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California church responds to Colorado Springs gunman's blog, video

By: Chhun Sun
November 4, 2015 Updated: November 4, 2015 at 5:22 pm
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photo - 33-year-old Noah Harpham
33-year-old Noah Harpham 

A California church whose pastor and religion were blasted in a blog post by a 33-year-old man who would two days later kill three people, expressed shock, anger and grievance about the fatal Saturday morning shooting spree in downtown Colorado Springs.

In a statement released on its website Tuesday, Bethel church said it felt "unusual" to be thrown into a national conversation about what led Noah Harpham to commit his half-mile-long rampage - which ended when he died in a shootout with Colorado Springs police in a Wendy's parking lot.

Two days before Saturday's shooting, Harpham posted a 1-minute YouTube video.

In it, he states that he sent his father, Thomas Harpham, a critique of a sermon by non-denominational Christian pastor Bill Johnson, who teaches the 8,000 members of Bethel church to believe in "supernatural revival." In the video, Harpham appears agitated because he hasn't heard from his father.

"I've been waiting, waiting and waiting," he says in the video. He does not make any threats or mention committing any acts of violence.

Harpham published the blog entry Thursday titled, "Is my Dad in a Cult, and even worse is it Satanic?"

In the post, he calls Johnson's followers "cowards" and writes, in all caps, "HE PLAYS YOU FOR AN IGNORANT FOOL TO YOUR FACE BECAUSE HE CAN AND YOU ARE. HIS INTENTION IS TO DESTROY THE CORRECT AND SACRED NATURAL REVULSION IN YOU BUT ITS JUST A SCRIPT IN THE CHURCH AT THIS POINT."

In its statement, Bethel said Thomas Harpham and his wife Rachel are "an active and valued part of our church family" since they attended the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry for varying times between 2011 and 2014.

"As for Noah, we didn't know him," the church wrote. "He had visited Redding at least once in February of 2014 to celebrate his father's 50th birthday. A few of our team met Noah on that occasion but had no continuing relationship. We are unaware if he had any grievances during or after that visit. We don't know if he ever attended church, as it is a large congregation with several meetings a weekend, and we have no recollection of his attendance."

The church said it has been in contact with Noah Harpham's father, who is "devastated" by the shooting that left three people dead: Jennifer Vasquez, 42, Andrew Myers, 35, and Christy Galella, 34. Vasquez and Galella were fatally shot outside the Platte House, a sober living home for women, and Myers, an Iraq War veteran, was riding his bicycle in the neighborhood when he was gunned down.

"Like any parent whose child commits a serious crime or hurts people, Thomas is dismayed by the behavior of his adult son and grieved by his death," Bethel wrote in a statement.

The church says it is in "uncharted waters" after being linked to Saturday's deadly shooting.

Critics say Johnson and his church - part of a branch of Pentecostalism - promote teachings far beyond the boundaries of mainstream Christianity, according to the Associated Press.

"We often use the term 'supernatural' to describe God's active involvement in our lives," the church said in the statement. "We believe God can heal supernaturally, but we also deeply value and access medical professionals, who have dedicated themselves to helping others and alleviating suffering."

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