COLORADO SPRINGS - As police in Colorado determined that two deadly church shootings over the weekend were committed by the same man, the church security guard who shot him was hailed as a hero who might have prevented a far greater death toll.
Five people were killed, including the gunman, identified as Matthew Murray, 24, of Englewood, who was shot by a volunteer security guard at the second incident, at New Life Church in Colorado Springs.
The guard -- former Minneapolis police officer Jeanne Assam -- said Monday that she prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide her, and that her hands never shook.
"It seemed like it was me, the gunman and God," she said.
New Life Pastor Brady Boyd called Assam, who is normally his personal security guard, a "hero" whose actions averted further bloodshed.
"There could have been a great loss of life ... and she probably saved over 100 lives," he said.
Assam, a church member, said she took cover as Murray opened fire at New Life, a 14,000-member evangelical megachurch, about 1 p.m. Sunday, while hundreds of worshipers were leaving. She said she leaped up and identified herself, and when Murray did not respond, fired.
Assam, who moved to Colorado in 2000 after being fired from the Minneapolis police department in the late 1990s, said she had been on the third day of a three-day fast, praying to God to provide direction for her life. "I knew I was given the assignment to end this," she said. "I give the credit to God."
Though the shooter had more firepower -- Assam had a handgun, while Murray wielded a high-powered rifle -- God kept her safe, she said.
Before she went to church, Assam read on the Internet about the shootings earlier at the Youth With a Mission Center in the Denver suburb of Arvada. There, two people were killed, including Tiffany Johnson of Chisholm, Minn. Two, including Charles Blanch, 22, of Burnsville, were wounded.
She prayed for the safety of her own church family. Hours later, she confronted Murray.
Officials said they were investigating whether her shot killed Murray or whether it might have been a self-inflicted wound.
Sgt. Jeff Jensen of the Colorado Springs Police Department, said weapons recovered allowed for a positive ballistics match with rounds fired in Arvada. Jensen said two assault rifles and three handguns were recovered, as was a backpack with 1,000 rounds of ammunition.
Authorities also searched the Murray house in Englewood for guns, ammunition and computers. Murray's father, Ronald Murray, is chief executive of the Rocky Mountain Multiple Sclerosis Center.
Police said Murray attended a house-based computer school. A neighbor, Cody Askeland, 19, said Murray and his brother, Christopher, 21, a student at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., were both home-schooled, and he described the family as "very, very religious."
Colorado Springs police said the "common denominator in both locations" was Youth With a Mission. The training center maintains an office at the 10,000-member church.
"It appears that the suspect had been kicked out of the program three years prior and during the past few weeks had sent different forms of hate mail to the program and/or its director," police said.
Murray's relatives said they were grief-stricken and baffled. "Our family cannot express the magnitude of our grief for the victims and families of this tragedy. On our behalf of our family, and our son, we ask for forgiveness," they said in a statement read by the gunman's uncle, Phil Abeyta, who fought back tears.
The training center said health problems kept Murray from finishing the program. It did not elaborate. "The program directors felt that issues with his health made it inappropriate for him to" finish, it said.
'A quick thinker'
Jennifer Assam said she was glad her twin sister, Jeanne, was at the church. "She takes protecting people very seriously. She's a quick thinker and a good shot," Assam said from her home in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Jeanne Assam grew up in Sioux Falls with a five sisters and a brother and moved to the Twin Cities, where she majored in criminal justice at Hamline University in St. Paul. She was a Minneapolis police officer for several years.
Lt. Robert Kroll, vice president of the Minneapolis Police Union, said Assam was fired in the late 1990s over "truthfulness issues." In an internal investigation, Assam had denied she used derogatory language in an encounter with a citizen in the late 1990s, but a videotape proved differently, Kroll said.
Assam appealed and the firing was upheld by an arbitrator. Because police personnel files were not available late Monday, Minneapolis Police Department spokesman Jesse Garcia said he could not provide details.
Staff writers Courtney Blanchard and Joy Powell, Associated Press, Scripps Howard News Service and the Colorado Springs Gazette contributed to this report.