One of the victims of the Colorado movie theater shooting was a part-time Maui resident who was considered a hero to his family even before he died while shielding his longtime girlfriend from gunfire.
Alex Teves, 24, had spent time including many summers on Maui with his family since they moved from New Jersey to Phoenix in 2001, said his mother, Caren Teves.
"He loved Maui, that was his favorite place," said his father, Tom Teves.
Tom and Caren Teves, whose son, Alex Teves, was one of the 12 people killed in the July 20 shooting attack at an Aurora, Colo., theater during a screening of the new Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises,” wait outside the Arapahoe County Courthouse on Monday in Centennial, Colo.
Ryan Cooper, (left), Amanda Lindgren, and the Teveses hold one another as they speak about Alex Teves, after a court appearance by suspected gunman James Holmes.
Alex Teves, shown at a South Maui beach in this family photo, spent many summers on the island. The 24-year-old was one of the victims of the shooting early July 20 in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater that left 12 people dead. “He loved Maui, that was his favorite place,” said his father, Tom Teves. The Teveses have two homes on the island and consider themselves part-time residents of Maui.
Teves family photo
Tom Teves was at the couple's Kihei condominium early July 20 when he learned that his first-born son had been at the midnight showing of the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colo., when a gunman opened fire, killing 12 people. James Holmes, 24, is accused of being that gunman and is due to be formally charged at a court hearing scheduled Monday in Colorado.
"The love of his life, the girl he saved, called me, basically frantic," Tom Teves said from the Mainland by telephone. "She couldn't find him and asked could I help find him in the hospitals."
It was about nine hours later that the couple learned their son had been fatally shot.
"He saved his girlfriend's life," Caren Teves said. "He told her to get down. She was confused. He pulled her down. He threw himself on top of her. He just didn't make it.
"He's a hero. He's her hero. He always was our hero even before this happened. He'll be missed by a lot of people."
Alex Teves grew up in New Jersey until he was 12, when the family moved to Phoenix. He was a wrestler at Desert Vista High School, where he wore a white T-shirt and jeans to school every day. One day during his senior year, the entire class of 500 to 600 students decided to wear white T-shirts and jeans for "Alex Teves Day."
"He didn't even realize, that's the kind of kid he is," Tom Teves said. "They all were having fun.
"Alex was somebody who made you laugh, he wanted you to feel good. He wasn't somebody who was ever threatening. He certainly wasn't a pushover, but he was never threatening. He was never afraid of anybody."
In college, Teves studied psychology, earning a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona and a master's degree from the University of Denver.
His parents recalled how during their son's sophomore year of college in Phoenix, he was in a bad rollover car accident in the middle of the desert. He managed to get out of the car, then get the other five occupants out. Although he was the second-worst hurt, he refused to leave, insisting that helicopters first take the others, including two people with minor injuries, Tom Teves said.
"He refused to go," Caren Teves said. "He's always putting everyone ahead of himself."
Finally, paramedics assessing the injuries insisted that he get on a helicopter.
"He does that stuff all the time," Tom Teves said. "That's how Alex was. He's just a fantastic kid."
"He's always there for anyone," said his younger brother Tommy, 17.
He said he knew his brother had planned to attend the Batman movie premiere.
"He loves superheroes," he said.
When his parents called to tell him his brother had been in the theater when the shooting happened, "I figured nothing would have happened to him," Tommy Teves said.
There also is another brother, Nick, 16.
After earning degrees in psychology, Alex Teves was planning to continue his education by pursuing a degree in physical therapy at a Colorado university "so he could heal both the body and the mind at the same time," Tom Teves said.
On Maui, where the Teveses own two homes, Alex liked to bodysurf at Big Beach in Makena.
"He adored Big Beach, that was his favorite beach," Caren Teves said. "He loved how challenging Big Beach can be. He would get as close to the bottom, lie in the sand at the bottom. He would love to have the ocean just totally take over his body, go with the motion of the waves and be one.
"He loved to go to the depths of the water and be in the water and let it take him where it would. He was so at peace there."
After visiting Maui for more than a decade, "we consider it our home," Caren Teves said. "We live there part time."
She said her son loved that "on Maui everyone is allowed to be who they are without having to conform."
"He loved the whole spirit of aloha, it was just the type of person he was," she said. "He really embraced it there."
Alex also loved music and playing guitar, his mother said. He last visited Maui in December.
Pukalani resident Denni Grace, who has been friends with the Teveses since she moved to Maui eight years ago, said she met Alex for the first time over the Christmas holiday, when he was on Maui with his girlfriend.
"He was one of those kinds of people you don't forget," she said. "He was the kind of person that made you feel you were the most important person in the world.
"He was bright and articulate. He was a very special young man."
They had a common professional interest in psychology, Grace said, and had a nice conversation that day.
Asked if she could tell that Teves was the kind of person who would take a bullet for someone else, Grace said, "Oh, yeah."
"He exuded that heroism in his everyday life," she said.
On Wednesday, the social group that Grace and the Teveses belong to gathered at an Olinda residence for a potluck and prayer for the family. "It was mostly to support each other," she said. "We all gathered together to be with each other."
They also wore white T-shirts and blue jeans - something that Tom Teves said has become a theme for Alex.
Caren Teves said she has been heartened by messages "from all over the world" saying "it's Alex Teves Day for us," as friends wear white T-shirts and jeans in her son's memory.
"We're Catholic. We believe and we know he's at peace in heaven," she said. "That's extremely comforting for us."
Tom Teves said he believes the media needs to re-evaluate its naming of defendants in reporting on crimes like the shooting so the desire for notoriety won't be a motivator for perpetrators.
On Monday, the day the suspect first appeared in court in Colorado, Teves went to the courthouse, arriving at 6:30 a.m. to get a front-row seat.
"I waited for three hours for that coward to show up," he said. "He wasn't so tough without his armor and his automatic weapons and his shotgun and his Glock. He didn't even look at me. I never took my eyes off him."
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Managing Edtior Lee Imada contributed to this report.