DENVER (AP) – The family of a man killed in the Aurora theater shooting doesn’t want a United States Merchant Marine Academy professor dismissed for a joke he made about the Colorado movie theater shooting.

The mother of Gordon Cowden’s children, Melisa Cowden, said in a statement Monday that there has been enough pain caused by the tragedy and the family doesn’t want to see Prof. Gregory F. Sullivan or his family suffer over a “single distasteful remark.”

READ MORE: Businesses, Delivery Services Prepare For Upcoming Holiday Shipping Delays

Her son attends the academy but she didn’t address whether he was in Sullivan’s class at the time.

“We are sad to see the public humiliation by the media and public reprimanding the professor at the USMMA is receiving for his distasteful joke,” she said.

An academy spokeswoman declined comment because of the investigation.

READ MORE: 3D-Printed Lamborghini Built By Colorado Family Is On Display At The Denver Auto Show

The New York Times reported Sullivan, a tenured humanities instructor, told students before showing a documentary: “If someone with orange hair appears in the corner of the room, run for the exit.” The newspaper said the students included one whose father was killed in the shooting but he wasn’t identified.

Sullivan is on paid administrative leave.

At 51, Cowden was the oldest of the victims killed in the shooting. He went to the July 20 midnight movie showing of the latest Batman movie with his two teenage children. They escaped unharmed.

MORE NEWS: VIDEO: Contractor Destroys Renovated Bathroom With Sledgehammer, Claims Nonpayment For Work

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)