Though shocked and saddened by his death, friends and family of Matt McQuinn were not surprised to learn that he died protecting his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, in a mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater early Friday morning.
“I know he’s a hero,” McQuinn’s stepfather, David Jackson, said at his Springfield home Saturday. “Him and Sam were very much in love and planning their life together… it’s not surprising to me that his first thought would be her. That’s what a man does. He protects his loved ones. I’m very proud of him. I’m going to miss him.”
McQuinn, formerly of Springfield and a Vandalia Butler High School graduate, was a generous friend, always willing to help others however he could, according to his friends and family.
“For someone that’s never angry, it shouldn’t have happened to him,” said long-time friend Nicholas Gill. “I guess I’m angry for him.”
The last minutes of McQuinn’s life were spent shielding Yowler, formerly of St. Paris and a Graham High school graduate, from bullets after a lone gunman entered through a side door of the movie theater, threw gas canisters and opened fire on a crowd watching a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” on Friday at a suburban Denver cinema multiplex in Aurora.
“He was probably scared, terrified,” said Jackson. “I just can’t imagine what would be going through his mind except saving Sam. I’m sure from his actions that he didn’t put anything except for her first. Other than that, how could you not be terrified in a situation like that? I just hope it was quick.”
Yowler was shot once in the leg and is recovering in Colorado. Her brother, Nick, was uninjured in the attack.
“Sam was destroyed by this,” said Jackson. “ … Matt was her whole life. She told my wife at the hospital that her and Matt were supposed to grow old together and have babies. They were the perfect couple. You could tell they were meant to be together.”
Yowler and McQuinn moved to Colorado together in November. McQuinn is survived by his parents, Jerri Jackson and Richard McQuinn, brother Eric, his stepparents and six step-brothers.
“They were planning to move back to Springfield in about two weeks and Jerri was talking to him just before he left for the movies,” Jackson said. “He told his mom ‘Well, Nick’s here now and we’re going to go so I’ll talk to you later.’ And that was it.”
Jerri Jackson flew to Colorado Friday morning when she found out about the shooting and learned at 10:30 p.m. that night that he had died in the attack after hours of not knowing what had happened to her son. She is working with an advocate to determine when she can make arrangements to bring him home and is staying with a family friend.
“Like me, she has her good moments and bad, but I think the worst is going to be actually when she views him and has to make the arrangements,” said David Jackson. “But she’s holding up remarkably well, I think … She’s a pretty strong woman.”
The family plans to have McQuinn’s services in Springfield, likely at Maiden Lane Church of God, where he attended services.
“Matt was a fun-loving guy,” said Mitch Sprinkle, a 24-year-old Springfield resident and friend of McQuinn. “Everyone that I’ve introduced him to loved him off the bat. He had a really great heart and personality. He’s one of those people that instilled you with positivity.”
Fifty-eight people were wounded, including Yowler, who was shot in the knee, according to Rob Scott, attorney for the McQuinn and Yowler families. Yowler’s brother, Nick, was also with the couple at the time of the shooting but was not shot.
McQuinn was shot three times — in the chest, leg and back, according to Scott.
“Obviously, the family is shocked, they’re grieving and they just asked for people to give them distance as they grieve for their son who has passed,” Scott said.
Gill met McQuinn in 1999 when both attended Maiden Lane Church of God. He described his friend as dependable, helpful, trustworthy and honest.
The couple was known for their elaborate Halloween costumes for a friend’s annual party.
“Him and Sam would always dress up in really cool costumes,” Gill said. “It was always really cool to see what he was going to be dressed like.”
McQuinn was known for his laugh and his ability to put others in a better mood, according to friends.
“He was definitely the type of person to help anybody out if they needed it,” said Micaella Lay, as 32-year-old Bellfontaine resident whose son is also friends with McQuinn’s brother. “That obviously shows in the way that he died. He died covering his girlfriend. That’s just the type of person he was.”
Friends of McQuinn are attempting to raising $10,000, to help cover funeral costs through the website giveforward.com. As of Saturday afternoon, $100 had been donated.
Police arrested 24-year-old suspect James Eagan Holmes, of Aurora, in connection with the shootings that left 12 people dead.
Authorities detonated booby traps and incendiary devices inside the suspect’s apartment Saturday. The actions forced the evacuation of buildings around the complex where the suspect lived.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.