By reason of the many calls I have received, graciously and lovingly expressing concern for me in the aftermath of the widely publicized, tragic event that occurred in Colorado Springs, Colo., last Sunday, Dec. 9, I have been asked to offer this report.
First, let me address the most basic facts; information I offer only because having had several phone calls, along with recurring questions, I believe answers the most common ones: Where was I? What happened? Was I in danger?
- The arrival of the gunman was at about 1:00 p.m., 20-25 minutes after the conclusion of the 11:00 service, at which, as at 9:00 a.m, I was the speaker.
- The gunman’s arrival was after more than 85 percent of the approximately 4,500 in the second service had left the church parking lot—obviously, the first of many providences of God’s grace, reducing the exposure of thousands to what took place.
- I was in the pastor’s office, having a light lunch before leaving for the airport, when his assistant and her husband burst into the office, urgently announcing that a gunman was in the building, shooting in the hallways. The office was a relatively secure situation, a floor above the hallways, in an area accessed only by a coded door. However, we could hear gunfire.
- Within the next 30 seconds we could hear gunfire and 2-3 minutes later were advised it was the final exchange; the final shots being fired by a security guard, resulting in the instant felling of the shooter. The guard had warned the gunman to put down his weapon—only to have him continue random firing, while reaching for a smoke grenade attached to his belt.
- Over the next 10 minutes we received word, that upon arriving in the parking lot and exiting his car with an automatic rifle in hand, the gunman immediately began spraying bullets into the cars everywhere. Tragically, this is when the two teenage girls were struck, one dying in moments, the other at the hospital later. Their father was also hit, but not fatally—the prospects of his recovery being described as excellent. (His wife, the girls’ mother, was also with them, but was not hit. You can imagine the deep emotional concern which all feel for this bereaved couple.)
- Two other casualties were realized, as the result of the gunman’s entrance into the hallways where he fired on the relatively few remaining there—most were able to hide in doorways or behind pillars. However, one person was shot in the shoulder and another in the arm. I am informed that both of these are in good condition and recovering well. Again, the Lord’s grace is evident.
Having given these facts, let me conclude with these remarks:
My presence was, of course, by reason of invitation from New Life’s new senior pastor, Brady Boyd—a leader I’ve developed a friendship with over recent years. At age 40, and with a proven pastoral leadership record in both the Amarillo and Dallas areas, Brady was asked last July to take the pastorate formerly held by Ted Haggard. As Brady has regarded me as a mentor and one to whom, with four or five other leaders, he holds himself accountable, he was very hopeful I could be his pulpit guest before his first six months was completed. This explains why I happened to be present on the occasion of the shocking events last Sunday.
Having been there, let me affirm two things:
- The miraculous intervention of God was monumentally apparent. The grace of God’s providence in the man’s being put down early in the foray most certainly saved scores of lives. The police said he had over 500 rounds of ammunition on his body and was set for a slaughter.
- The pragmatic wisdom and preparation of the church’s security force is a lesson for us all. They, having heard of the event in Arvada, Colo., earlier in the day, and only 75 miles north, prompted their special attentiveness—not because they had any reason to expect attack, but simply because a part of their pastoral style is to take every precaution, at all points, to protect those on their campus in any regard—including the least expected, an attack such as occurred.
Thank you, again, for all who have indicated their gratitude to God upon hearing I was not harmed on this tragic occasion.
Please continue to pray for New Life Church and the pastoral staff, as well as for the whole congregation. May God’s mercies and comfort attend them—especially at this very tender Christmas season.