Two churches in Colorado are mourning the deaths of five of their members since gunmen opened fire yesterday at a missionary training center in Arvada and New Life Church, 80 miles south, in Colorado Springs.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver responded to the tragedy by asking God to "penetrate and redeem even this tragedy with the peace of Christmas and Christ's promise of eternal life.”
The shootings left a total of five dead, including the Arvada gunman, and six injured. Police are looking into the case to see if the incidents are related.
According to CNN, the first shooting took place at 12:30 a.m. MST at the “Youth with a Mission” training center in Arvada, a northern suburb of Denver. A man with a beard, dark jacket, glasses and skullcap entered the center and opened fire after a staff member appeared to talk to him about housing for the night.
The gunman killed two staff members and injured two more. Tiffany Johnson, 26, and Philip Crouse, 24 died shortly after the incident. Dan Griebenow was in critical condition with a bullet in his neck and Charlie Blanch suffered a shot to his legs.
After hearing of the attack that occurred just an hour’s drive north, New Life Church in Colorado Springs, added additional security members to ensure the protection of its members. However, shortly after 1 p.m., a gunman dressed in black, shot worshippers in the parking lot of the church killing one and injuring four before a security guard shot and killed the gunman. Lt. Skip Arms told CNN that she “saved this tragedy from becoming a lot worse than it is.”
The security guards work at the church on a volunteer basis and some of them are armed. The church’s staff ensured that only those licensed to carry weapons are armed.
Those killed were identified as Stephanie Works, 18, and Rachael Works, 16. Their father, David Works, 51, was listed in fair condition on Monday.
"Our concern is for our family that lost two teenage daughters. Our hearts are grieving this morning for them," said Senior Pastor Brady Boyd in a news conference this morning. "Our prayers are with them."
The family had been involved in the parish for a year and a half.
Pastor Boyd also told reporters that the gunman did not have ties to the church and that it was simply a random attack with the “intention of hurting people.”
“Our hearts go out to the family of this young man,” Pastor Boyd said. “We are praying for him and his family.”
In a statement released Monday, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver also offered his prayers for the community:
“The violence over the weekend against young missionaries in Arvada and against worshippers at New Life Church in Colorado Springs would be heart-rending in any season, but it is especially bitter during this time of preparation for Christmas, the birthday of the Prince of Peace.”
“Along with the whole Catholic community in Colorado, I pray that God will heal the suffering inflicted by these terrible events, and sustain the hope and faith of the people at New Life Church, Youth with a Mission and Faith Bible Chapel. For those struggling personally with this sorrow, may God penetrate and redeem even this tragedy with the peace of Christmas and Christ's promise of eternal life.”