AURORA -- Questions remain in the aftermath of a deadly shooting outside an Aurora church Sunday that left an elderly woman and the suspect dead.
On Monday night, about 100 family and friends came together to remember 67-year-old Josephine Echols, known as Mama Jo, at a candlelight vigil outside New Destiny Church where she died a day earlier.
Her son, DeLono Straham, is the church’s pastor.
On Sunday afternoon, an unidentified man shot Mama Jo five times just as church services were ending.
Her family says she died doing what she did her whole life—helping others.
“It was horrible. Screams. It was surreal,” says Straham.
When evil arrived outside the doors of New Destiny Church, one of its angels died, trying to help a man who ended up killing her.
“He comes flying down and hits, rams into a car,” says Tarell Martin, who was outside the church when he heard a car screeching and the impact of it hitting one car, which ricocheted off another car.
Martin went inside the church to get help.
“She was asked to come out and check and see if the gentleman was okay. From what I understand, he pulled the gun on the staff and just began to shoot,” says Straham.
Martin says he was the first one out. And he saw the man standing by a bus, hiding behind a bus.
“When he sees me, he starts walking toward his car, I didn’t know it was his car. Along with me and some of the other people, I think he was trying to guide us into the middle of the street and try to shoot us. Once we got into the street, that’s exactly what he did,” says Martin. “He pulled out the gun and started chasing us.”
Martin ran and the man fired at him. But the gun didn't work. He TRIPPED.
“When I fell to the ground I was trying to get up, he was already over the top of me with a gun to my head, and he started shooting again and no bullets came out,” he says.
That gave him enough time to hide behind a car.
Then, the bullets started raining, and hit Mama Jo.
That’s when an off-duty Denver policeman—also Mama Jo’s nephew—shot the suspect dead.
“Thank God for him because if it wasn’t for him there’s no telling what would have happened,” says Martin.
“He had just changed his schedule so he could bring his son to church. It’s very fortunate he was even carrying his revolver,” says Straham.
But it was too late for Mama Jo.
“I ran and checked on her. She had a bullet hole in her face and was bleeding all over here…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 Straham.
Martin says God saved him. He doesn’t know why he took Mama Jo. But knows she’s okay.
“She believed in God. And I thank God for that because I know where she is,” he says.
Straham says the suspect may be tied to a gang.
They have no clue who he is or why this happened. It appears to be random violence.
Mama Jo had worked as a registered nurse for 30 years--much of it in Michigan.
Then, she worked in dialysis for nine years at the Medical Center of Aurora.
On Saturday, the church says it will continue with its day of service to the elderly. It is a project Mama Jo was very excited about.
“She had called me Saturday at 6:00 in the morning saying, ‘We’re ready.’ I said, 'It's next Saturday. And I already told you, you can’t go. You can barely walk,'” laughs Straham.
They will clean up yards, rake leaves, and trim trees— all because Mama Jo would have wanted their work to help others, their ministry, to continue.AlertMe