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Batman Shooting: Funerals Begin For Aurora, Colo. Theater Shooting Victims (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

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AURORA, CO - JULY 24: A mourner places his hands on his head as he stands near the memorial across the street from the Century 16 movie theatre July 24, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. The memorial was created for the victims that were killed during a mass shooting at the movie theater last Friday. Twenty-four-year-old James Holmes is suspected of killing 12 and injuring 58 others during a shooting rampage at a screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises.' (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 24: A mourner places his hands on his head as he stands near the memorial across the street from the Century 16 movie theatre July 24, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. The memorial was created for the victims that were killed during a mass shooting at the movie theater last Friday. Twenty-four-year-old James Holmes is suspected of killing 12 and injuring 58 others during a shooting rampage at a screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises.' (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

DENVER — A dad who took his teenage children to the new Batman movie and was killed when a gunman opened fire on the theater was mourned Wednesday, the first memorial service for a victim of the shootings.

Fifty-one-year-old Gordon Cowden was the oldest of the 12 people killed in the massacre at the "Dark Knight Rises." His teenage children escaped unharmed.

Cowden lived in Aurora, the Denver suburb where the theater is located. A family statement described him as a "true Texas gentleman" who loved the outdoors and owned his own business.

"A quick-witted world traveler with a keen sense of humor, he will be remembered for his devotion to his children and for always trying his best to do the right thing, no matter the obstacle," his family said.

Carrying flowers and passing a large portrait of Cowden, about 150 mourners gathered for the memorial at a Denver church. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper paused at the photo before entering the church.

The memorial was also attended by Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan and Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates.

Later this week, families of other victims planned to say their final goodbyes.

Funerals were planned in towns from San Antonio, home of aspiring sportscaster Jessica Ghawi, to Crystal Lake, Ill., hometown of Navy intelligence officer John Thomas Larimer.

Also Wednesday, residents of the apartment building where shooting suspect James Holmes lived were allowed to return.

The small building near the University of Colorado, Denver, medical campus was cleared as a precaution because police said Holmes had booby trapped his apartment with a trip wire, explosives and unknown liquids.

Because many of the shooting victims have families outside Denver, authorities have assigned each victim's family a communications officer to keep them updated on the case.

Holmes is due in court next Monday, when he will hear the charges against him.

___

Associated Press photographer Alex Brandon contributed to this report.

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