Lessons learned from the horrific Virginia Tech shootings in 2007 are credited with averting an even bigger massacre at Fort Hood, Texas, Thursday afternoon when police officer Kimberly Munley confronted the gunman without waiting for backup and took him down with four shots.
News reports in the aftermath of the shootings at Virginia Tech, where 32 died, suggested the first responders' decision to be careful and wait for backup may have cost lives as that gunman moved unchecked from classroom to classroom while law enforcement massed outside. The state review panel's report, though, said the police responded quickly and used “appropriate active shooter procedures.” [Editor’s note: The original version misrepresented the review findings.]
The lessons of Virginia Tech found their way to Fort Hood's Special Reaction Team, which had practiced an entirely new protocol for at least a year before Thursday afternoon's rampage here, in which 13 were killed and at least 28 wounded.
"The lesson from Virginia Tech was, don't wait for backup but move to the target and eliminate the shooter," says Chuck Medley, chief of Fort Hood's emergency services. "It requires courage and it requires skill."
The task on Thursday fell to the petite Ms. Munley, a civilian police officer employed by the Army at Fort Hood. Munley had taken part in intensive active-shooter training during the past year.
One of the first responders, she exited her car and entered the building as shots rang out. She rounded a corner, identified the shooter, and fired four times. He returned fire and hit her at least twice in the legs and once in the arm. She underwent surgery Friday but is said to be in good condition. It's unclear how many other responders were present and firing, but Munley's shots are believed to be the ones that stopped the alleged gunman, Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan.
"She walked up and engaged him," said Fort Hood commander Lt. Gen. Bob Cone, according to an Associated Press report. Her training taught her that "if you act aggressively to take out a shooter, you will have less fatalities," he said.
Munley is in stable condition and "very upbeat," says Medley. "I've never seen a person with that kind of injury so upbeat, in fact."
"It was an amazing and aggressive performance by this police officer," said Cone.
Munley, who has a 3-year-old daughter, is married to Staff Sgt. Matthew Munley, who has done two tours in Iraq and was recently transferred to Fort Bragg, N.C., according to news reports. On what appears to be her Twitter page (the user is one Kim Munley from Killeen, Texas), the biography reads: "I live a good life ... a hard one, but I go to sleep peacefully at night knowing that I may have made a difference in someone's life."
Army officials at the Pentagon Friday held a video teleconference with officials at Virginia Tech to get advice on how to deal with the aftermath of a massacre.
At the base, a moment of silence was observed Friday afternoon, and many people's thoughts were on the fallen and injured in a place that soldiers said is their "home" away from war. Many hailed Munley's role in saving "countless lives" by stopping a shooter who, according to one soldier, "was picking people off like fish in a barrel" inside the building.
"She's an exceptional individual," Medley says. "Fort Hood is fortunate to have an officer of that caliber."
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