Two Minnesotans victims in Colorado shooting
Colorado Springs, Colo. — (AP) - Authorities searched a home in suburban Englewood early Monday, seeking any link between two deadly shooting sprees at Christian religious centers that left both communities stunned on a day of worship.
Five people, including a gunman, died in the attacks Sunday at a megachurch in Colorado Springs and at the Youth With a Mission missionary center in the Denver suburb of Arvada. Five others were wounded.
Police in Arvada said they believed the shootings - which occurred 12 hours and about 65 miles apart - were probably linked, though they had nothing conclusive to back up the theory.
Two Minnesotans were among the victims at the Youth With a Mission center. One was killed and the other was wounded.
Authorities say Tiffany Johnson, 26, of Chisholm, Minnesota, was shot and killed. Charles Blanch, 22, of Burnsville, was shot twice in the leg in the shooting. The severity of his wounds is not known.
Johnson loved working with children and wanted to see the world, said family friend Carla Macynski.
"Tiffany was a well-liked, easygoing 26-year-old. She was friendly, adventurous and a definite leader. She wanted to see the world," Macynski said as she choked back tears.
Johnson had traveled to Egypt, Libya and South Africa with the missionary group.
The person who answered the phone at the Johnson's Chisholm home Monday morning said the family was not yet ready to grant interviews.
A childhood friend, Elizabeth LaLonde, remembered Johnson as "the life of the party." She said some of Johnson's friends were judgmental about her decision to be a missionary.
"But she just felt that it was something she was supposed to do," LaLonde told the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. "Tiffany just had that personality where she could've done anything she wanted, and it's just horrible that somebody took that from her."
Johnson's high school American history teacher, Jean Collins, told the newspaper that Johnson was a well-liked student who "loved to laugh."
"We're just in shock here," Collins said. "She's just a lovely, lovely young woman."
The Rev. Jerry Strandquist, pastor at the Bloomington, Minn., church where Blanch worked as a janitor, told The Associated Press that he spoke on the phone with the young man Monday morning.
"He's still in shock," Strandquist said. "I think he's still trying to sort out what happened. He hasn't had a lot of time to think about it."
Strandquist said Blanch was walking on his own, and that his parents were bringing him home to Minnesota later Monday.
Blanch charmed everyone he knew with an offbeat sense of humor, Strandquist said, and his parents told Strandquist that Blanch's first concern upon waking up was whether Tiffany Johnson was alright.
The missionary center is on the grounds of the Faith Bible Chapel. Mimi Martin, who lives near the center, said she received a warning call at about 9 a.m. telling neighbors to keep their doors and windows locked.
"Why would anybody want to hurt those kids?" Martin said.
The violence began about 12:30 a.m. Sunday, when a man opened fire at the Youth With a Mission office after he had been denied a request to spend the night there. Witnesses told police that the gunman was a 20-year-old white male, wearing a dark jacket and skull cap, who had a handgun.
More than 12 hours later, at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, a gunman with a high-powered rifle entered the church's main foyer and opened fire, Colorado Springs Police Chief Richard Myers said.
One church member was killed, and another who was badly wounded died later Sunday at Penrose Community Hospital in Colorado Springs, said hospital spokeswoman Amy Sufak. Their identities were not released.
The gunman was killed by a member of the church's armed security staff before police arrived, Myers said. Officers also found several smoke-generating devices on the church campus; their intended purpose wasn't clear.
Darv Smith, director of a Youth With a Mission center in Boulder, said people ranging from their late teens to their 70s undergo a 12-week course that prepares them to be missionaries. He said the center trains about 300 people a year.
Paul Filidis, a Colorado Springs-based spokesman with Youth With a Mission, said staffers are usually former missionaries themselves and that the "mercy ministries" performed by trainees include orphanage work.
Youth With a Mission was started in 1960 and now has 1,100 locations with 16,000 full-time staff, Smith said. The Arvada center was founded in 1984.