Church Shootings
Kevin Moloney  /  AP
As many as 20 bullet holes riddle the entryway of the New Life church in Colorado Springs, where a gunman entered the building on Sunday.
updated 12/11/2007 7:56:56 PM ET 2007-12-12T00:56:56

With the identity of the gunman now known, residents of two Colorado towns were left Tuesday with deeper questions: What drove Matthew Murray to a rampage that claimed four lives at a church and missionary training center, and were there warning signs that could have prevented it?

Autopsy results show Murray, who was kicked out of a missionary training center where the first shooting occurred, killed himself, police said.

Murray, 24, was struck multiple times by a security officer at New Life Church Sunday but died after firing a single shot at himself, the El Paso County Coroner's Office concluded after an autopsy.

In between his two deadly shooting sprees, Murray apparently posted a furious threat on the Internet to kill Christians. But whether the warning reached police before he struck again was unclear Tuesday.

The warning — and other anguished, despair-filled messages over the past few months — were posted by someone using the screen name "nghtmrchld26." The postings paint a picture of a home-schooled Colorado youth once affiliated with the Youth With a Mission program — as 24-year-old Murray had been.

"I'm coming for EVERYONE soon and I WILL be armed to the (expletive) teeth and I WILL shoot to kill," Sunday's posting by nghtmrchld26 said.

"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. You Christians brought this on yourselves," Murray wrote, according to the station, which did not identify the site. "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."

The online threats appear to include whole passages lifted from a manifesto written by Eric Harris, one of the teens who carried out the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School — 13 miles from Murray's hometown, the Denver Post reported.

Police cannot say with certainty who nghtmrchld26 is.

Online threat reported
At least one visitor to the site was alarmed and contacted the FBI promptly, before the second attack, the site's administrator said. But the FBI would not immediately confirm that.

The threatening message was posted on a site for former Pentecostals at 9:55 a.m. or 10:55 a.m. — the time zone was not clear, said Joe Istre, site administrator and president of the Association of Former Pentecostals.

Either way, that was several hours after Murray killed two people at Youth With a Mission, a training center for missionaries in the Denver suburb of Arvada, and at least two hours before he killed two more people at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs around 1 p.m.

Denver FBI spokeswoman Rene Vonder Haar said the agency began an investigation immediately after receiving a phone call at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. She refused to discuss the nature of the call but said the information was passed on to police in Arvada and Colorado Springs.

However, police there did not learn the Murray family home's address in Englewood until after the church shootings, and that a search did not begin until well after dark, said Colorado Springs police Sgt. Scott Schwall.

Arvada police spokeswoman Susan Medina confirmed that the FBI passed on information regarding the mission center shootings at about 10:30 a.m. She would not discuss the information in detail but said "we began work on that tip immediately."

Detectives did not go to Murray's home and speak to his family until 3 p.m., well after the second attack.

Threats emerged early on
In the weeks before the shooting, nghtmrchld26 posted a number of messages about his own pain, despair and fury toward Christianity.

One post, called "My YWAM Horror Story," complained about being removed from the Arvada youth mission program.

"Why was I told that I couldn't be a missionary because I wasn't ‘social enough'? I was told that I was `an introvert,'" nghtmrchld26 wrote. "Everyone else got to go on their outreaches except for a few who lied about smoking (cigarettes). The authoritarianism and hypocrisy is outrageous."

In an Oct. 6 post, nghtmrchld26 wrote about his anger at the church.

"We'll make our own religion and be our own God's instead listening to some abusive pedophile church like what I was raised in telling us who's `saved' and who's not," the person wrote.

"During this dark period I've realized this is not the way just to be a martyr. I can't walk alone any longer and I'll fight for the ones who can't fight. If I lose at then least I tried. If I have to give my life you can have it."

The user appeared to reject offers of psychological help.

"I've already been working with counselors," he wrote. He added: "It's so funny how many people want to help you and love you and counsel you and `work with you through your pain ' when there's money involved."

Police: Revenge was one motive
On Monday, officials said revenge was one apparent motive for the attacks.

In a statement, the training center said health problems kept Murray from finishing the program, but elaborated little. Murray did not complete the lecture phase or a field assignment as part of a 12-week program, Youth With a Mission said.

"The program directors felt that issues with his health made it inappropriate for him to" finish, it said.

The program had an office at the site of the second shooting, the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, where Murray was shot by volunteer security guard Jeanne Assam. Investigators said Murray may have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, though police and church leaders credited Assam's bravery with averting a greater tragedy.

Assam, 42, said her faith allowed her to remain steady under pressure.

"It seemed like it was me, the gunman and God," she said, her hands trembling as she recounted the shooting during a news conference.

Assam worked in Minneapolis as a police officer from 1993 to 1997 but was fired from the department for lying during an internal investigation, Minneapolis police Sgt. Jesse Garcia said Tuesday.

Sgt. John Delmonico, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, said police investigated a complaint that Assam swore at a bus driver while handling an incident on a city bus.

"In giving a statement about the incident, she was untruthful and she was fired," Delmonico said. Assam denied that she swore at the driver, but her actions were caught on tape, he said.

Assam's home phone number is unlisted and she could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Killer's family baffled
Also Monday, officials finished searching the home where Murray lived along with a brother, Christopher, 21. Murray's father, Ronald S. Murray, is chief executive of the Rocky Mountain Multiple Sclerosis Center in Englewood.

In a search warrant affidavit, investigators said Matthew Murray attended a home-based computer school and worked at his computer for three to five hours a day for the past two years.

A neighbor, Cody Askeland, 19, said the brothers were home-schooled, describing the whole family as "very, very religious."

Christopher Murray studied for a semester at Colorado Christian University before transferring to Oral Roberts, said Ronald Rex, dean of admissions and marketing at Colorado Christian. Oral Roberts is a Christian university named after its evangelist founder.

Rex said Matthew Murray had been in contact with school officials this summer about attending the school but decided the school was too expensive.

Police said Murray's only previous brush with the law was a traffic ticket earlier this year.

His relatives said they were grief-stricken and baffled.

"We cannot understand why this has happened. We ask for prayer for the victims and their families during this time of grief," said Phil Abeyta, Murray's uncle, who read a statement from the family.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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