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Lone survivor of mass shooting talks about death penalty

By Jaclyn Rostie, Reporter, j.rostie@krdo.com
Published On: Mar 19 2013 07:16:28 PM CDT

Bobby Stephens says if you take a life you should pay with your life

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -

The death penalty was debated at the State Capitol on Tuesday.  But while the politicians talk, one survivor already has his mind made up.

Bobby Stephens was shot in the face and left for dead at a Chuck E. Cheese in Aurora in 1993.  He was one of five people shot and the only survivor.

Now, nearly 20 years later, he still lives with the pain and believes up to now his shooter has gotten off easy.

"Nathan (Dunlap) has sat comfortably, living comfortably for 20 years longer than any of his victims.  He's paid no penalties for what he's done.  I'm paying in my taxes for Nathan to live in his jail cell.  It's not fair," Stephens said.

"So far, Nathan hasn't lost any of his rights.  He still has a voice, able to reach out to the outside world.  I'm sure sitting in a jail cell he's made friends, got to know people," said Stephens.

On that fatal day in 1993, Stephens said he looked Dunlap straight in his eyes and Dunlap smiled at him before he shot him.  He played dead and survived.

Recently, Dunlap had a letter delivered to him.  "He apologized.  He said he was sorry for what he had done to me.  The person giving me the letter also said he would have killed me if he had known I was alive.  He would have shot me again," said Stephens.

Stephens says the mass shooting has changed his life forever.  "When I heard the third shot, I thought someone was in the game area popping balloons.  So for some reason I relate balloons to gun shots.  Even to this day I can't stand to be around balloons," he said.

It wasn't until his son's birthday recently when he was finally able to go inside another Chuck E. Cheese.  "I was on edge.  For the most part I did well until they started closing the restaurant and one employee turned on a vacuum cleaner and it set me off," he said.

Dunlap has exhausted his appeals and is on death row.

Since the shooting, Stephens says he's morally struggled with the death penalty.  But now, he sent a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper to keep it. 

Stephens said he may even decide to watch Dunlap's execution.  "Part of me wants to be there smiling at him like he was smiling at me.  But I don't think I can be that evil," he said.

The house judiciary committee heard testimony on a bill to rid Colorado of the death penalty on Tuesday.  If lawmakers approve it, it won't affect any current cases.

The last execution in Colorado was in 1997.

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