Four people are confirmed dead after two shootings at Colorado religious institutions on Sunday.
Two victims were killed at the Youth With a Mission (YWAM) centre in Denver yesterday morning in an attack that left two others injured.
Another victim was killed at the New Life Church in a separate shooting on Sunday afternoon.
The gunman in the second shooting was killed by a security guard.
The YWAM organisation has been criticised by some as a ‘cult’ and attacked for ‘brainwashing’ members and promoting anti-gay messages.
The New York Times confirmed late Sunday that the shooter in the New Life Church attack was gunned down by a security guard, according to Chief Richard Myers of the Colorado Springs police department.
Authorities are still investigating whether the gunman was the same suspect who shot four people, killing two, at the Youth With a Mission centre earlier in the day.
Police officials said Sunday evening they “have reason to believe” the two attacks are linked, according to the Denver Post, but have released no further details.
The first attack occurred just after midnight in Arvada, a suburb of Denver.
A man, described as being in his early 20s and wearing a dark shirt and cap, asked if he could spend the night at the Youth With A Mission centre after a Christmas banquet at the centre ended.
After being refused, the man pulled out a gun and opened fire. Four people were shot in the attack.
Two young missionaries-in-training, 26-year-old Tiffany Johnson and 24-year-old Philip Crouse, were killed.
Two others, 22-year-old Charlie Blanch and 24-year-old Dan Griebenow, were seriously wounded, according to KARE11.com.
On Sunday afternoon another shooting occurred around 1pm in the parking lot at the Colorado Springs New Life Church.
One person shot in the attack died on the scene. Three people were taken to the hospital, one in critical condition. A security guard at the church shot and killed the gunman when he entered the church with a high-powered rifle, according to the Canadian Press.
The security guard, said to be an unidentified woman, “probably saved many lives today,” said Colorado Springs Police Chief Richard Myers, according to the Denver Post.
Police are refusing to say officially at this time whether the suspect killed in the second shooting may have been the same gunman who fled the scene at the Youth With a Mission centre shooting earlier in the day.
Police in Colorado Springs and in Arvada are communicating regarding the two incidents.
Peter Warren, director of the Denver chapter of Youth With a Mission, said he did not know if anyone knew the suspect or why the man might have been at the centre, according to the New York Times, but believes “it’s someone who knew what Youth With a Mission was.”
Warren says they had just finished a Christmas banquet when the suspect arrived and asked a 22-year-old woman from Minnesota if he could be housed for the evening, according to a press release issued by YWAM.
When she told him they could not house him, that’s when the suspect opened fired with an automatic handgun, hitting four people.
Warren continued: “The young man, I don’t know who he is; I don’t think [the victims] knew him, but he must be going through a lot personally in his own life to do something like this.
“Our belief is that only God is the judge and our place is to forgive and that’s a difficult thing to do, but really, I think it’s the right thing to do.”
No motive is so far known in the shootings. Youth With a Mission does have a small office on the New Life Church campus, according to the Associated Press.
The New Life Church was founded by disgraced Reverend Ted Haggard, who was ousted from the church last year after a male prostitute revealed he had been having sex with him and providing him with crystal meth.
The Youth With A Mission centre plays host to dozens of Christian youth from around the world training to be missionaries. The organisation was founded in 1960 and currently has a staff of nearly 16,000 in 149 countries, according to the organisation’s web site.
The YWAM, associated with the ex-gay organisation Exodus International, has been criticised by some as a ‘cult’ and attacked for ‘brainwashing’ members and promoting anti-gay messages.
Colorado Governor Bill Ritter has ordered state authorities to assist in the investigation.
In a statement reported by KETV.com he said: “Today, Colorado mourns the tragic loss of those killed and injured in two senseless shootings.”
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