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2007 Colorado YWAM and New Life shootings

2007 Colorado YWAM and New Life shootings
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, mass murder
WeaponsYWAM: Semi-automatic pistol[3]
New Life:
Deaths5 (including the perpetrator)
PerpetratorMatthew John Murray
DefenderNew Life: Jeanne Assam (Former police officer/church member providing security)[5][6]

In the early morning hours of December 9, 2007, 24-year-old Matthew John Murray (December 5, 1983 - December 9, 2007)[7] 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, who was carrying a licensed private firearm. Murray subsequently died from a gunshot wound to the head, which reports indicate was inflicted either by himself, or possibly by Assam.


Arvada missionary shooting

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;[3] when he was refused, Murray opened fire,[1] killing Tiffany Johnson, the center's Director of Hospitality, and staff member Philip Crouse, as well as wounding Dan Griebenow in the neck[3] and Charlie Blanch in the leg.[6]

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.[3] 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

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, shooting at the Works family as they entered their vehicle, causing the worst fatal consequences at New Life Church that day: the deaths of two of the Works' family's four daughters: Stephanie Works, 18, and Rachel Works, 16, as well as the near-death of their father, David Works, who was shot 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 private security guard working for New Life Church, who was herself a former Minneapolis Police Department law enforcement officer, opened fire upon Murray. 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 gave her testimony publicly, stating that she felt that she was spiritually called to serve on the security team for the church that morning, and that she had been personally fasting and praying in preparation due to a supernatural "calling from God." [9] While the official coroner's report states that Murray subsequently killed himself,[9] some reports indicate that Assam suspects that she was the one who potentially administered the fatal wound upon Murray.[10] The police themselves have not stated on-record whom they believe fired the fatal shot upon Murray.[11]


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."[5][12][13][14]

On December 13, 2007, Murray's family issued a statement saying that it was "groping for answers" and issued an apology.[15]

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."[16]

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.[6]

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.[5]

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.[17]


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


On December 10, 2007, the gunman in both the YWAM Arvada and New Life Church shootings was identified as 24-year-old Matthew J. Murray, one of two sons of a Colorado neurologist. Reportedly, Murray was homeschooled in a deeply religious Christian household, and he attended, but did not complete, a missionary training program at the YWAM Arvada facility in 2002.[5] Court records indicated that Murray was bitter over his expulsion from the 12-week missionary training program.[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." Murray was expelled from the school due to "strange behavior," which included playing perceived-frightening rock music and him claiming to hear voices.[20][21] 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 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."[22][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]

Matthew Murray 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]

According to investigators, Murray 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 and one psychologist, Dr. Marlene Winell, who is recognized as the first mental health professional to identify the condition of "Religious Trauma Syndrome," offered her services after reading his poem called "Crying all alone in pain in the nightmare of Christianity." Years later, Dr. Winell's one-time distant attempt to reach out to provide council to a young man (through a public posting via the Internet, her only way of communication with the unknown subject), whom she perceived and recognized as disturbed and unstable, was, years later, eventually revealed as James Holmes, who became the mass murderer responsible for Colorado's July 20, 2012 Aurora movie theater's "Batman movie" killings. The horrific event drew increased national attention to Dr. Winell's enlightening studies and began to further shed light on her studies into "Religious Trauma Syndrome" and its potentially-harmful consequences upon society at large.[22] After the killing, police found a letter addressed "To God," by Murray, in his car. The letter was listed as evidence and property, which invoiced items that Colorado Springs police recovered from a 1992 Toyota Camry belonging to Matthew Murray. The documents were obtained by Newsradio 850 KOA. The "Note to God" was found in the rear passenger seat, 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]

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.[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 22, 2011. Retrieved December 9, 2007.
  2. ^ "Gunman opens fire at church; one suspect in custody". CNN. December 9, 2007. Archived from the original on February 22, 2011. Retrieved December 9, 2007.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ "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 February 22, 2011. Retrieved December 12, 2007.
  5. ^ a b c d McGhee, Tom (December 10, 2007). "Colo. church shooting victims identified". The Denver Post. Archived from the original on February 22, 2011. Retrieved December 10, 2007.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ []
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  9. ^ a b "US church gunman killed himself". BBC News. December 12, 2007. Archived from the original on February 22, 2011. Retrieved December 12, 2007.
  10. ^ Kim LaCapria (June 19, 2015). "Church Key". Retrieved April 10, 2016.
  11. ^ "Guard saved untold lives, officials say". LA Times. December 11, 2007. Retrieved April 10, 2016.
  12. ^ "Victims at New Life identified". KOAA-TV. December 9, 2007. Archived from the original on February 22, 2011. Retrieved December 9, 2007.
  13. ^ "Security upgrade saves churchgoers". UPI. December 10, 2007. Archived from the original on February 22, 2011. Retrieved December 10, 2007.
  14. ^ Hendrick, Thomas (December 10, 2007). "Security Guard: 'God Guided Me And Protected Me'". Archived from the original on April 20, 2009. Retrieved December 10, 2007.
  15. ^ "Gunman committed suicide as family apologises for shooting". December 13, 2007. Archived from the original on February 22, 2011. Retrieved November 7, 2010.
  16. ^ "Police: Same Gunman Attacked Both Churches". KMGH Denver. December 10, 2007. Archived from the original on February 22, 2011. Retrieved December 10, 2007.
  17. ^ Two US Christian centres attacked. December 10, 2007. Archived February 22, 2011, at WebCite
  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. ^ "'Colorado gunman scared co-workers 5 years ago, one says'". CNN. December 11, 2007. Archived from the original on February 22, 2011. Retrieved December 11, 2007.
  21. ^ Gathright, Alan (December 10, 2007). "A gunman's bloody trail: from hate mail to mass murder". Rocky Mountain News. Archived from the original on February 22, 2011. Retrieved December 11, 2007.
  22. ^ a b Woodward, Paula, Jace Larson and Nicole Vap. Gunman's Web writings warn of shootings. December 10, 2007. Archived January 16, 2013, at
  23. ^ Colorado Church Gunman Sought Revenge After He Was Kicked Out of Missionary Training. December 11, 2007. Archived February 22, 2011, at WebCite
  24. ^ a b Meyer, Jeremy P., David Migoya and Christopher N. Osher. "Your Colombine". The Denver Post. December 12, 2007. Archived February 23, 2011, at WebCite
  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 February 23, 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 February 23, 2011. Retrieved January 18, 2008.
  28. ^ []

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