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Published: Tuesday, 12/11/2007

Autopsy shows Colorado church gunman killed himself

ASSOCIATED PRESS

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. The man who killed four people at a church and missionary training center was killed by a bullet he fired himself, though he was hit by shots from a church security officer, police said today.

Matthew Murray, 24, was struck multiple times by a security officer at New Life Church Sunday, but his death was ruled a suicide, the El Paso County Coroner s Office concluded after an autopsy.

Volunteer security guard Jeanne Assam shot Murray after he entered the church. Though investigators had earlier suggested he killed himself, they credited Assam s bravery with averting a greater tragedy.

Assam, a 42-year-old former Minneapolis police officer, 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 Monday.

The first attack Sunday took place at Youth With a Mission, a training center for missionaries in the Denver suburb of Arvada; the other occurred about 12 hours later at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs.

Officials said revenge was one apparent motive for the attacks. Police said Murray had sent hate mail to the Youth With a Mission center in the last few weeks after being removed from the program years ago.

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.

Authorities also believe Murray authored an anti-Christian diatribe online that closely repeated a rant by one of the Columbine killers, a newspaper reported today.

The most recent post to the site, a forum for people who have left evangelical religious groups, was Sunday morning in the hours between his attacks in Arvada and Colorado Springs, according to KUSA-TV in Denver, which first reported on the writings.

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 language in the post is almost identical to the text of a manifesto written by Eric Harris, one of the teens who carried out the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School.

The online posts, under the pen name nghtmrchld26, spanned several weeks, and in an earlier one, Murray appeared to reject offers of psychological help.

I ve already been working with counselors. I have a point to make with all this talk about psychologists and counselors helping people with their pain, he wrote, according to KUSA.

The station said Murray s posts were removed from the site after Sunday s killings, and that authorities were aware of them and investigating. Police in Colorado Springs and Arvada would not comment on the writings.

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

Also today, Minneapolis police Sgt. Jesse Garcia said Assam was fired from the Minneapolis force in 1997 for lying during an internal investigation. Sgt. John Delmonico, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, said police were investigating a complaint that Assam swore at a bus driver while she was handling an incident on a city bus.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com



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