ANCHORAGE - Phil Crouse, the Alaskan who was fatally shot at a Colorado missionary training center, was remembered as a former skinhead who went through a dramatic spiritual conversion.
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"At the Hodos Teen Church at the Peters Creek Christian Center, Philip accepted Jesus Christ and gave his life to God," his family said in a statement released Monday. "He laid down his turmoil. His snarl relaxed - or turned to an impish grin. He traded his heavy metal drumming for a praise band. He exchanged dark imaginings for Bible study and evangelical zeal. The transformation was as complete as it was remarkable."
"Whenever somebody asks me to give a specific situation where a kid's life has been changed or transformed, I always think of Phil, because he had such a radical transformation of life," said pastor Zach Chandler.
Crouse, 24, was among two killed when a gunman opened fire Sunday at the Youth With a Mission dormitory in Arvada, a Denver suburb. Two others were injured.
The news of Crouse's death was announced at Sunday services at the Peters Creek Christian Center, said Chandler, who runs a teen center at the church.
Crouse was 18 when he experienced a spiritual salvation.
"He talked about it quite a bit to anybody who was willing to listen," said Kim Branson of Eagle River, who got to know Crouse when he lived with her family for a year. "He was never shy about sharing his past, his conversion. He had a heart for people who had been in situations similar to his."
Crouse had been a skinhead and had gotten into trouble for drinking and using drugs.
"I was an angry kid," he told the Anchorage Daily News in 2003. "My problem was I had so much unforgiveness in me. And bitterness. My problem was sin."
Before his transformation, the family said it was doubtful that any true "skinhead" would have claimed him as one of their own.
He began attending Hodos Teen Church, part of the Peters Creek Christian Center. One night seven years ago a minister called him to the front of the church.
"I lifted my hands in worship, and that was the very first time I'd ever done that," Crouse said. "From that night on ... my face changed. Something got lifted off me. I was truly transformed, and I never looked back."