Early that Sunday morning in December, police officers and security guards prepared for trouble at the sprawling New Life Church in the northern part of the city.
They had no specific threat and no idea exactly what to expect. But someone had opened fire hours earlier at a Christian missionary training center in Arvada, and they knew that organization had ties to New Life Church. They figured they should be on the lookout for anyone who seemed out of place or suspicious.
In the end, according to hundreds of pages of police reports made public on Wednesday, it wasn’t enough.
Matthew Murray, a loner with emotional problems, opened fire at New Life following the last service of the day – and just minutes after several police officers who had been at the campus to direct traffic knocked off for the day. In a matter of minutes, Murray killed two teenage sisters, shot their father and wounded two other people before he ended his life in the midst of a shootout with an armed church security guard.
Ran for cover
The Dec. 9 attack – which came about 13 hours after one at the Youth With A Mission center in Arvada – sparked bedlam at New Life Church as people ran for cover, smoke drifted down corridors and gunshots ricocheted off walls.
“There were so many people running, it was so chaotic,” one witness, usher Danny Thompson, told officers, according to one entry in the 455 pages of Colorado Springs police reports released after a series of requests from the media.
By then, more than six hours had passed since Colorado Springs officers were warned – starting in a 6 a.m. briefing – about the shooting in Arvada and a potential link to New Life Church.
In Arvada, a man later identified as Murray had opened fire, killing two and wounding two others before fleeing into the night.
By 8:35 a.m., at the church, Colorado Springs police officer Joe Wyatt, who had signed up to work traffic at the services, had talked with ushers who told him about the Arvada shooting. Wyatt went so far as to gather members of New Life’s security team – volunteers with police or military training – to talk about “what we would do in the event that there was an active gunman.” How they would get into formation. How they would move “quick and fast” and try to “take out the gunman in order to prevent any further damage.”