TORONTO – A Canadian hockey player says his American girlfriend, who narrowly escaped a deadly shooting at Toronto’s Eaton Centre last month, is among the victims of a mass shooting in Colorado.
Jay Meloff said Jessica Ghawi, 24, was killed when a gunman barged into a crowded Denver-area theatre during a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” and opening fire, killing at least 12 people and injuring dozens.
Meloff said he woke up Friday morning to frantic phone calls and messages on Twitter about the shooting. He said he last spoke with his girlfriend moments before she entered the movie theatre Thursday night.
“She said for me to sleep well. She knew it was late here,” said Meloff, when reached at his home in Markham, Ont.
“That was the last thing we ever got to say to each other.”
Meloff said the two had been dating for about a year and that she was an “amazing” girl.
“Everybody wants to get out how wonderful she is,” he said — his voice breaking with emotion.
“Now is not the best time. Really now is not the time for me,” he said.
Authorities in Colorado have not released the names of the victims, but Ghawi’s family confirmed to local media that she was fatally wounded in the shooting. Her brother Jordan tweeted “this could easily be the worst night of my life.”
Meloff said he was with his girlfriend at the Eaton Centre on June 2, shortly before a gunmen opened fire killing one man instantly and injuring several bystanders. Another man died later of his injuries.
Three days later, Ghawi wrote on her blog she was eating inside the mall’s food court when an “odd feeling” made her walk out of the mall just three minutes before shots rang out.
“It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around how a weird feeling saved me from being in the middle of a deadly shooting,” she wrote.
“What started off as a trip to the mall to get sushi and shop, ended up as a day that has forever changed my life.”
Ghawi, who also went by the name Jessica Redfield, expressed relief that she had been able to get out of the mall alive.
“I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday,” she wrote. “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,” she wrote.
As the news began to unfold about Friday’s shooting, Meloff expressed his grief in a series of messages on Twitter.
“I shoulda kissed you, goodnight,” he wrote in a tweet.
“Every experience in life was amplified beyond my wildest dreams with you,” read another.
Meloff, who played for various minor hockey teams in the U.S. and Canada, including the Pickering Panthers, was reportedly preparing to go to Colorado for the Denver Cutthroats’s free agent camp later this year. He will be going there soon to attend his girlfriend’s funeral, he said.
Local media reported that Ghawi had moved from San Antonio to Denver to pursue her dream of becoming a TV sportscaster. She was at the theatre with a longtime friend who was also shot and is undergoing surgery.
Kimberly Carver, president of TV network Altitude Sports & Entertainment, where Ghawi was an intern, says her colleagues are in shock.
“We’re really focused on the family and a lot of people have gone to give blood and I think we should focus on the rest of the victims,” she said from Englewood, Colo.
“I’ve got a whole network that’s really hurting and I need to attend to it … people are incredibly upset.”
The suspected shooter — 24-year-old James Holmes — was arrested shortly after the attack near a car outside the multiplex theatre in Aurora, Colo.