A lone gunman entered a Youth With A Mission training center in the Denver,
Colorado suburb of Arvada early Sunday morning, opening fire and hitting
four members of the staff. All were taken to local hospitals and two later
died of their injuries.
The two wounded remain in serious condition. The gunman has not yet been
apprehended, and police are continuing their search for him.
The deceased have been identified as Tiffany Johnson, 26, from Minnesota,
and Philip Crouse, 24, from Alaska. Both served as staff members at the
Youth With A Mission Arvada campus. The third victim, Dan Griebenow, 24, has
a bullet in his neck and is listed in critical but stable condition. The
fourth victim Charlie Blanch, 22, suffered gunshot wounds to his legs.
Peter Warren, the Director of Youth with a Mission Denver says they had just
finished a Christmas banquet when the suspect arrived and asked a
22-year-old woman from Minnesota if he could be housed for the evening. When
she told him they could not house him, that's when, Warren says, the suspect
opened fire with an automatic handgun, hitting four people. Police say they
do not know whether the shooting was random or if there was a motive.
Warren says, "The young man - I don't know who he is; I don't think [the
victims] knew him - but he must be going through a lot personally in his own
life to do something like this. Our belief is that only God is the judge and
our place is to forgive and that's a difficult thing to do, but really, I
think it's the right thing to do," said Warren.
There are about 80 people living on the Arvada campus and they have been
transported to the group's mountain campus near Golden, Colorado where they
will stay while the murder investigation is processed at their residence.
Warren says they are trying to deal with this situation as best as they can.
"There's no blueprint for this," said Warren. "You know, we're just going to
be honest, we're going to pray with one another and cry with one another.
These kids were like our kids, you know. It's just such a tragedy, but who
knows what's going on in this young man's life."
Youth With A Mission (YWAM) is an international and interdenominational
Christian movement with operating locations in 171 nations. Launched in 1960
as a means for young people to get involved in short-term missionary
service, it now has over 16 000 staff working in 1180 centers and trains
over 25 000 people each year to be involved in the organization' s primary
goal - to know God and make Him known. YWAM is hugely varied in its
approach, operating such ministries as drop-in centers for street children
in South America; hospice care for AIDs victims in Africa; literacy and job
creation programs throughout Asia; and is well known for its quick response
and long-term commitment to global disasters, such as the 2006 tsunami.
YWAM International Chairman Lynn Green released this statement: "We feel a
deep sense of loss today and we grieve with the families and those who were
very close friends of the victims. Our surviving students and staff are
being well cared for and we have total confidence in those who are
responsible for the training program in Arvada to care for those who have
been subjected to this assault.
"Those who lost their lives had dedicated themselves to serve and we feel
the sorrow of their absence. Yet we take comfort from the assurance of
everlasting life for those who follow Christ in loving service to others.
"It is a great tragedy that our culture seems to produce so many deeply
troubled people who express their frustration in violence. We forgive the
assailant and we rededicate ourselves to serving young people in the hope
that we might bring healing to other needy youth."