Army veteran moves into new home in shadow of Aurora theater shooting

AURORA In the wee hours of the morning after Kevin Anton closed on his first house, as he slept in anticipation of a taxing move, his cell phone began to buzz with activity.

Out-of-town relatives already had heard the breaking news of the deadly theater shooting at a midnight premiere that claimed 12 lives and injured 58 others. They recognized the location as the city where Anton had purchased a home.They knew he had a habit of attending movie openings.

They left nearly two dozen concerned voice messages.

“They know me — I’m a big movie guy,” said Anton, who often attended premieres at theaters on Hollywood Boulevard while growing up in California.

Juan Ramos gives Kevin Anton a haircut as Jose Ramos texts and jokes with the at The Barbers near Buckley Air Force Base. Anton stops in and hangs out with the two barbers who he considers friends. Both spend time with Anton outside of the shop often coming to his house, going out for drinks or attending Rockies games. AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post

The 25-year-old Army veteran paused to reflect on the intersection of the theater tragedy and the start of his family’s new life only five miles south of the shooting.

“It definitely hit us close to home,” he said.

It hit even closer when he realized that one of the victims, Alex Sullivan, was the bartender he’d befriended at another movie house, the Aurora Movie Tavern. Anton met him last January, when he visited the tavern on his birthday and wound up chatting with Sullivan and “having a grand old time.”

Anton and his fiancée, Edna Ramos, became regulars.

He served a tour in Iraq before finishing his enlistment in 2009 and embarking on a second career — nursing — and starting a family with Ramos. As an intelligence specialist, he never came under direct fire during his 10-month deployment. His mission, he notes, was to catch the enemy off-guard.

Kevin Anton prices handguns at the Buckley Air Force Base commissary following his daily workout. Anton says he likes to come to the commissary after he works out to take a look at the guns he hopes to buy. Both he and his fiance, Edna, enjoy shooting together. AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post

But back stateside, a shocking mass shooting rocked the place where he has begun to sink some roots. Still, he didn’t think twice about his choice.

“When it comes to the neighborhood, I don’t look at it as something we should fear,” Anton said. “It came into our minds, but we’re on the outskirts. I don’t think there’s too much to worry about.”

Besides, there wasn’t time to dwell on the tragedy: On the day that details of the rampage began to unfold, Anton had no choice but to focus his energy on getting his family moved into the house he was able to purchase with the help of a VA loan.

“Kevin was like, ‘We have to move today. I have a day off,’ ” Ramos said. “It didn’t make us change our mind about where we were going to live.”

With the help of an Air Force buddy, they accomplished the task, though Anton still nurses some lingering back issues owing to the day-long move.

He, Ramos and the kids — 4-year-old Isaiah and 1-year-old Kevin Jr. — are still living out of some boxes, but they’ve largely made the house their own. Even their two dogs have adapted to the fenced back yard.

Kevin Anton spends time with his son, Kevin Junior, at their home as the family prepares for their day at 7 a.m. The elder Anton wakes up each day with his family before they tend to their routines. Due to a heavy work and school schedule, this is often the only time Anton spends with his family during the day. AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post

The family also welcomed a new member: a 4-week-old kitten. Anton, reflecting his Southern California rooting interests, agreed to take in the pet on the condition that he be named Dodger or Charger.

Dodger it was.

Meanwhile, Anton has moved ahead with his studies at the University of Phoenix, where he completed a math course and now takes Contemporary American Society — en route to a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

He also works full-time at a rehabilitation center, where his daytime hours give him more family time than a previous overnight job allowed.

And the economic issues that plagued the couple just a couple of months ago have abated as they’ve found their financial footing. Even with a mortgage, Anton said, they spend no more than they did as renters.

But life continues to throw curve balls: the transmission on Ramos’s car has been acting up, even after she got under the hood and changed the transmission fluid. With a vehicle that won’t shift into reverse, another expense may be on the horizon.

Meanwhile, Ramos,continues to get the family settled in the house and attend to the many issues that arise from home ownership — thanks to the handyman skills she learned from her parents, who managed an apartment building.

And Anton plugs away at his course work, the next step in the couple’s long-range plan to advance their respective nursing careers.

Kevin Anton works out at the Buckley Air Force Base recreation center. During his time in the military, Anton said he weighed about 185 pounds. On this day, he weighed in at 250 and said it was time to start seriously losing weight. In addition to his workload, Kevin is trying not to drink as much as he trains daily in hopes of losing 20 pounds. AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post

“It’s getting there,” Anton said. “To get our bachelor’s degrees will be a big difference. I see the money and respect you get from a degree. Everything’s working out, but we’re still striving.”

It was weeks before the couple resumed their habit of attending the Movie Tavern — ironically, Anton notes, to see “The Dark Knight Rises,” the Batman film that was showing when the theater shooting began.

“I was pretty emotional,” he said. “And it was very difficult for Edna.”

Ramos wasn’t concerned for her safety. Rather, she found herself distracted by the thought of where in the course of the movie the real-life tragedy had begun.

“The movie was really good, but it had a whole other meaning to it, which was really pretty emotional,” she said. “You just wonder, is this when everything happened?

“That was still in the back of our minds.”

Kevin Simpson: 303-954-1739, ksimpson@denverpost.com or twitter.com/ksimpsondp

 

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About Lee Ann Colacioppo

I am the Senior Editor/News at the Denver Post. I have been at The Post sincd 1999 in a variety of positions, including city editor and investigations editor. I previously worked at The Des Moines Register, Greenville, S.C., News and Kingsport, Tenn., Times-News. I'am a Denver native and graduate of Drake University in Des Moines. View all posts by Lee Ann Colacioppo →
  • K.

    The commissary on post is where food is bought, NOT guns or other items. That would be called the POST EXCHANGE.