COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) – A bicyclist who begged for his life as a gunman shot and killed him on a street in Colorado Springs was an Army veteran who survived three tours of duty in Iraq, his former wife said Tuesday.
Tina Myers recalled her former husband, Andrew Alan Myers, 35, as a decorated military veteran and a caring father to their two young sons. He was the first of three victims: A gunman shot him in broad daylight Saturday and then calmly walked less than a mile to a sober living home where he killed two women on the porch.
The shooter, Noah Harpham, 33, then died in a gunbattle with police.
Myers’ wife said police told her that the shooting was apparently random and that neither her ex-husband nor the other two victims knew their killer. Neighbors watched in horror as the shooter gunned down Myers while he cycled down the quiet street, and they said he pleaded with Harpham not to shoot.
“He spent three tours of duty in Iraq and came out of that all right, and then came home only to be shot by someone he didn’t even know,” said Myers’ grandfather, Samuel Myers.
A motive for the attack remained unknown Tuesday. Harpham gave no indication he was planning violence in a strange video he posted online two days earlier.
He 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 but does not show weapons or make threats.
Authorities identified the other victims as 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.
His mother described him as “introverted and moody” in her book, 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.
– By Sadie Gurman, AP Writer
Associated Press writer P. Solomon Banda in Colorado Springs and researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.
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