RENO, Nev. (AP) — A Navy veteran who died after throwing himself in front of a friend during the Colorado movie theater shooting was remembered Friday for his fearlessness and optimism.
Some mourners at the funeral for 26-year-old Jonathan Blunk also said they've been told by officials that there are indications he may have tried to stand up to the heavily armed gunman and stop him during the July 20 attack in Aurora, Colo.
"Law enforcement is leaning toward he was trying to get the (suspect's) gun to save people's lives," said Roland Lackey, an Air Force veteran who officiated the service. "He was a hero, and I salute him."
FBI spokesman Dave Joly in Denver said Friday that a court gag-order prevented him from commenting on the case. Officials have not yet indicated publicly whether anyone inside the Aurora theater confronted suspected gunman James Holmes during the shooting spree that left 12 people dead and dozens wounded.
Among the 500 mourners who packed a mortuary in the Nevada city where Blunk was raised were his wife, Chantel; daughter, Hailey, 4; son, Maximus, 2; and dozens of service members.
Blunk, who served three tours in the Middle East from 2004 to 2009, was credited for saving his friend's life when the heavily armed gunman burst into the midnight showing of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises."
Kyle Dawson, his shipmate in the Navy, said authorities told Blunk's widow that her husband also matched the description of a man who went after the suspect.
Based on where Blunk's body was found in the theater, Dawson said, "he was trying to get the guy ... Jonny had no fear in any situation. You could count on him in any circumstance. He was a once-in-a-lifetime friend."
Holmes, 24, a former doctoral student in neuroscience, was charged with dozens of counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder in the July 20 attack, one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history.
Blunk, a 2004 graduate of Hug High School in Reno, lived in Aurora and worked for a small flooring company. He planned to re-enlist in the Navy with a goal of becoming a Navy SEAL.
James Gill, his roommate in the Navy, spoke of the senselessness of the shooting spree at the suburban Denver theater.
"Asking why this happened to Jonny, of all people, has absolutely no answer," Gill said. "He made it a point to befriend everyone, and the guy didn't know what negativity was. Throw into that a little testosterone ... and you have one beautiful man."
Chantel Blunk said she and her husband often used humor to deal with life's difficulties.
"Everybody knows Jonny would say 'suck it up,'" she said. "I'm going to miss him, but don't come at me with tears. I'll shoo you away from me if you do."
Blunk was a certified firefighter and emergency medical technician who spent the bulk of his time in the Navy aboard the USS Nimitz. He received a full military burial, including a gun salute and the playing of taps, at a hilltop cemetery overlooking Reno.
Amy DeGuzman, of Bremerton, Wash., his supervisor in the Navy and a pallbearer, conducted a ceremonial roll call of shipmates that included Blunk's name. When there was no answer, a shipmate responded, "Jonathan Blunk gave his life saving another."
About 30 current and former sailors who served with Blunk attended the funeral, with some serving as pallbearers.
"Be strong," Dawson advised family and friends, "and let's do what we can to get through it and be there for Chantel and the kids."
Contributions from a variety of sources, including the Reno Aces baseball team and the USS Nimitz, will go toward support of Blunk's widow and children, DeGuzman said.