Close to 70 people braved Wednesday evening's chill to gather outside the offices of the Fort Wayne Urban League and hear a message of forgiveness from a man who has reason to be bitter.
That man, 29-year-old Pierce O'Farrill, has shotgun pellets in his chest and a bullet lodged in his arm, reminders of the wounds he received during the Aurora, Colo., theater shooting in July 2012.
"It just seemed like another night," he told the crowd. "We were excited to just see a movie."
O'Farrill, who works at the Denver Rescue Mission, spoke as part of a symposium on forgiveness and reconciliation in the face of violence. The event hosted by the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission and Urban League was planned in response to the wave of killings the city has seen this year. So far in 2013, Fort Wayne and Allen County have tallied 36 homicides, six more than last year and a 15-year high.
Wearing a suit and tie, O'Farrill stood behind a podium as he calmly told the story of the night he and a buddy went to see a midnight premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises."
The terror began a couple of minutes into the movie, when he saw a canister fly in front of the screen. "My heart just dropped. I knew it was teargas," he said.
He looked to see who had thrown the canister, and no more than 30 feet away was an armed man who had entered through an emergency exit. The man started shooting.
"I just looked over at my buddy, and we just got down and laid down in front of our seats," O'Farrill said. "I just started praying. That's all I had in that moment was prayer."
The shots came closer and closer, and O'Farrill, a devoted Christian, kept praying.
"I got hit first in the left foot with a shotgun round, and it felt like it had blown my toes off. The pain was pretty intense," he said. "I curled up into the fetal position."
Another round buzzed past O'Farrill's head and struck him in the arm. "When I got hit by that one, a strange peace just kind of came over me," he said, explaining that all he could think about was his faith and how thankful he was for the time he had been alive.
Soon afterward, the shooter's gun jammed, and many in the theater used that moment to flee. "But when I stood up, I just didn't have any strength in me," O'Farrill said.
He went three steps and collapsed. His buddy, who had taken a shot to his leg, implored him to get up, but he wasn't even able to respond.
So his friend left, thinking O'Farrill was dead. As O'Farrill lay there, the shooter came back.
"I felt his boot just right by my head, and I knew it was him," O'Farrill said. "I said, 'OK, Lord, this is it. This is my time.'."
As O'Farrill was preparing to die, the shooter walked away and left the theater. SWAT officers later brought O'Farrill outside, and he eventually learned from a police officer that his wounds were not life threatening. As O'Farrill said, "It was just the most amazing thing anyone's ever told me: 'You're going to live.'."
Police arrested the shooter, James Holmes, in the theater parking lot. Accused of killing 12 and injuring 70 others, Holmes' mug shot was splashed on the front pages of newspapers across the country.
O'Farrill said he didn't see a monster in the photo, but rather a lost soul.
"When I saw him, I felt compassion for him," O'Farrill said. "And I just felt forgiveness."