Church gunman’s death ruled a suicide
December 11, 2007
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. ” The man who killed four people at a church and missionary training center died of a self-inflicted shotgun wound after he was felled by fire from a church security officer, police said Tuesday.
Matthew Murray, 24, was struck multiple times by a security officer at New Life Church during Sunday’s attack but died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the El Paso County Coroner’s Office said in ruling Murray’s death a suicide.
Colorado Springs police released the coroner’s findings after an autopsy.
Murray was shot by volunteer security guard Jeanne Assam. Investigators had suggested Monday that Murray may have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, though police and church leaders credited Assam’s bravery with averting a greater tragedy.
Authorities believe Murray had posted an anti-Christian diatribe online that closely repeated a rant by one of the Columbine killers.
Murray, who was kicked out of the missionary training center where the first shooting occurred, is believed to have posted the message on a Web site for people who have left evangelical religious groups. His most recent post 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.
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“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.
On Monday, 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 Arvada 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.
“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,
Assam, 42, the volunteer guard at New Life Church, 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’s home phone number is unlisted and she couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.
Assam is a former police officer who worked in Minneapolis 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 were investigating a complaint that Assam swore at a bus driver while she was handling an incident on a city bus.
On 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. He said Matthew Murray had been in contact with school officials this summer about attending the school but decided he wasn’t interested because he thought 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.