July 25, 2012 08:00 AM

When the tear gas canister whooshed by and the gunfire erupted in the darkened Century Aurora Cinemark theater, Alex Teves leaped from his seat in front of his girlfriend Amanda Lindgren.

“He would do anything for me, and he did,” Lindgren, 24, tearfully tells PEOPLE in its new cover story. “He saved me. He was my angel.”

When it was over, Teves, also 24, was among the dead from a bullet that could have struck Lindgren – a hero amid the chaos and horror at the midnight screening of the latest Batman movie.

PHOTOS: Aurora Massacre: The Victims’ Stories

This week, PEOPLE looks in-depth at the July 20 massacre in Colorado, where James E. Holmes, a former neuroscience Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado, allegedly killed 12 and wounded 58 in one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.

In these moments of unspeakable terror emerged acts of extraordinary love and courage. Like Teves, two other men, Matt McQuinn, 27, and Jon Blunk, 26, also died as they took bullets for girlfriends.

And there was Prodeo Patria, 14, who despite a bullet in the back helped a wounded man to safety, and is expected to make a full recovery.

For more on the tragedy in Aurora, including exclusive interviews with survivors and one trauma surgeon’s harrowing account of her night in the E.R., pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

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