A Southern California native was among the victims in Colorado's movie theater shooting.
Jesse Childress, a 29-year-old Air Force sergeant from the Palmdale area, died a hero when he jumped in front of a fellow service member to shield her from the flying bullets, friends said.
"I can't even comprehend the magnitude of it," Thomas Maxwell, a family friend, told KTLA-TV Channel 5.
The sergeant had gone to see "The Dark Knight Rises" with colleagues from the Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora.
Childress, who was from the town of Lake Los Angeles, was on active duty and worked as a cyber systems operator. He loved comic books and playing sports, friends said.
"I don't even know how to say I feel about [the shooting] because I'm so sad," said Laurence Green, a neighbor of Childress' family. "Nobody should ever have to experience something like that."
In Aurora, friends placed an Air Force flag at the foot of a memorial, where a teddy bear in a miniature uniform and small, folded blue-and-white flags rested.
"He was athletic, fun to be with -- he really just wanted to serve," said Ashley Wasinger, 31, who served with Childress in the Air Force's 310 Force Support Squadron. She sobbed as she recalled the last time she talked to Childress on Thursday.
"He talked about the movie," she said. "We've all been excited to go. He tried to talk me into going."
-- KTLA News and Times staff writers