Gunman sent ‘hate mail’ Shooter had failed to pass muster with missionary center
(N.T.A.R.C.) (Rocky Mountain News) The man who killed four people in a shooting rampage Sunday may have posted messages on Internet chat rooms saying he was angry at Christians and that it was time to teach them a lesson.
Matthew J. Murray, 24, of unincorporated Arapahoe County, carried a long-standing grudge against a missionary group that had kicked him out years earlier, and had recently sent “hate mail” to them, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in El Paso County.
The group, known as Youth With A Mission, was the target of Murray’s first attack. It has an office at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, and the two teenage girls he killed there were active members who visited the Arvada facility frequently, family members said.
Police said they do not know Murray’s exact motive, or if he went to New Life looking for the girls. But they called YWAM the “common denominator” in the two shootings.
On an Internet forum for former Pentecostals, users were speculating Monday that Murray was the same person who had posted under the user name nghtmrchld26.
All postings by nghtmrchld26 had been removed, but other users said the writer had described himself as a former member of YWAM who had been asked not to join a mission trip, who said he would kill people and who wanted to “blow up and shoot everything I can.”
Murray’s most recent Web post was Sunday morning in the hours between his attacks in Arvada and Colorado Springs, 9News reported.
“You Christians brought this on yourselves,” Murray wrote. “All I want to do is kill and injure as many of you … as I can especially Christians who are to blame for most of the problems in the world.”
In an earlier post, Murray appeared to reject offers of psychological help.
“I’ve already been working with counselors. I have a point to make with all this talk about psychologists and counselors ‘helping people with their pain,”’ he wrote, according to 9News.
Pastor Peter Warren, director of YWAM in Arvada, said that Murray was part of a missionary training program five years ago, but did not complete it or go to a mission site because undisclosed health problems “made it impossible for him to do so.”
Murray’s former roommate at YWAM told CNN that Murray heard voices and sometimes talked to them.
Richard Werner also said YWAM officials, along with Murray’s parents, decided that Murray should leave the program after he performed songs by rockers Marilyn Manson and Linkin Park at an otherwise sacred, holiday-themed Christmas program.
Werner described the incident as “very, very bizarre.”
Murray was shot dead inside New Life church during a gunbattle with volunteer security guard Jeanne Assam, who confronted Murray just inside the entrance.
“It seemed like it was me, the gunman and God,” Assam said at a news conference in Colorado Springs.
Assam said she had prayed for God to be by her side as shots rang out. She said she held her hands steady and never thought about running.
Authorities said that Assam’s bullet hit Murray, but they weren’t sure if it was a fatal shot, or if Murray, shot himself.
Monday afternoon, Arvada police Chief Don Wick said forensic tests showed that shell casings found at the crime scene in Arvada matched one of the handguns found on Murray’s body.
“We believe that Matthew Murray is responsible for the crime,” Wick said.
A spokesman for the Murray family said that the family is baffled by his actions and grieving for his victims.
“We ask for forgiveness and ask for your prayers,” said the Rev. Phil Abeyta, Matthew Murray’s uncle.
Early Sunday, just after midnight, Murray knocked on the door of the Arvada center, 12750 W. 63rd Ave. It was a place he knew well – in 2002, he attended a training program there.
Over the next 30 minutes, as snow fell, Murray talked to staff members. About 12:30 a.m., he asked if he could stay the night.
Tiffany Johnson, the hospitality director, told Murray that the center was not a shelter, and had no place where he could stay.
A moment later, Murray pulled out a handgun and began firing.
Johnson, 26, from Minnesota, and Philip Crouse, 24, from Alaska, were killed. Dan Griebenow, 24, of South Dakota, was shot in the neck, and he remained in serious condition Monday at Denver Health Medical Center.
Also wounded was Charlie Blanch, 22, who was released from the hospital Monday morning.
Police said Murray fled on foot.
About 12 hours later, the Colorado Springs dispatch center began receiving calls “about an active gunman at New Life Church,” Sgt. Jeff Jensen said. About the same time, operators started getting calls of smoke at the complex.
Thousands of people were at the church at the time, and the parking lot was filled with people leaving the 11 a.m. service. At the northeast corner of the lot, Murray – armed with an assault rifle and two handguns – was opening fire.
David Works and his daughters, Stephanie, 18, and Rachel, 16, either had just climbed into their vehicle or were about to get inside. Murray saw them, and unleashed several rounds from his assault rifle at the family, police said.
Stephanie Works died where she fell. Rachel Works died Sunday night at a hospital. David Works was in stable condition Monday with wounds to his abdomen and groin area.
As he headed toward the church, Murray fired more rounds at other vehicles and people. Judy Purcell, 40, was hit in the shoulder, but survived the attack.
The killer then focused his onslaught at the east entrance of the Worship Center, “firing several rounds through the entry door,” Jensen said.
Smoke seen as distraction
Security personnel inside the complex were told of the smoke billowing near the south and west ends of the facility – likely homemade smoke bombs set by Murray as a distraction, authorities said.
By this time, Murray had entered the building and spotted Larry Bourbonnias, 59, trying to scramble for cover. Murray managed to wound him in the forearm.
Murray walked about 80 feet inside the Worship Center and encountered Assam, who had heard the blasts from the rifle. Armed with her handgun, Assam shouted at Murray to surrender, and the two briefly engaged in a gunbattle.
In all, authorities say Murray fired at least 27 shots. In a backpack he was wearing, they found multiple magazines for his weapons – enough to hold more than a thousand rounds of ammunition.
About the time of the Colorado Springs rampage, Arvada detectives had received tips that Murray was the gunman responsible for the slaying at the Youth With A Mission center.
Arvada police have not said what led them to Murray, but Wick said police conducted more than 50 interviews, including some with Murray’s family.
Colorado Springs police obtained a warrant to search Murray’s computer, located in the family’s home near Cherry Creek State Park, about 8:45 p.m. Sunday.
Police wanted to search Murray’s computer for any plans for the shootings or other records or logs, the affidavit states.
The Arapahoe County bomb squad and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also searched the home because of reports of possible explosives or smoke bombs, and police were seen taking several boxes from the home.
Mel Waters, an associate pastor at New Life, said he is working on a memorial fund for the victims and helping coordinate hotels for visitors coming from out of town.
“Next we’ll start the task of helping them recover from the hurt and rebuild their lives,” Waters said. “This is a rough time.”
Developments and more coverage
* The gunman who killed two people in Arvada and two people in Colorado Springs was identified as Matthew Murray, 24, of Arapahoe County. 7
* Ballistics tests done on the gun found in Colorado Springs and on shell casings found in Arvada linked the two shootings.
* A search warrant affidavit revealed that police knew Sunday night the shootings were “most likely” done by the same person.
* The gunman’s family released a statement in which they expressed sorrow and asked for forgiveness.
* Jeanne Assam spoke publicly for the first time about her fatal confrontation with the gunman. 6
* Authorities disclosed they are not sure whether Assam killed the gunman or whether he killed himself.
* Officials at Youth With A Mission acknowledged Murray entered their missionary training program in 2002. He was reportedly bitter about being kicked out of the program. 8
* A memorial service was planned for 10 a.m. Wednesday for the two YWAM staff members killed in Arvada.
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