AURORA, Colo. (AP) — A man crashed his car outside a Colorado church and opened fire on people who had come to his aid, fatally wounding the mother of the church's pastor before an off-duty officer attending service shot him dead.
The pastor of Destiny Center Church, Delono Straham, said the woman killed Sunday was his mother, Josephine Echols, a nurse from Flint, Mich., who most recently had been working with dialysis patients at a local hospital. She had gone outside to see if anyone needed medical attention.
Straham said the car crashed as service was winding down at the church in Aurora and a staffer ran out to see if the driver needed help. He said the driver pulled a gun on the worker but it jammed.
Straham said the gunman was able to fix the gun, then he moved toward the church and shot Straham’s mother near the entrance. She died at a hospital.
“We're not sure if she diverted his attention and that's why he shot her,” Straham said Monday at the church.
Straham said the gunman went to another entrance and started to enter the church and was shot by Straham’s cousin, an off-duty Denver police officer who was attending the service. Aurora police spokesman Frank Fania declined to release the off-duty officer's name.
Denver police spokes-man Sonny Jackson said the officer has declined all media requests for an interview.
Straham said he doesn't know of any connection between the gunman and the small church which is tucked away in an office park. The congregation is predominantly African American, as was the gunman, who appeared to be no older than 25, Straham said. Police said the gunman did not appear to be targeting the congregation.
Friends and family described Echols as the mother of the church who helped keep children in line and offered spiritual support to the adults.
“She is a powerful spiritual woman. She loves everybody, talks to everybody. She has a good word about everybody,” said friend Venita Johnson.
Echol's daughter, Cynthia Tolbert, said her mother had always been available to volunteer.