2007 Colorado YWAM and New Life shootings

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2007 Colorado YWAM and New Life shootings
Part of mass shootings in the United States
LocationArvada and Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.
DateDecember 9, 2007 (2007-12-09)
c. 12:30 a.m.[1] – c. 1:00 p.m.[2]
TargetYouth With a Mission center and New Life Church
Attack type
Spree shooting, hate crime, anti-Christian violence, mass murder, murder-suicide[3]
WeaponsYWAM: Springfield Armory 9mm semi-automatic pistol[4]
New Life:
Deaths5 (including the perpetrator)
PerpetratorMatthew John Murray
DefenderNew Life: Jeanne Assam (Former police officer/church member providing security)[6][7]

In the early morning hours of December 9, 2007, 24-year-old Matthew John Murray opened fire at the Youth With A Mission training center in Arvada, Colorado, killing two and wounding two others before escaping. Later that afternoon, he attacked the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with a number of firearms, killing two more people and injuring three before being shot by Jeanne Assam, a member of the church's safety team. Murray then committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.[3]


Arvada missionary shooting[edit]

Around 12:30 a.m. MST (07:30 UTC), following a Christmas banquet that had taken place earlier that night, Matthew Murray knocked on the door of the Youth With A Mission facility. Murray asked personnel in the youth center if he could stay overnight;[4] when he was refused, Murray opened fire with a 9mm handgun,[1] killing Tiffany Johnson, the center's Director of Hospitality, and staff member Philip Crouse, as well as wounding Dan Griebenow in the neck[4] and Charlie Blanch in the leg.[7]

After the incident, the YWAM base evacuated its 80 people to the mountain campus in Black Hawk, 45 of whom were in the building at the time of the shooting.[8] Local police quickly conducted a canine search of the surrounding area, searching for the shooter; they hoped that fresh snow would help them track the suspect, but were unable to locate him.[4] A reverse 911 call went out to residents of the neighborhood to let them know a shooting suspect might be in their area.[8]

New Life Church shooting[edit]

At about 1:00 p.m. MST (20:00 UTC), more than thirty minutes after the 11:00 a.m. sermon had ended at New Life Church, Murray opened fire in the church parking lot with a Bushmaster XM-15 rifle, shooting at the Works family as they entered their vehicle. He killed Stephanie Works, 18, and Rachel Works, 16, and critically wounded their father, David Works, by shooting him multiple times.

Church member and bystander Judy Purcell was wounded in the shoulder when attempting to enter her vehicle; she survived her injuries. Murray directed gunfire towards other vehicles during his shooting spree within the New Life Church parking lot, including narrowly missing church patron Christina Wilke after riddling her vehicle with a volley of bullets from his semi-automatic rifle, missing Wilke with his gunfire by approximately four inches. Murray then entered the building's main foyer where he wounded Larry Bourbonnais, as Bourbonnais was attempting to yell at Murray to distract Murray from hurting others; Bourbonnais was minorly wounded in the forearm with shrapnel. At this point, church member Jeanne Assam, a New Life Church security volunteer, who was herself a former Minneapolis Police Department law enforcement officer, opened fire upon Murray. Assam shot Murray 10 times, striking him in both the femoral and carotid arteries using her Beretta 92 FS 9mm handgun. The incident was fully witnessed by Larry Bourbonnais, who later repeatedly conveyed to national news interests that, "It was the bravest thing I've ever seen." Assam later publicly acknowledged that she had asked God to be with her as she took on this active shooter. Murray then fatally shot himself in the head with the same handgun he used in the earlier YWAM shooting. He fired a total of 42 rounds during the entire shooting spree; 15 at YWAM and 27 at New Life Church, including the self-inflicted shot.[3][9]


After the New Life Church shooting, Assam later stated that "God guided me and protected me [and I] did not think for a minute to run away" when a reporter asked her if she had.[3][10][11][12]

On December 13, 2007, Murray's family issued a statement saying that it was "groping for answers" and issued an apology.[13]

The pastor of the church stated that Assam shot Murray before he entered 50 feet (15 m) inside the building, after she encountered him in the hallway, and that Assam probably saved "over 100 lives."[14]

Following the shooting spree, Colorado Springs Police Department officers searched the church campus looking for suspicious devices. Colorado governor Bill Ritter ordered state authorities to help investigate. The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also came to the site to assist.[7]

It was not immediately known whether the shootings were related to an earlier Arvada missionary shooting, 70 miles (110 km) away. However, prior to the second shooting, police were already conducting an investigation at Murray's home.[6]

Police said the description of the gunman in the second shooting was similar to the first: a white male wearing a dark hat and dark jacket.[15]


Name Age Location Status
Tiffany Johnson 26 Youth With a Mission center killed
Philip Crouse 24 Youth With a Mission center killed
Dan Griebenow 24 Youth With a Mission center wounded
Charlie Blanch 22 Youth With a Mission center wounded
Stephanie Works 18 New Life Church killed
Rachel Works 16 New Life Church killed
David Works 51 New Life Church wounded
Judy Purcell 40 New Life Church wounded
Larry Bourbonnais 59 New Life Church wounded


Matthew John Murray, a 24-year-old resident of Englewood, Colorado, was identified as the perpetrator of both shootings. Murray was homeschooled in a deeply religious Christian household after the 1st grade, and he attended, but did not complete, a missionary training program at the YWAM Arvada facility 2002.[6] He was expelled from the school due to "strange behavior," which included playing perceived-frightening rock music and him claiming to hear voices.[16][17] Court records indicated that Murray was bitter over his expulsion from the 12-week missionary training program, as he was consequently banned from attending a field trip to Bosnia.[18][19] His expulsion from the school was confirmed by Cheryl Morrison, whose husband, George Morrison, is pastor of the Faith Bible Chapel adjacent to YWAM Denver. She didn't know specifics of the conflict. "I don't think that 'run-in' is the word, but they did have to dismiss him. It had to be something of significance, because they go the nth degree with people."

Before the second shooting, Murray left several violent and threatening messages on several religious websites, espousing his hatred for fundamental Christianity and his intentions on killing as many Christians as possible. One message quoted Eric Harris, one of the perpetrators of the Columbine High School massacre; it read: "I'm coming for EVERYONE soon and I WILL be armed to the ...teeth and I WILL shoot to kill. ...God, I can't wait till I can kill you people. Feel no remorse, no sense of shame, I don't care if I live or die in the shoot-out. 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."[20][21] In his online postings, Murray alleges psychological abuse at the hands of his parents and church leaders as the main reason for his hatred of Christianity.[22]

Murray was obsessed with several school shootings and mass shootings. Additionally, hundreds of images of pornography and child pornography were found on his computer by investigators. He had also researched Children of God (COG) cult member Ricky Rodriguez. Before the shooting at New Life, Murray called a family member and confessed to his obsession with mass shootings.[23]

In the months before the shootings, Murray acquired several weapons: an AK-47 semi-automatic variant, a Beretta .22-caliber handgun, a Beretta .40-caliber handgun, a Springfield Armory 9mm handgun, and a Bushmaster XM-15 .223-caliber rifle, which he had modified to fire a larger caliber round. He was found to have had over 3,000 rounds of ammunition at New Life and had over 1,000 more at his home in Englewood.[23]

In another of his very last posts, made that morning to a Usenet newsgroup,[24] he identified himself as being a member of a local branch of the Ordo Templi Orientis. According to the chapter leader, Murray had attended their events for one or two years, but his request for membership was turned down[25] and he was asked to leave in either September[24] or October.[25]

Murray was involved in several religious organizations in the Denver area, including: His Love Fellowship Church, Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren, Trinity Christian, Ordo Templi Orientis, and the New Life Church. He was also baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) in late 2006, according to the church's records.[26]

Murray was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of five.[citation needed] According to investigators, he descended into extreme anti-Christian psychosis over a period of several months, and his web-postings became increasingly violent, despondent and hateful. Some of the users tried to counsel Murray. After the killing, police found a letter addressed "To God," by Murray, in his car, which was later obtained by Newsradio 850 KOA. The letter was found along with two books: I Had to Say Something by Mike Jones and Serial Murderers and Their Victims by Eric W. Hickey, according to the invoice.[27]

Murray was buried during a private funeral service for close friends and family soon after the shooting.[13][28]


  1. ^ a b "Three Dead (including perpetrator), Two Wounded, After Gunman Opens Fire Inside Colorado Christian Missionary Center". Fox News. Associated Press. December 9, 2007. Archived from the original on February 8, 2011. Retrieved December 9, 2007.
  2. ^ "Gunman opens fire at church; one suspect in custody". CNN. December 9, 2007. Archived from the original on July 1, 2009. Retrieved December 9, 2007.
  3. ^ a b c d Police reported there were at least 7,000 people at the church at the time of the shooting. "BBC NEWS | Americas | US church gunman killed himself". December 12, 2007. Archived from the original on November 13, 2012. Retrieved November 7, 2010.
  4. ^ a b c d Holusha, John (December 9, 2007). "Gunman Kills 2 at Missionary Center Near Denver". The New York Times. Archived from the original on September 3, 2015. Retrieved December 9, 2007.
  5. ^ "Ammo Shipped To P.O. Box Put Murray On Police Radar". ABC 7 News: The Denver Channel. December 12, 2007. Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved December 12, 2007.
  6. ^ a b c McGhee, Tom (December 10, 2007). "Colo. church shooting victims identified". The Denver Post. Archived from the original on May 24, 2011. Retrieved December 10, 2007.
  7. ^ a b c "4 die in Colo. church, mission attacks". Associated Press. December 9, 2007. Archived from the original on December 14, 2007. Retrieved December 9, 2007.
  8. ^ a b "Gunman kills 2 at missionary training center". CNN. December 9, 2007. Archived from the original on September 5, 2009. Retrieved December 9, 2007.
  9. ^ "New Life Shooter Matthew Murray Was Heavily Armed. Murray had over 3,000 rounds of ammunition; close to 2,000 rounds on him in a backpack in fully loaded magazines with an additional 1,000 rounds in the trunk of his vehicle along with an AK-47 assault rifle.KKTV". www.kktv.com. Archived from the original on December 7, 2019. Retrieved December 7, 2019.
  10. ^ "Victims at New Life identified". KOAA-TV. December 9, 2007. Archived from the original on December 29, 2007. Retrieved December 9, 2007.
  11. ^ "Security upgrade saves churchgoers". UPI. December 10, 2007. Archived from the original on July 6, 2008. Retrieved December 10, 2007.
  12. ^ Hendrick, Thomas (December 10, 2007). "Security Guard: 'God Guided Me And Protected Me'". TheDenverChannel.com. Archived from the original on April 14, 2009. Retrieved December 10, 2007.
  13. ^ a b "Gunman committed suicide as family apologises for shooting". Au.christiantoday.com. December 13, 2007. Archived from the original on July 8, 2011. Retrieved November 7, 2010.
  14. ^ "Police: Same Gunman Attacked Both Churches". KMGH Denver. December 10, 2007. Archived from the original on August 27, 2011. Retrieved December 10, 2007.
  15. ^ Two US Christian centres attacked. BBC.com. December 10, 2007. Archived December 12, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "'Colorado gunman scared co-workers 5 years ago, one says'". CNN. December 11, 2007. Archived from the original on June 19, 2009. Retrieved December 11, 2007.
  17. ^ Gathright, Alan (December 10, 2007). "A gunman's bloody trail: from hate mail to mass murder". Rocky Mountain News. Archived from the original on October 31, 2010. Retrieved December 11, 2007.
  18. ^ Kohler, Judith (December 10, 2007). "Gunman in religious attacks had been thrown out of missionary school: police". Associated Press. Retrieved December 11, 2007.[dead link]
  19. ^ Merritt, George (December 11, 2007). "Gunman may have warned of 2nd attack". Associated Press. Archived from the original on December 13, 2007. Retrieved December 11, 2007.
  20. ^ Woodward, Paula, Jace Larson and Nicole Vap. Gunman's Web writings warn of shootings. 9News.com. December 10, 2007. Archived January 16, 2013, at archive.today
  21. ^ Colorado Church Gunman Sought Revenge After He Was Kicked Out of Missionary Training. FoxNews.com. December 11, 2007. Archived February 7, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ "The Nightmare of Christianity". Archived from the original on September 11, 2009.
  23. ^ a b Post, Howard Pankratz | The Denver (March 27, 2008). "Murray obsesses with guns, shootings". The Denver Post. Retrieved December 7, 2019.
  24. ^ a b Meyer, Jeremy P., David Migoya and Christopher N. Osher. "Your Colombine". The Denver Post. December 12, 2007. Archived May 24, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ a b Gorski, Eric. "Colorado Gunman Left Twisted Trail". Associated Press. December 12, 2007. Archived December 15, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ Dallof, Sarah (December 12, 2007). "'Colorado shooter was baptized into LDS faith'". KSL News. Archived from the original on June 4, 2011. Retrieved December 13, 2007.
  27. ^ "Church shooter left letter 'To God' in car". The Denver Post. January 17, 2008. Archived from the original on May 24, 2011. Retrieved January 18, 2008.
  28. ^ "Text of statement by parents of gunman Matthew Murray". The Denver Post. Associated Press. December 12, 2007. Retrieved December 7, 2019.

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