and wanted to make sure she was OK.

Then he talked about McQuinn's greatest sacrifice of all, saving Yowler, whom Shaffer described as his nephew's best friend and the love of his life.

"In moments of crisis, true character comes out," he said. "His immediate response was to protect the woman he loved."

The Springfield News-Sun reported Shaffer at one point noted that, as a young man, his nephew sometimes dressed in a way that "made you want to cross to the other side of the street. But then he opened up his mouth, and he couldn’t betray who he was."

There was "never any malice," he added, only "a contagious enjoyment of life". 

Mourners at Ghawi's funeral also touched briefly on the massacre.

"If this coward could have done this with this much hate, imagine what we can do with this much love," her brother told mourners.

But most of the service focused on the life and energy of the aspiring sports journalist.

"What we will not do today is focus on how she left us," said Peter Burns, a friend from Colorado, reading a statement from Ghawi's mother, Sandy. "Jess was a force to be reckoned with. She was a jolt of lightning. A whirlwind. A Labrador puppy running clumsily with innocent joy."

NBC News' Kate Snow profiles Jessica Ghawi.

Ghawi's boyfriend, Jay Meloff, note that others described her as "a tough, redheaded spitfire," and she was, but that he also saw "a beautiful, warm-hearted and passionate woman with a capacity for love. ... She was as mushy as they come."

Large screens in the church played a video that has gone viral in the past week showing Ghawi repeatedly falling down as she walked onto an ice rink wearing high heels to interview a hockey player as an intern for San Antonio sportsradio station KTKR.

Formal charges are expected to be filed in court on Monday against alleged Colorado movie theater shooter James Holmes.

Ghawi, 24, had survived a June 2 shooting at a Toronto mall that left two dead and several wounded. She blogged about the experience, writing that it reminded her "how fragile life was."

A private funeral was held for Larimer, 27, whose body returned home from Colorado Thursday. Members of the Illinois Old Guard, the Warriors' Watch Riders and the Illinois Patriot Guard escorted hearses from O'Hare International Airport to Davenport Family Funeral Home. On Saturday flags lined the funeral home's sidewalks and entrance where friends and family hugged each other and wiped away tears, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

The Crystal Lake South High School alum joined the Navy eight years after high school graduation and was stationed in Colorado.

Larimer was at the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora Friday with his shipmates and girlfriend, Algonquin native Julia Vojtsek.

James Holmes, a 24-year-old former doctoral student studying neuroscience, is accused of opening fire on the theater, killing McQuinn, Ghawi and 10 others, and wounding 58. He is due to be formally charged Monday in Colorado. 

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.