Gunman opens fire at church, kills pastor’s mother

AURORA, Colo. – Police in Aurora Monday were investigating why a gunman came to a church and opened fire.

The mother of church pastor was killed Sunday afternoon after a gunman shot her. It happened at the Destiny Center at 10686 East Bethany Drive around 3 p.m.

“I’m sad.  My heart is hurt, I’m devastated. My mom lost her life actually trying to help someone who took her life,” says Pastor DeLono Straham.

Josephine Echols, a registered nurse, was called outside of Destiny Church to check on a man who had just crashed his car in their parking lot.

“From what I understand, he pulled the gun on the staff and just began to shoot,” Straham says.

As bullets were flying, Straham immediately began to shelter the 50-60 members of his church.

“I looked back and saw the gunman just firing … don’t know if he was putting another clip in …  don’t know what he was doing … saw him randomly just shooting.”

He also saw his mother stretched out on the sidewalk.

“I ran and checked on her. She had a bullet hole in her face, she was bleeding all over here, doctors at the hospital say she was shot five times,” Straham says.

At the same time Straham’s cousin, an off duty Denver police officer, confronted the gunman as he entered the church, shooting and killing him. There is no doubt his action saved many lives.

“He’s very broken up, about not only his aunt, who he always called ‘mom,’ but he’s broken up that he had to take someone’s life,” the pastor says. “He always said, ‘I pray every day that I don’t have to use this revolver to take anybody’s life.’”

Investigators are trying to figure out what led the shooter to this church. Straham says no one recognized the gunman, and he had never attended the church.

Police have told them the suspect had gang ties.

“We’re just devastated by it but she was a great woman, her legacy will carry on.”

Josephine Echols died at Aurora South Medical Center, the same hospital she spent the past 9 years working as a nurse.

“She lived to help people. That’s where I learned what I do,” Straham says.

The pastor is drawing on the strength and the faith his mom always taught him to get through this difficult time.

“We’re going to keep things going in her name. We’re not going to quit, we’re here for the community.”