Heroic civilian police officer 'walked up and engaged' shooter

By Greg Jaffe and Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, November 6, 2009 6:50 PM

FORT HOOD, Tex. -- Sgt. Kimberly Munley, a civilian police officer on this Army post, was taking her vehicle to be serviced Thursday when the killing began.

Inside a soldier readiness facility, Maj. Nidal M. Hasan opened fire with two handguns, officials said. The gunfire was continuous, methodical and well-aimed. Unarmed soldiers who had been waiting for medical appointments scattered or dropped to the floor.

Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, shouted "Allahu Akhbar!" -- "God is great" in Arabic -- and emptied as many as six magazines during the rampage, according to Lt. Gen. Robert Cone and other Army officials.

Police officers began racing toward the scene. Among them was Munley, 34 years old and trained in tactics developed in the wake of the Columbine massacre. She arrived at 1:27 p.m., about four minutes after the first 911 call, as Hasan was fleeing the building, according to official accounts.

Munley rounded a corner and fired twice at Hasan. He fired back and charged at her, according to the accounts. Munley dropped to the ground in a protective position and continued firing.

At some point, Hasan began to fumble with his gun. "He's reloading," someone screamed, according to an officer on the scene.

In the exchange, Munley was struck in both thighs and one wrist. Hasan was shot four times, including at least once in the torso.

Hasan, 39, is hospitalized and remained on a ventilator Friday. He is suspected of acting alone in a rampage that killed 13 people and wounded at least 30 others. Investigators were searching for a motive Friday, but relatives said Hasan was unhappy about his upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.

By some accounts, other police officers might also have fired at Hasan. Army officials, however, said credit for stopping the gunman belonged primarily to Munley, who remained hospitalized Friday in stable condition.

Her actions quickly made her a hero to colleagues and strangers alike, as online discussion groups, police union officials and others praised her decisive role in felling the alleged gunman.

"She walked up and engaged him," Cone said. "It was an amazing and an aggressive performance by this police officer."

When the shooting stopped, Hasan was carried out and laid on the ground in front of the center with some of the other severely wounded soldiers.

Medics pulled off his camouflage top and began to treat his wounds, said Sgt. Andrew Hagerman, a military police soldier at the scene. Hasan and three other badly injured soldiers were flown by helicopter to Scott & White Hospital in nearby Temple, Tex.

Soldiers loaded other victims, several shot multiple times, into cars and sped them to Darnall Army Medical Center, about one mile away, witnesses said.

"It was very moving. They were carrying their wounded buddies into the emergency room," said Janet DiPalma, a nurse at the facility.

At Darnell, some troops ripped off their camouflage tops and fashioned T-shirts into makeshift bandages and tourniquets, said Sgt. Howard Appleby, who had gone to the hospital to meet with a psychiatrist for post traumatic stress and quickly found himself helping with the wounded.

"It was just like being back in Iraq," Appleby said.

Several of the wounded soldiers lay on their stretchers and prayed. Others asked for cell phones to call their spouses and let them know they were wounded.

"It was a lot of rounds fired," said Maj. Stephen Beckwith, a doctor at the facility. "It was hard to imagine one person did all that shooting."

Most of the wounded had been shot two or three times in the chest, stomach or neck, said Maj. Stephen Beckwith, a doctor at the facility, who like many others at the hospital said he had dealt with similar mass casualties while serving in Iraq.

"I was in Iraq for 15 months. When you are in Iraq you are prepared for this to happen," he said.

Cone called Munley "one of our most impressive young police officers," and said she responded to the shooting rampage just as she was trained to do.

"If you act aggressively to take out a shooter, you will have less fatalities," Cone said.

No one answered the door Friday at Munley's house, a brick home on a tidy block on the outskirts of Killeen, an area that is home primarily to current or former members of the military.

Neighbor Brooke Beato said Munley is passionate about her job, and she wasn't surprised to learn of her heroic actions.

"There should be a parade for her all the way to her front door," Beato said. "There could have been a lot more lives lost. It could have been someone else there first, someone not as well trained, not as brave."

Another resident, Amanda Maben, had a similar reaction. "She's a hero and she's my neighbor," she said.

Also Friday, more than a dozen Facebook groups popped up in support of Munley. "Sgt. Kimberly Munley: A Real American Hero!" had 560 members by late afternoon.

"She is in the hospital recovering from her wounds. We can all leave her messages of gratitude along with 'get well' wishes on this page. Let us keep her as well as all those involved in our prayers!" write the group's administrators.

Another group, "God Bless SGT Kimberly Munley," is aggregating information about the wounded Fort Hood officer -- and growing rapidly.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to SGT Kimberly Munley... I personaly feel that this brave and courageous Officer deservs the highest honor that can be bestowed on a civillan...God blees you SGT Kimberly Munley and best wishes for a full and speedy recovery..." wrote Mark Campbell on the group's wall.

According to a little-used Twitter account, Munley was a typically worried mother and a country music fan who strived to help others. "I live a good life... a hard one, but I got to sleep peacefully @ night knowing that I may have made a difference in someone's life," one entry reads.

A screen-grab suggests she has used the account only a few times; the last entry, on July 6th, reads: "Still recovering from a long night of work from Saturday!" She also described herself as "an OCD mom" in an earlier tweet, writing she was hopeful the H1N1 virus "stays FAR away from Jayden!!!"

Eggen reported from Washington. Staff writers Garance Franke-Ruta and Michael S. Rosenwald also contributed to this report.

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