COLORADO SPRINGS (Reuters) - Police in Colorado on Monday were looking into possible links between shootings at an evangelical Christian church and a missionary training center over the weekend that left four victims and a gunman dead.
A man dressed in black, wearing combat boots and holding an assault rifle and at least one handgun, opened fire in the parking lot of the vast New Life church in Colorado Springs after Sunday services, killing one person on the spot and wounding others. A second person died later, police said.
A female security guard, who was part of a beefed up security detail in response to the earlier shooting at the missionary center, shot and killed the gunman.
Colorado Springs police said sisters Stephanie Works, 18, and Rachael works, 16, were killed. Their father, David Works, 51, was hospitalized in fair condition.
The security guard, a volunteer, saved many lives, New Life senior pastor Brady Boyd told a televised news conference on Monday. “She’s a real hero,” he said.
Police did not identify the gunman, who Brady said was not a member of the church. There were about 7,000 people in the building when the shooting erupted.
In an incident about 12 hours earlier and 70 miles away, a man entered a Christian missionary training center in the Denver suburb of Arvada and killed two young missionaries with a handgun shortly after midnight, police said.
The Arvada gunman, also dressed in dark clothing, fled on foot in the snow.
The attacks — both at Christian religious buildings on a Sunday shortly before Christmas — caused shock and dismay.
They came just four days after a 19-year-old man killed eight people and then himself with an assault rifle at a busy shopping mall in Omaha, Nebraska.
Police in the two Colorado cities were sharing information but there was no indication of the motive in either case.
“We have not been able to identify a motive as of yet,” Colorado Springs police spokesman Skip Arms told CNN.
Police said they were investigating a possible connection between the attacks. “There is that possibility,” Arms said.
A spokesman for the Arvada missionary group said it had an office on the Colorado Springs campus of the New Life church.
Local media reported Arvada police helped execute a search warrant with Colorado Springs police at an address in another suburb of Denver.
Myers said police had found several suspicious devices at the New Life church, but gave no details.
Colorado Springs is a focal point of evangelical activity in the United States. New Life is a leading “megachurch” with more than 10,000 members which shot to national prominence last year when its founding pastor Ted Haggard was forced to step down in the face of an embarrassing gay sex scandal.
Pastor Boyd pointedly said the church had a history “of surviving trauma.”
In the Arvada shooting, a young man came to the door of the Youth With a Mission dormitory asking for a place to stay, the group said in a statement.
When he was told he could not be accommodated, he opened fire, killing two youth staffers and wounding two who had been cleaning up after a Christmas party.
The mission is an interdenominational Christian organization that trains young people to work as missionaries.
(Additional reporting by Ed Stoddard in Dallas)
Writing by John O'Callaghan; Editing by Vicki Allen