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Colorado Church Shootings; Missionary Shooting: 2 Dead, Search for Gunman

Aired December 9, 2007 - 17:00   ET



LT. FLTECHER HOWARD, COLORADO SPRINGS POLICE: Lockheed Martin is on lockdown, and any other business that's in the primary area that's open for business today is on lockdown.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. And could you give us your first and last name?

HOWARD: The first name is Fletcher. The last name is Howard. And I'm with the Colorado Springs Police Department. And I'm a lieutenant with the police department.

QUESTION: I know it is very early. Any kind of motive at all yet you guys see?


HOWARD: No, sir. We don't have that.

QUESTION: Do you know if it was random?

HOWARD: We don't have that information until we can get a relationship between the suspect and the victims in this case.

QUESTION: When can we expect more information?

HOWARD: As soon as it becomes available.

QUESTION: Were there more injuries of people that weren't taken to the hospital?

HOWARD: Well, some people that are in shock, which is to be expected after an event like this takes place. So we do have medical personnel on the scene that are looking at anyone who needs help at this point.

QUESTION: Lieutenant, you have not confirmed any fatalities?

HOWARD: No, sir, I have not.

QUESTION: And if you could, the suspect that you have in custody, where was that person engaged? Where was -- where were they...

HOWARD: Well, at this point in time we want to make sure, like I said earlier, want to make sure that there's not more than one victim and one suspect. So as soon as I can get that information, I'll give that to you.

QUESTION: But again, you said everything happened in the parking lot?

HOWARD: Yes, everything happened in the parking lot.

QUESTION: Outside.

QUESTION: What parking lot again?

HOWARD: The one where that building is behind us.

QUESTION: And you can't tell us if he surrendered willingly or if he was taken down by police?

HOWARD: Can't tell you. When that becomes available, I'll let you know.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Lieutenant Fletcher Howard of Colorado Springs. Police saying no fatalities there in Colorado Springs as a result of the shooting that took place in the parking lot of the New Life Church just about an hour and a half ago, but there were at least two fatalities and two serious injuries from gunfire taking place at a youth missionary center in Arvada about 70 miles away.

Rhonda Scholting is in Arvada, and that is where we are awaiting a press conference to take place with the police there.

And so, Rhonda, a lot of piecing together here about the victims, about the potential suspects here and whether, indeed, these two incidents are related.

RHONDA SCHOLTING, REPORTER: That is certainly what we're hoping to hear about as this press conference gets under way in just a couple of minutes, Fredricka, because obviously the big question now is, are these two shootings related, the one here in Arvada this morning around midnight, and also the one that occurred in Colorado Springs just about an hour or so ago?

From what we know here, again, four people were shot, two have died. They were inside a missionary dormitory having a Christmas party around midnight this morning when the shooting occurred.

From what we understand, the young gentleman that is the suspect came in looking for shelter, and then we understand he was probably or possibly refused, and that is when he pulled out a gun and started shooting. Don't know how many shots he actually fired. Don't know why he actually did, whether he was angry about the fact that he couldn't spend the night there or whether he knew someone inside. Of course that is always a possibility, but not anything police have really brought up at this point.

WHITFIELD: And so, Rhonda, talk to me about the route between Arvada and Colorado Springs. We've been talking the past couple days about huge snowfalls in the area, about highways and roadways being blocked off there. So just trying to understand whether indeed these two incidents are related. What about the path between those two locations?

SCHOLTING: Fredricka, it looks like the press conference is just about to get under way.

WHITFIELD: All right. Well, we'll listen in there -- Arvada police.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before we get started today, I'm going to lay some ground rules for our news conference.

Before we get started, Mayor Bob Frie is going to be making some brief comments. After the mayor, Chief Don Wick, Arvada police chief, will make a couple brief statements, sort of bring us up to speed where we are with this event. And then he'll take a series of questions. But please keep in mind we do not have a lot of time today.

We are dealing with a very fluid situation, events are changing at a moment's notice. And so we need to get back to this investigation.

So at this time I will ask the mayor to come forward, Mayor Bob Frie, the city of Arvada.

Thanks, Susan (ph).

MAYOR BOB FRIE, ARVADA, COLORADO: Hi. My name is Bob Frie. On behalf of the city of Arvada and the Arvada City Council, I want to acknowledge and recognize the terrible tragedy that has taken place in our community. I want to make it clear that the city will provide all the resources and all the support and anything that the Arvada Police Department needs in its efforts to apprehend whoever is responsible.

Finally, we offer our support and condolences to the families of the victims, the Youth With a Mission Ministry, the Faith Bible Community, and our entire city. And we share the loss of our friends and family today.

So now I'd like to introduce to you Chief Don Wick.

Thank you.

CHIEF DON WICK, ARVADA POLICE DEPT.: Good afternoon to everyone.

Before we get started today, I must acknowledge first that we did have a report of shootings in Colorado Springs that occurred just a short time ago. The Arvada Police Department is in the process of coordinating with members of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office and Colorado Springs Police Department to share information about the events surrounding the Arvada shooting and to determine if there's any connection between the shooting in Arvada and the shooting in Colorado Springs.

We are not at a place to confirm any information about any possible similarities to these incidences being widely reported throughout the media. And I'm asking that all of our communities be vigilant until we determine who is responsible for these crimes. We will report any new information related to these incidents as it becomes confirmed and available.

We are a community that is grieving today. We are mourning the senseless loss of life of young adults who were committed to the service of others. They traveled long distances from home to learn to be missionaries and they faced an unthinkable tragedy.

Our thoughts and our prayers are with those grieving at this time. And we offer whatever assistance we can to ensure that they have the help that they need as they mourn.

This morning, just after 12:30 a.m., a lone gunman entered the Youth With a Mission facility and opened fire. Four people were injured and eventually taken to area hospitals where, as you know, two died from their wounds -- Tiffany Johnson (ph) and Phillip Krouse (ph).

The Arvada police officers that responded to this incident responded in approximately one minute from receiving the phone call. The first officer on the scene, joined by two others, formed an immediate, rapid entry team and entered into the youth mission facility where they found the crime scene. Our officers then began an immediate search for the suspect, and after several hours of searching the area around the Youth With a Mission facility we called off the search because we were unable to locate the suspect.

There are two victims currently being treated at area hospitals, and we are hopeful that they will be able to successfully recover.

Now, what's next is, over the next 24 hours, we will be coordinating obviously with the Colorado Springs and the El Paso Sheriff's Office. We will continue to process the crime scene at the Youth With a Mission facility, and obviously we'll be doing a lot of follow-up with the victims in this case to try to determine who is responsible for this crime.

As I said, this is a terrible tragedy and this is a rapidly developing and unfolding situation of which we have a lot of our resources working on this case. And obviously we hope to bring to justice those persons or person responsible.

Before I take questions, I also want to let you know that at approximately 7:00 tonight, I will be holding another press conference with any other information that we may have available.

So I've got a few minutes for some questions. And I apologize up front for having to leave soon, but this is an unfolding situation.


QUESTION: Chief, in terms of the church down in Colorado Springs, I understand that they have a mission -- an office with a mission down there as well. Is that accurate?

WICK: I don't know the answer to that question. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: The type and caliber of the weapon used in this incident?

WICK: That is an investigative key, and I can't release that at this time.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Is there any indication whether or not this person knew the mission or whether this was random?

WICK: We won't know that until we determine who is responsible.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Do you have a suspect vehicle description (INAUDIBLE)?

WICK: Not that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: Can you lay out the events that led up to the shooting?

WICK: Well, what I know is that the Arvada Police Department received an emergency phone call of a shooting that occurred at the mission. Our officers responded.

Prior to what led up to that, that's part of our investigations that our detectives will be working on, and I'm sorry that I don't have any further details about what led up to before that time that we received the call.

QUESTION: Nothing about the shooter asking to spend the night at the facility and being turned away?

WICK: OK. Yes, when the suspect responsible for this did arrive at the scene, he did ask questions about wanting to stay the night at the facility. There was some conversation that occurred.

The details of the conversation I don't -- I'm not privileged to all of that. Our investigators are obviously working with that information, but he had been there for a few minutes prior to the shooting.


QUESTION: Do you have a description of the suspect? WICK: The description that I have at this time is a white male in his 20s wearing a dark jacket, dark beanie-style hat, possibly with a beard and glasses. And that's the best description that we have right now.


WICK: I don't know the answer to that.


WICK: We have been working with trying to get some identification pieces. We have been working with a sketch artist, and when I know that we are completed with that point, then we'll provide that information.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: The person he had this conversation with, the person (INAUDIBLE)?

WICK: The answer to the question is that he had a conversation with multiple people there. Now, whether he actually conversed with any of our victims is something that I don't know the answer to, but I think the course of the investigation through today and the next several days will yield the answers to that.

I have time for one more.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Were the victims sleeping? Was everybody up? What was the situation in the room when the shooting occurred (INAUDIBLE)?

WICK: There was a conversation that took place in the common area of the facility. I don't know whether prior to that time people had been sleeping or whether they were up and about. That piece is not known to me at this time.

And, again, as I said, I'll be holding another press conference tonight at 7:00. I will update you with any other information and will be available to field some additional questions.

And thank you all very much for being here.

And I'd like to conclude with, if anyone has information about this, I would ask them to call the Arvada Police Department and provide that information. We also want to ensure that our faith-based community is being vigilant as they carry out their services today and the coming days, and that if they notice anything suspicious or are concerned, that they notify the Arvada Police Department or whatever jurisdiction it is that they happen to be in.

We enjoy a very special relationship with our community here in the city of Arvada, and it is a tragedy. And I'm sure that by working together we can make strides in this investigation. And thank you very much for being here today.

WHITFIELD: All right. Arvada police chief Don Wick there talking about the developments since the investigation began just after midnight, when a -- what this police chief is describing as a lone gunman walked over to the youth missionary center in the middle of a party taking place at the missionary center in the dorm, asked if he could actually stay at this dormitory.

The police chief didn't elaborate on what conversation took place after that request, but that simply this lone gunman then opened fire. Four people were shot, two of whom died once they got to the hospital.

The other two were still being nursed for their injuries. And these are the two that were killed at that location at the youth missionary center.

And we're getting these new images now from Colorado Springs right here, where then a shooting took place about 70 miles away just within the past hour and a half. And the police chief that we just heard out of Arvada is saying it's just too soon to talk about any similarities between these two shootings, but we understand that four people were shot in the parking lot of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs within the past hour and a half, and those four people have been taken to nearby hospitals.

We don't have the conditions of those four people right now.

And so, again, it is a strange set of circumstances that have taken place there in Colorado just 70 miles apart. Two different places of worship, and there are indeed victims, two who have been killed in these shootings.

The search under way now for the alleged gunman or gunmen.

Paul Filidis is with the Youth With a Mission -- with the missionary center there in Arvada. He, right now, is joining us on the phone, however, from Colorado Springs.

And so, Paul Filidis, were you at the youth missionary center at the time of the shooting early this morning?

PAUL FILIDIS, COLORADO YOUTH WITH A MISSION: No, I was not. I'm located, as you said, in Colorado Springs. I'm part of Youth With a Mission International communications team here, and am trying to coordinate news and information go through us here.

WHITFIELD: Well, tell me about the training center where the shooting took place. Is this a rather difficult place in which to get to? Is it fairly an open campus? Tell me about access there.

FILIDIS: It is fairly easy to get to. It is in a suburb of western Denver, in Arvada. It is not a dangerous neighborhood at all that I'm aware of. I've been there a couple times myself.

It is a training center that has been operating for over 15 years. It is headed up by a very mature couple. They are Australian citizens. And we train and we run many short-term training programs there.

So it was very unusual and, I mean, some people who have called us from around the world have said how can this happen in a safe neighborhood? Because they expect something like that to be happening in other parts of the world where we operate.

WHITFIELD: And so terribly sad.

What was your initial feeling upon hearing of this shooting taking place at this place that you describe to be a very safe location, a place where you'd never imagine anything like this happening?

FILIDIS: Right. I mean, our first concern -- I mean, you know, tears came quickly. My own daughter, 20 years old, who just went through a Youth With a Mission training program in Australia itself had heard and text-messaged me early, early in the morning, and knows one of the victims in the hospital.

It was very sad because these young people, mostly college age -- the victims are all American citizens, by the way. I emphasize that because we have lots of international people that work with us around the world. And, you know, they come work with us.

You know, we love them. We love to train them as they go out and do mercy ministry projects around the world, in addition to, you know, your typical Christian activities in terms of looking for opportunities to demonstrate the love of Jesus. And for this to happen in the middle of the night must have been tragic, must have been horrific.

So we've been asking for prayer for Christians and around the world to pray for the families involved and the survivors, as well as pray for the gunmen, also, because what must be going on in a person's heart and mind to go to that extreme?

WHITFIELD: And so, Paul, you mentioned most of the young people at this youth missionary center, at the training facility in particular, are college age. Is this a place where they come kind of after college, they stay for a few weeks or even months in that training before they might do their missionary work, whether it's inside the states or abroad?

FILIDIS: Yes. In many ways, yes. Many of them come even after high school before going into career and into college, or maybe halfway through college, to give God a chance, to establish some basic values.

WHITFIELD: And about how many people at a time might be at the training center?

FILIDIS: I think I've heard numbers that we had there at that training center, both staff and students, amounting to maybe 80 people currently. WHITFIELD: OK.

FILIDIS: And our schools, depending on the schools that we run, you know, there could be 20, 30, 40 people in a school.


Paul Filidis from Colorado Springs with the Youth With a Mission Center.

With your kind of satellite office at the training center ground there in Arvada being the place of the shooting.

Early this morning, four people shot, two, sadly, who were actually killed. The search for the gunman still under way.

We'll have much more on this shooting in Arvada, as well as in Colorado Springs, right after this.


WHITFIELD: All right. We're continuing to watch the developments out of Colorado. Two shootings taking place, one in Colorado Springs and one in Arvada.

In Arvada, which took place just after midnight, we heard from the police chief, Don Wick, who said they are still trying to piece together exactly what took place here. But from eyewitness accounts, they believe that a gunman who may have been in his 20s wearing a dark jacket and may have had a beard and perhaps even glasses and wearing a dark kind of beanie cap, actually talked to some of the people at the youth missionary training center there in Arvada, asked to stay there in the dormitory.

A Christmas party was taking place at the time. But the police chief wouldn't elaborate on what kind of conversation took place after that, but simply that this lone gunman then opened up fire, striking four people and two of whom actually died at the hospital.

And then about 12 hours later, in Colorado Springs, another shooting taking place. This in the parking lot (AUDIO GAP) shot as well. We understand all of them are being treated at the hospital right now.

Looking at new pictures right now out of Colorado Springs, the parking lot of New Life Church.

Perhaps a witness to this gunman just before he entered that parking lot of this New Life Church. Tom Doyle, who is on the phone with us now, a New Life Church member.

So, Tom, what did you see and why is it you believe you may have gotten a pretty good look of this alleged gunman?

TOM DOYLE, NEW LIFE CHURCH MISSIONARY: Well, we were coming out of the church and it was just kind of typical after church. Coming out, got into line, and then with our cars.

And then as we left, the fire trucks and the ambulances came and whizzed past us. And we didn't realize what was going on. We kind of thought, well, that's kind of strange.

We weren't sure that it happened at church. Maybe someone got sick or had a heart attack but, you know, it just happened so quick. And as far as we know, not everything is stable there yet. They're still looking around for maybe even possibly another gunman.

WHITFIELD: And you think you actually looked at or saw one person who may have been the gunman?

DOYLE: Well, you know, not exactly sure, because there were so many people walking through the parking lot going to their car. But they said that there was someone in Army fatigue maybe with a black coat over him, and I remember seeing someone that I thought, well, that's kind of unusual. So I'm really not sure.

WHITFIELD: What was unusual about what you saw?

DOYLE: Yes, just the uniform and a long black coat. It just looked a little out of place. But nothing happened. And so then we took off and everything happened right after that.

The amazing thing is we look at how God was preparing the church for this. Pastor Jack Hayford (ph) had just spoken from California, and he talked about giving your fears over to God and not being afraid and giving them all over to Jesus, and how important the Christmas season is, and then minutes later this erupts.

WHITFIELD: Now, Tom, have you ever heard any rumblings? Has there ever been anyone in the church who has talked about being fearful of any perhaps church member or an ex-church member or anyone who would pose a threat to this church? Does this simply come out of the blue for all the church members?

DOYLE: Yes, it comes clear out of the blue. I mean, we woke up this morning and heard YWAM (ph) shootings, and my daughter had been in YWAM (ph), and we were just shocked about that. And then we go to church and come out.

We were wondering if the two are connected. We're only about 70 miles apart, so, you know, it could be. We really just don't know.

But, no, there's no reason for anything like that to happen at church. We had a difficult situation that happened last year obviously with the senior pastor leaving.

WHITFIELD: Right. Ted Haggard...

DOYLE: Right.

WHITFIELD: ... who was the founder and former pastor of this New Life Church, for those of you who are joining us for the first time, who left as a result of a sex scandal. But this church still very much flourishing, still a church of, what, 10,000 members? A huge church.

DOYLE: Yes. A great pastor here, Brady Boyd (ph). And everybody is just happy about the direction and the new course of the church, and really excited. And of course Christmas is always special here...


DOYLE: ... in Colorado. Snow on the ground and all the great things happening at the church.


Tom Doyle, thank you so much for your time as a member of New Life Church, the scene of a second shooting taking place in Colorado there just within a 12-hour period.

And we understand, we're learning from The Associated Press that police are indicating that a suspect in that shooting of that church parking lot may indeed have been detained. We're trying to work our sources and learn a little bit more about the circumstances there but, again, we're hearing from The Associated Press that police say a suspect has been detained in the New Life Church parking lot there about an hour and a half, coming up on two hours after the shooting, which apparently victimized four people, all being treated in nearby hospitals.

We're continuing to work our sources.

Meantime, our affiliates have been talking to a number of people who are eyewitness to what took place there in Colorado Springs. We want to play for you now another take from one of the church members who was witness to what happened there.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so I ran all the way from the cafeteria because people who were running, and I ran and I saw him. So -- and nobody was doing anything.

So I jumped out, and that's when he let loose. And then I peeked back around because I was trying to distract him. And then a senior officer came in.

I've been in combat. This is the coolest (ph) shooting I've ever seen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was he wearing? What did he look like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, the typical garb, the black, combat boots, an automatic assault rifle over -- strapped this way. He had at least -- well, I saw one handgun, but I've been hit with buckshot, but I can't -- I couldn't see a shotgun. So I don't -- I don't know what the deal was.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, wait. Oh, my God. What is that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, there's a pellet in there, I think, and it just needs to be lanced and it will come out. And this was -- but I don't understand how he shot me, because the pellet entrance wounds are on this side of the pillar, and he was probably 30 feet down and...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need you guys set up past the sidewalk. Your van's now got to stay here.



WHITFIELD: All right. That eyewitness account from one church member there at New Life Church there in Colorado Springs who was actually hit by what appears to be, you know, pellets, or from that gunfire taking place. And we understand, again, from The Associated Press that a gunman may have been detained right there in the parking lot there of that New Life Church.

Meantime, all this took place about 12 hours after a shooting take place there in Arvada.