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Colorado Springs gym manager killed in Las Vegas massacre remembered as a hero

By: Chhun Sun
October 15, 2017 Updated: October 16, 2017 at 5:02 pm
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Maree Elmore, Chris Roybal's girlfriend, cries in her friend's arms at Roybal's memorial in Colorado Springs, Colo. on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. Roybal was general manager at a Crunch Fitness in Colorado Springs, and was a victim of the Las Vegas shooting. (The Gazette, Nadav Soroker)

When bullets began to rain down on thousands of concert-goers at a country music festival in Las Vegas earlier this month, many mistook the sound for fireworks.

Not Christopher Roybal.

The 10-year Navy veteran and resident of Colorado Springs recognized the sound of gunfire and started trying to save others. He hurried people underneath the main stage and helped them get over a barricade toward a place to hide.

Dozens of friends, colleagues and members of Colorado Springs Crunch Fitness on North Academy Boulevard, where he was the general manager, praised Roybal as a hero and leader during a memorial service at the gym Sunday night. The service opened with a salute by members of the American Legion and Colorado Patriot Guard Riders before attendees shared stories about Roybal.

"I wouldn't be surprised that he did that at all," said Matthew Dang, also a Navy veteran who met Roybal during one of their tours in Afghanistan before they began working together at the Colorado Springs gym. "He'd be the first person to put himself in harm's way."

Las Vagas Shooting Victims
This undated photo provided by Robert Alexander shows Christopher Roybal who was one of the people killed in Las Vegas after a gunman opened fire on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, at a country music festival. (Robert Alexander via AP) 

Roybal was among the 58 people killed when a gunman opened fire Oct. 1 during the last night of the Route 91 Harvest music festival. Stephen Paddock opened fire with an arsenal of weapons rigged to mimic automatic rifles from his 32nd-floor room at the Mandalay Bay resort.

Roybal went to Las Vegas that weekend with his mother to celebrate his 29th birthday.

In the Navy, Roybal was a dog handler and served four tours of duty in Afghanistan. Three years ago, he started working for Crunch Fitness in California before he moved to Colorado to help open four more locations. He began working at the company's two Colorado Springs gyms in March.

Rob Alexander, district manager for Crunch Fitness, said Roybal was friendly, organized and always put his colleagues and gym members first. He was known to always have a positive attitude and an infectious smile and never let any problems affect his day, Alexander said.

"He was an organized, determined man that had a servant attitude toward others," Alexander said. "I believe he got most of his organizational skills from his military experience. He understood what it takes. He always takes care of the customers."

Beyond work, he was known as "a karaoke king," according to his obituary, singing songs from all genres as well as Spanish ballads. But he loved country music and was known to play that at the gym.

Maree Elmore watches as members of the American Legion and Colorado Patriot Guard Riders file past American flags during a memorial for her boyfriend, Chris Roybal, in Colorado Springs, Colo. on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. Roybal, a general manager of Crunch Fitness in Colorado Springs, was a victim of the Las Vegas massacre. (The Gazette, Nadav Soroker) 

Roybal's funeral was held Thursday in Corona, Calif., where he grew up. Attendees also said that he never truly stopped serving his country.

"When that all-familiar sound from war came back to him and immediately went into that mode of protecting everybody around him like he did in Afghanistan," his father Samuel Roybal told ABC7 in Los Angeles. "Christopher just started saving lives and not for one second thought about his own life. This is my son Christopher."

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