Sunday Shootings at Two Colorado Christian Centers

Meghan Kleppinger & Shawn McEvoy | Crosswalk.com | Monday, December 10, 2007

Sunday Shootings at Two Colorado Christian Centers

A mere twelve hours separated the shootings on Sunday, December 9 at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO, and the Youth With a Mission training center in Arvada, CO.

Authorities are investigating whether the shootings, which have left five dead--including the gunman--and five injured, are connected.

Two Youth With a Mission (YWAM) staff members--a man and a woman in their mid-20s--were killed by gunshots at YWAM's Denver-area location in the early morning hours. Two others were wounded in the attack, one critically.

OneNewsNow.com reported that the Arvada shootings happened at about 12:30 a.m., according to police spokeswoman Susan Medina. Apparently, the gunman had come to the door of the dormitory seeking shelter, asking if he could spend the night. A FOXNews.com report says that when the man told he couldn't stay, he walked inside and opened fire.

Eyewitness reports of the Arvada killings had police looking for a 20-year-old white male, wearing a dark jacket and skull cap, and possibly glasses or a beard. A person fairly similar in description was shot dead by a New Life security guard after an assault on the parking lot at the Colo. Springs megachurch approximately twelve hours later and 65 miles away. New Life Church, a body of believers 10,000 strong, was in the news last year when founding pastor Ted Haggard was accused of a homosexual affair and drug use.

The Associated Press reports that one New Life church member was killed on the spot, and another who was badly wounded died later Sunday at Penrose Community Hospital in Colorado Springs, hospital spokeswoman Amy Sufak said. Names of the New Life victims have not been released.

YWAM identified their deceased as Tiffany Johnson, 26, from Minnesota, and Philip Crouse, 24, from Alaska. Both served as staff members at the Youth With A Mission Arvada campus. A third victim, Dan Griebenow, 24, has a bullet in his neck and is listed in critical but stable condition. The fourth victim Charlie Blanch, 22, suffered gunshot wounds to his legs.

"There's no blueprint for this, we're just going to be honest and pray for one another, cry with one another," Peter Warren, the Director of Youth with a Mission Denver told KUSA-TV. "These kids were like our kids, you know? It's just such a tragedy."

OneNewsNow.com reports that the gunman at the New Life Church was shot and killed by a church security guard after entering the church's main foyer with a high-powered rifle shortly before 1 p.m. and opening fire.

New Life member Ashley Gibbs, a witness to the shootings, told CNN, that she was "completely shocked" by the sound of gunfire. "I never thought that anything like this would ever happen," she said. "That's why when I heard the gunshots, I didn't think they were gunshots."

"Why would somebody walk into a church and do something like that?" asked New Life member Kim Ho-Fing-Loy, 16, according to the website News.com.au. "Especially with what just happened with Pastor Ted, this church just doesn't need this any more."

Early Monday morning authorities were searching a house in Englewood, a suburb 15 miles south of Denver. Police said they believed it could be related to the shooting.

"Given the circumstances, I think it is a good possibility that the two are linked," Arvada Deputy Police Chief Gary Creagor told The Associated Press Monday morning. New Life has a Youth With a Mission office on campus, and the two organizations have worked together on various Christian projects.

No official reports have been made regarding a motive for either shooting.

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Jr. stated in a press release Sunday, "Today, Colorado mourns the tragic loss of those killed and injured in two senseless shootings. Our deepest sympathies go out to the families of those who were taken from us, and we pray for the speedy recovery of those who were wounded.

"Violent crimes of any sort are tragic enough, but when innocent people are killed in a religious facility or a place of worship, we must voice a collective sense of outrage and demonstrate a renewed commitment to keeping our communities safe.”

A memorial service for the victims at the YWAM center, Johnson and Crouse, will likely be held Tuesday or Wednesday. Information has not been released regarding when a service will be held for the victims of the shootings at the New Life Church.

Youth With A Mission (YWAM) is an international and interdenominational Christian movement with operating locations in 171 nations, according to the YWAM website. Launched in 1960 as a means for young people to get involved in short-term missionary service, it now has over 16,000 staff working in 1180 centers and trains over 25,000 people each year to be involved in the organization’s primary goal – to know God and make Him known.

New Life Church is led by Senior Pastor Brady Boyd, and home to The World Prayer Center. Open 24-hours a day for prayer and worship, The World Prayer Center is home to several ministry internships including the Furnace, YWAM Strategic Intiatives, TwentyFourSeven Worldwide and Desperation Internship.

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