Colo. Shooting Victim Jessica Ghawi: 'She Was Like a Jolt of Lighting,' Mother Says

Jessica Ghawi, who died in Colo. shooting, narrowly missed Toronto cross-fire.

July 20, 2012, 9:42 AM

July 20, 2012 — -- The mother of a young woman who was shot and killed while attending the Aurora, Colo., midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" said her daughter was "very easy to fall in love with."

"She was like a jolt of lighting. We would tease when she would come home for a visit, that she'd walk in the door, it was just automatic chaos because of the energy level that she brought into a room," Sandy Phillips, Jessica Ghawi's mother, said tonight on "20/20."

Ghawi had narrowly escaped a separate shootout in a Toronto mall last month.

"She was very affected by watching the victims being brought out of that [Toronto] shooting, and realizing that several of them were close to her own age and realized that life was very fragile and she had an epiphany at that moment that it could happen to any of us at any time and instead of being afraid of that, she embraced life even more fully," Phillips said.

Ghawi, an aspiring sportscaster, was killed when 24-year-old James Holmes burst into the movie house early this morning, police say, and began shooting patrons, allegedly killing at least 12 and injuring 70.

Ghawi, who had recently moved from San Antonio, Texas, to Denver, had narrowly escaped a June 2 shootout at a Toronto food court that killed one person.

Ghawi attended the screening of the movie with her friend, Brent Lowak, and had been tweeting about the movie minutes before it began.

Lowak said he and Jessica were sitting in the middle of the theater when it filled with smoke from a device that was thrown into the crowd, according to an account of the shooting posted by Ghawi's brother, Jordan Ghawi, on his blog.

The friends dropped to a prone position to take cover from the spray of bullets.

"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," Jordan Ghawi wrote.

Lowak "took what may have been his only chance to escape the line of fire" and exited the theater. Once safe, he contacted Ghawi's mother.

Six weeks ago, when the young sports writer had just missed getting caught in the Toronto food court shoot-out, she reflected on how lucky she was and how fragile life is in a blog post about the attack.

"I found out after seeing a map of the scene that minutes later a man was standing in the same spot where I just ate, and opened fire in the food court full of people. ... I would've been in the same place where one of the victims was found," Ghawi wrote.

After graduating from the University of Texas at San Antonio, Ghawi had been looking for a job in broadcasting. After interning with Mike Taylor, a sportscaster at San Antonio's Ticket 760, she got a new job in Denver, primarily covering hockey.

Taylor confirmed to ABC News that Ghawi had been in Toronto's Eaton Center mall at the time of the June 2 shootings.

"She was in Toronto, I think she was just there for vacation. She was having lunch in a mall in Toronto and there was a shooting in the food court where she was. She had just left," Taylor said.

On her blog, Ghawi described the harrowing experience of seeing the victims of gun violence.

"I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders' faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don't know when or where our time on Earth will end, when or where we will breathe our last breath. For one man, it was in the middle of a busy food court on a Saturday evening," she wrote.

"We had really thought we had literally dodged a bullet that day and I was so grateful that she was alright and the chances of her experiencing anything like that ever again were impossible," said Phillips.

Ghawi's brother, a firefighter in San Antonio, arrived in Denver this morning. Ghawi blogged that he'd received a "hysterical and almost unintelligible phone call" from his mother telling him Jessica had been shot while at the midnight show of "The Dark Night Rises."

Ghawi tweeted: "It appears that my sister has been fatally wounded in a mass shooting at a movie premiere in Denver. Well this could easily be the worst night of my life."

Phillips said Lowak called her and told her it was a random shooting and "Jessie has been hit twice."

Phillips said she screamed when he told her Jessica had died.

"We were blessed to have her every second," she said. "We were blessed to have her."

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