S. Fla. man turns grief into action for Colorado survivors
Man's brother, sister-in-law among shooting victims
A South Florida man didn't need to be in Colorado to feel the pain of Friday's movie theater shooting. His connection to the tragedy was just a phone call away.
"I called my mom," AJ Billapando explained from his Miami condo, "and sure as heck she said it was the movie theater shooting, your brother Bryson and Toni and all his friends were there."
AJ's brother, Bryson Billapando, and Bryson's wife, Toni, were watching the movie with friends. AJ said his sister-in-law is pregnant with the couple's second child. Thankfully their 4-year-old daughter, Ava, was at home with grandparents. AJ said his brother Bryson made it out okay but his sister-in-law was shot in the face.
"She got hit by the first gunshot blast that the guy laid out in there," AJ Billapando said. "The buck shot came to the side, hit her mouth, busted her mouth up."
Toni, Bryson and Ava Billapando
AJ moved to Miami about three years ago. His family and close friends all live in the Denver area.
"A couple of our other friends are in bad shape," he said. "One of them lost a kidney, one of them lost a spleen. Our friend Alex Sullivan, he passed away in the theater. He never made it out. It's been a pretty heavy weekend. I'm emotionally drained. I mean, me and my girlfriend pretty much cried all day yesterday.""
Billapando family friend, Alex Sullivan
The name Alex Sullivan may sound familiar. Early into ABC News' coverage of the deadly shooting a father ran up to reporters to make a heart wrenching plea. Holding a picture of his son Alex, Tony Sullivan explained how he hadn't heard from his son and begged for help locating him. His birthday was Friday.
Later that father would learn his son died in the theater. Alex Sullivan was there with friends celebrating his 27th birthday.
But AJ has turned his grief into action and helped create a page on the website GiveForward.com; the goal is to raise $5,000 to help families pay for their medical bills. By Saturday afternoon he had already raised close to $3,000.
CLICK: Billapando fundraiser on GiveForward.com
"We are over the crying," he said. "Let's see what we can do to help."
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