Gunman Planned to Kill More, Officials Say

The church, which was riddled by bullets, was closed on Monday. Church staff members and volunteers spent the day working to repair the damage.
The church, which was riddled by bullets, was closed on Monday. Church staff members and volunteers spent the day working to repair the damage. (Kevin Moloney - AP)
By Karl Vick and William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, December 11, 2007

COLORADO SPRINGS, Dec. 10 -- A heavily armed man who killed four young people at a missionary training center and a church Sunday apparently intended to gun down many more victims before he was shot by a church security guard, authorities said Monday.

The gunman, identified as Matthew Murray 24, of Englewood, Colo., was carrying an assault rifle, two handguns and as many as 1,000 rounds of ammunition when he shot his way into the huge New Life Church in Colorado Springs and was confronted and shot by Jeanne Assam, a former police officer who was serving as a volunteer security guard, police said.

"I saw him coming through the doors, and I took cover, and I waited for him to get closer," Assam told reporters. "I came out of cover, I identified myself and engaged him and took him down," she said.

Assam, a member of the New Life Church, said that although she was outgunned and physically weak from three days of fasting, "God was with me. . . . God made me strong."

Police said Murray, who died in the shooting, was the son of a Denver neurologist. He had been associated with the missionary training center that was his first target. They said forensic evidence confirmed Monday that he was the previously unidentified gunman who opened fire on young staffers of the Youth With a Mission organization in Arvada, just outside Denver, at about 12:30 a.m. Sunday after apparently being refused permission to stay overnight in a dormitory there.

Dressed in dark clothing, Murray drew a handgun and fatally shot staff members Tiffany Johnson, 26, of Minnesota and Philip Crouse, 24, of Alaska, police said. Two other staffers, Dan Griebenow, 24, and Charlie Blanch, 22, were wounded. Youth With a Mission describes itself as the world's largest interdenominational Christian missionary group.

Murray, who was home-schooled in a deeply religious Christian household, had been thrown out of Youth With a Mission a few years ago and had been sending the group hate mail, the Associated Press reported, citing court documents. He had no known connection with the New Life Church, its pastor told reporters.

After the shootings in Arvada, the gunman fled on foot in the snow. More than 12 hours later, he showed up at the sprawling evangelical church campus in Colorado Springs, about 80 miles to the south.

There, he gunned down church members Stephanie Works, 18, and her sister, Rachael Works, 16, in a parking lot. Their father, David Works, 51, was shot in the abdomen and groin and was hospitalized in fair condition, police said.

Murray fired at others outside, hitting Judy Purcell, 40, before entering the church and shooting Larry Bourbannais, 59, police said. Both were treated and released.

About 80 feet down a main hallway, Murray encountered Assam, who fired several rounds at him, Sgt. Jeff Jensen of the Colorado Springs Police Department told a news conference. He said that "she definitely wounded him" but that police have not yet determined whether any of her shots were fatal or "whether there was a self-inflicted gunshot wound during this as well."

"I didn't think for a minute to run away," Assam said. "I was given the assignment to end this before it got too much worse." She said the encounter "was scary" but "my hands were not even shaking" as she prayed for help. "I was very focused," she said. "I just knew I was not going to wait for him to do any further damage. I just knew what I had to do."

New Life Church senior pastor Brady Boyd and police hailed Assam on Monday as a hero who saved many lives. Other church officials estimated that at the time of the shooting several thousand people were on the campus of the church, which had just concluded its late-morning service.

Boyd said Assam is a "highly trained" volunteer with a law enforcement background who also serves as his bodyguard.

"There could have been a great loss of life yesterday, and she probably saved over a hundred lives," Boyd said. "He had enough ammunition on him to cause a lot of damage, and she rushed toward the attacker and took him down in the hallway."

The church, across Interstate 25 from the U.S. Air Force Academy on the outskirts of Colorado Springs, was closed Monday, its entrances blocked by school buses and church pickups.

Inside, volunteers and staff worked to repair the damage. Concerned about a second shooter or booby traps, SWAT teams spent hours searching the campus.

The assailant had no connection to the church and "was not known here," the pastor said. "He simply showed up on our property yesterday with a gun and the intention of hurting people, and he did. . . . It was simply a random attack. A senseless, random attack."

Boyd told reporters that the earlier shooting at Youth With a Mission put the church on alert. As a result, the church beefed up security, he said.

"Because we took extra precautions, we saved a lot of lives yesterday," he said. "Hundreds of lives were saved because of the plan we had in place."

The New Life Church was founded in 1984 by Ted Haggard, an evangelical preacher who was fired last year after a male prostitute accused him of paying for sex and using methamphetamine.

William Branigin reported from Washington.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company