COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The man who killed three people during a shooting rampage on the streets of Colorado Springs gave no indication he was planning violence in a strange video he posted online two days earlier.
Noah Harpham, 33, instead expressed displeasure with his father, saying he had fallen under the sway of a preacher whose controversial church emphasizes signs of God’s miracles and supernatural healing. Harpham can be seen pacing around his apartment in the minute-long video.
Authorities identified Harpham as the gunman on Monday, but a motive for the downtown shootings, which happened Saturday in broad daylight, remained unknown. Adding to the list unanswered questions was Harpham’s video, in which he shows no weapons and makes no threats.
Witnesses said Harpham had a rifle in one hand and a revolver in the other when he shot and killed a bicyclist. He then calmly walked less than a mile and gunned down two women on the porch of a sobriety house. Harpham then died in a shootout with police.
Authorities identified the victims as Andrew Alan Myers, 35; Jennifer Michelle Vasquez, 42; and Christina Rose Baccus-Gallela, 34. Baccus-Galella was studying cosmetology and working as a telemarketer as she recovered from an addition to painkillers, her sister Megan Williams said. Vasquez had two daughters and was “always fun to be around,” said Marcie Maes, who was married to Vasquez’s cousin.
Harpham struggled with alcoholism, which his mother, Heather Kopp, chronicled extensively in her book “Sober Mercies: How Love Caught Up With a Christian Drunk.” But police have not said whether there was any link between his substance abuse problems and the fact that two of his victims were women who themselves were recovering from addiction.
A fuller picture of Harpham emerged in details from his mother’s book, in which she described him as “introverted and moody,” turning to drugs and alcohol around the time he gave up on college. Kopp said Harpham, who was living in Eugene, Oregon, at the time, “struggled just to live and keep a job.” His family was so worried about him that they staged a “mini intervention,” but their efforts failed.
He completed a three-month program in California but drank on his first night out, said Kopp, a freelance writer living in New York.
“Noah loved and hated all of us in equal measure,” she wrote. “In Noah’s mind, he was the loser child, the burnt piece of toast in the bunch.”
During a visit to his family’s Colorado Springs home years ago, he drank too much, became angry and “exploded,” Kopp said. His mood had become “so toxic it was scary.”
His mother and stepfather urged Harpham to move in with them. In Colorado Springs, she said, he found work as an insurance agent and met with an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor regularly.
His mother wrote that he seemed to improve under their roof and eventually moved into his own place. She said he began helping other addicts.
In the video posted Thursday, Harpham questioned what he called his father’s involvement with the Rev. Bill Johnson and the Bethel Church in Redding, California. The church is part of a branch of Pentecostalism that has come under criticism from conservative Christians who say Johnson promotes teachings far beyond the boundaries of mainstream Christianity.
Efforts to reach Harpham’s father, Thomas, and officials with the Bethel Church by telephone Monday weren’t successful.
Kopp and other relatives did not return messages seeking comment. Benjamin Broadbent, lead minister of the First Congregational Church of Colorado Springs, released a statement he said was provided by Harpham’s family, saying they were shocked and saddened and requesting privacy.