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Colo. gunman came from Christian family

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (BP)–Matthew Murray, 24, has been identified as the gunman who killed two staff members and wounded two others at a Youth With a Mission facility in Denver before killing two and wounding three others Dec. 9 at New Life Church in Colorado Springs.

The local coroner’s office also said Dec. 11 that Murray died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside New Life Church, an update to previous reports that he had been killed by a security guard.

“The death of Matthew Murray has been ruled a suicide. It should be noted that he was struck multiple times by the security officer, which put him down. He then fired a single round killing himself,” the coroner’s office said in a statement.

The Associated Press reported that Murray had been enrolled in a program at Youth With a Mission in 2002 but that he had dropped out when staff members’ concerns about his health kept him from going on an overseas mission trip.

In recent weeks, Murray posted messages on a website for people who have left evangelical religious groups, according to AP, and his most recent posting was left Sunday morning during the hours between the two shootings.

“You Christians brought this on yourselves,” Murray wrote, according to a Denver television station. “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.”

The language in the post is almost identical to the text of a manifesto written by Eric Harris, one of the teens who carried out the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, The Denver Post said.

Murray also had sent hate mail to the Youth With a Mission center in the Denver suburb of Arvada during the weeks prior to the shootings, AP reported. A neighbor of Murray’s said the gunman and his brother were homeschooled, and he described the Murray family as “very, very religious.” Murray’s brother Christopher attends Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma, AP said.

Phil Abeyta, Murray’s uncle and pastor of His Love Fellowship church in Denver, read a statement from the family, asking for forgiveness.

“We cannot understand why this has happened,” Abeyta said. “We ask for prayer for the victims and their families during this time of grief.”

Meanwhile, the security guard credited with bravery in preventing a more gruesome scene at New Life Church said her faith enabled her to stay calm under pressure as the gunman sprayed bullets.

“It seemed like it was me, the gunman and God,” Jeanne Assam, 42, said at a news conference. “I wasn’t going to wait for him to do other damage. I knew what I had to do.”

New Life is offering trauma counseling to those affected by the shooting, and they’re planning a church-wide meeting Wednesday evening to worship, pray, mourn and begin the healing process, according to an e-mail sent to church members.

Brady Boyd, pastor of New Life, pointed to the passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes telling of a time to weep, a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, and he said the church is now mourning for the loss of “two very sweet and wonderful girls.” Stephanie and Rachael Works, teenage sisters, were killed by the gunman at New Life after a Sunday morning service.

“I remain steadfast in my conviction that God is faithful,” Boyd wrote to church members. “We know that He used the actions of one of our own brave members to save several hundred people from more violence and death. Our family of believers is strong! By the grace of God, we will rise again from this tragedy as we experience the healing power of Jesus over our New Life family. The world will see the light of life in us and know that our God reigns!”
Compiled by Erin Roach, Baptist Press staff writer.

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