Monday, December 10, 2007

Colorado Church Shooting Sprees Linked, Gunman Identified


A very sad circumstance all around. So many families torn apart by this madman--my thoughts and prayers go out to all of them.

I don't understand how the first descriptions gave the gunman a "skullcap"--when it is clear from the story below that he is definitely not a Jew.

Whatever he was , he was a very troubled young man.

It's sad that everyone has to have such strong security at every place of worship these days. No one is safe, it seems.

Monday, December 10, 2007

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Police have identified the gunman who killed two teenage sisters outside a Colorado megachurch Sunday as Matthew J. Murray, 24, of Englewood, Colo., FOX News confirmed Monday.

According to the Associated Press, a law enforcement official said Murray is believed to have carried out two deadly shooting sprees in Colorado Sunday—at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs and at a missionary training school in Arvada.

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The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation, said Murray was the son of a neurologist who is a prominent researcher on multiple sclerosis.

Five people — including a gunman — were killed, and five others wounded Sunday in the two eruptions of violence 12 hours and 65 miles apart.

The first attack took place at the Youth With a Mission training center in the Denver suburb of Arvada, where two people were killed and two others wounded; the other occurred at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, where the gunman was shot and killed by a female volunteer security guard.

The law enforcement official said Murray was believed to be the gunman in both attacks. Murray did not appear to have a criminal history but "hated Christians," the official said. The official did not know Murray's religion, if any.

According to reports, Murray had been kicked out of the Youth With a Mission school and had been sending the school hate mail.

Authorities searched the Murray home Monday on a quiet street in Englewood. No one was home when a reporter visited the split-level brick home early Monday. Murray's father, Ronald S. Murray, is a neurologist who is chief executive of the Rocky Mountain Multiple Sclerosis Center in Englewood.

Matthew Murray lived there along with a brother, Christopher, 21, a student at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla.

A neighbor, Cody Askeland, 19, said the brothers were home-schooled, describing the whole family as "very, very religious."

Christopher studied for a semester at Colorado Christian University before transferring to Oral Roberts, said Ronald Rex, dean of admissions and marketing at Colorado Christian. He said Matthew Murray had been in contact with school officials this summer about attending the school but decided he wasn't interested because he thought the school was too expensive.

Murray opened fire with a high-powered rifle in the parking lot of the New Life Church Sunday. Stephanie Works, 18, and Rachel Works, 16, were killed when Murray entered the main foyer.

Their father, David Works, 51, was in fair condition with gunshot wounds to the abdomen and groin area.

A female security guard shot and killed Murray. New Life Church senior pastor Brady Boyd said Murray had no connection to the church and called the shooting a "senseless random attack."

Also injured were Judy Purcell, 40, who suffered a gunshot wound to her right shoulder, and Larry Bourbannais, 59, who had a gunshot wound in his left forearm, police said. Both were treated and released.

"Our hearts are grieving this morning for them," Boyd said.

The shooting occurred about 12 hours after a deadly shooting at the Youth With a Mission training center in Arvada, Colo., near Denver. Sources told FOX News that Murray had some connection to YWAM and had a grudge against the group.

The violence began about 12:30 a.m. Sunday, when a Murray started shooting inside a YWMA dormitory after he had been denied a request to spend the night there. Witnesses told police that the gunman was a 20-year-old white male, wearing a dark jacket and a cap, who had a handgun.

More than 12 hours later, Murray started shooting at the New Life Church. Officers found several smoke-generating devices on the church campus; their intended purpose wasn't clear.

Boyd said the security guard rushed the attacker, who didn't get more than 6 feet inside the building, and "took him down in the hallway."

"She probably saved 100 lives," Boyd said of the guard. Murray, he added, "had a lot of ammunition to do a lot of damage."

About 7,000 people were on the church campus at the time of the shooting, said Boyd. Security had been beefed up after the shootings hours earlier in Arvada, he said.

Ashley Gibbs was getting into a car with David Harris when they heard the gunshots — a sound like someone kicking ice from the side of a car, she said. Harris said he saw the gunman, and it looked like he knew how to handle a weapon.

"I was in the military for about three years, and the way he was holding the rifle looked just like the way we were taught to when I was in the military," he told NBC's "Today" show on Monday.

They stayed in the vehicle and prayed for the gunman.

"It was obvious that he was in some sort of pain and going through a lot," Gibbs told "Today." "I just prayed God would bring him peace."

New Life, with about 10,000 members, was founded by the Rev. Ted Haggard, who was dismissed last year after a former male prostitute alleged he had a three-year cash-for-sex relationship with him. Haggard, then the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, admitted committing undisclosed "sexual immorality."

The two dead victims at the missionary center in Arvada were identified as Tiffany Johnson, 26, and Philip Crouse, 24.

Johnson, who grew up in Chisholm, Minn., loved working with children and wanted to see the world, said family friend Carla Macynski.

"Tiffany was a well-liked, easygoing 26-year-old. She was friendly, adventurous and a definite leader. She wanted to see the world," Macynski said as she choked back tears. Johnson had traveled to Egypt, Libya and South Africa with the missionary group.

Crouse, of Alaska, had helped build a foster home at a Crow reservation in Montana, said Ronny Morris, who works with a Denver chapter of the mission.

Staffer Dan Griebenow, 24, of South Dakota, was shot in the neck, according to Youth With a Mission. Staffer Charlie Blanch, 22, of Burnsville, Minn., suffered gunshot wounds to his legs, according to ministry officials.

Youth With a Mission was started in 1960 and now has 1,100 locations with 16,000 full-time staff, Smith said. The Arvada center was founded in 1984.

Darv Smith, director of a Youth With a Mission center in Boulder, said people ranging from their late teens to their 70s undergo a 12-week course that prepares them to be missionaries. He said the center trains about 300 people a year.

Paul Filidis, a Colorado Springs-based spokesman with Youth With a Mission, said staffers are usually former missionaries themselves and that the "mercy ministries" performed by trainees include orphanage work.

The Colorado shootings came only days after a 19-year-old gunman opened fire at a popular mall in Omaha, Neb., killing eight people and himself.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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