Alaskan killed in missionary center attack

Two die hours before separate shooting at church ends with gunman, victim dead

Posted: Monday, December 10, 2007

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - First the unthinkable happened: A man shot four members of a Christian ministry at the group's training center early Sunday, killing two, including Philip Crouse of Alaska, after insisting that he be allowed to spend the night.

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Then the incomprehensible happened. Twelve hours later, a gunman shot five people at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, 65 miles to the south, killing one before being shot dead by an armed security guard.

Could they be related? Police weren't sure late Sunday.

"Until we have evidence that ties these two shootings together, Arvada police will follow up on all leads," said Arvada Police Chief Don Wick said.

"It's a horrible event that has happened to innocent people," he said, later adding: "I don't know what the motive may be."

The gunman at the New Life Church was shot by the security guard after entering the church's main foyer with a high-powered rifle shortly before 1 p.m. and opening fire, Colorado Springs Police Chief Richard Myers said.

Authorities in Arvada, where the workers at Youth With a Mission were shot, said no one had been captured in the shootings.

In Colorado Springs, a church member died of wounds inflicted by the gunman, Senior Pastor Brady Boyd said. Four others were shot and wounded at the church, where hundreds of people were milling about and parents were picking up their children from the nursery.

Arvada police said they were sharing information with Colorado Springs investigators. The mission training program has a small office at the church's World Prayer Center on the New Life campus.

The church's 11 a.m. service had recently ended, and hundreds of people were milling about when the gunman opened fire. Police arrived to find that the gunman had been killed by the security guard, Myers said.

"There was a courageous staff member who probably saved many lives here today," Myers said.

Gov. Bill Ritter ordered state authorities to help investigate. The FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were assisting, and officers combed the church campus looking for suspicious devices.

Three of the people injured by the church gunman were taken to Penrose Community Hospital in Colorado Springs, said hospital spokeswoman Amy Sufak. One was listed in critical condition, one fair and one good, while the status of the other injured person was unknown.

New Life was founded by the Rev. Ted Haggard, who was fired 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, acknowledged committing undisclosed "sexual immorality."

The New Life church is one of Colorado's largest, with about 10,000 members.

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

That shooting happened at about 12:30 a.m. at the Youth With a Mission center, Arvada police spokeswoman Susan Medina said.

A man and a woman were killed and two men were wounded, Medina said. All four were staff members of the center, said Paul Filidis, a Colorado Springs-based spokesman with Youth With a Mission.

Wick, the Arvada police chief, said the suspect spent about 30 minutes speaking with people inside the dorm. Peter Warren, director of Youth With a Mission Denver, said the man asked whether he could spend the night. Several youths called on Tiffany Johnson, the center's director of hospitality.

"The director of hospitality was called. That's when he opened fire," Warren said. Johnson, 26, was killed.

Warren said he didn't know whether any of the students or staff knew the gunman. "We don't know why" he came to the dormitory, Warren said.

Witnesses told police that the gunman was a white male in his 20s, wearing a dark jacket and skull cap, who left on foot. He may have glasses or a beard.

Police with dogs searched the area through the night, and residents of nearby homes were notified by reverse 911 phone calls to be on the lookout. Medina said residents were asked to look out their windows for any tracks left in the snow during the night. About 4 inches of snow had fallen in the area in the past day.

Also killed in Arvada was Crouse, 24. Youth With a Mission said Johnson was from Minnesota and Crouse was from Alaska.

The missionary center identified the wounded as Dan Griebenow, 24, of South Dakota, and Charlie Blanch, 22, whose hometown wasn't immediately known. One of the men was in critical condition, and the other was stable, police said.

About 45 people were evacuated from the Youth with a Mission dormitory.

The missionary center is on the grounds of the Faith Bible Chapel but is unaffiliated with the church. Cheril Morrison, wife of chapel pastor George Morrison, said Crouse had just hung up Christmas lights at her home and that Johnson was "an amazingly beautiful person."

Mimi Martin, who lives near the center, said she received the warning call at about 9 a.m. telling neighbors to keep their doors and windows locked.

"Why would anybody want to hurt those kids?" Martin said.

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

Filidis said staffers are usually former missionaries themselves and that the "mercy ministries" performed by trainees include orphanage work. He said he didn't know where the group being trained in Arvada was going to be sent.

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