Former Minn. officer 'saved lives' during Colo. church rampage
By Electa Draper
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Amid deafening cracks of gunfire, smoke-spewing canisters and the flight of thousands of New Life Church members, Jeanne Assam said God was with her when she shot the gunman and helped her prevent more lives from being lost.
"I saw him, it seemed like the halls cleared out, and I saw him coming through the doors, and I took cover. And I waited for him to get closer. And I came out of cover. And I identified myself. And I engaged him and I took him down," the 42-year-old volunteer church security guard and former law officer said Monday at a news conference in the Colorado Springs police station. "I didn't think it was my sole responsibility. I didn't think about this. It was — it seemed like it was me, the gunman and God."
Assam, a member of New Life for only a few months, admitted she had been without sleep since Sunday's midday shootings at Colorado's largest church.
The episode ended the lives of two teen sisters and the gunman, 24-year- old Matthew J. Murray, and left two injured.
"I give the credit to God, and I mean that. I say that very humbly. God was with me, and the whole time I was behind cover — this has gotta be God — because of the firepower he had versus what I had was God," Assam said. "And I did not run away. I did not think for a minute to run away. I just knew that I was given the assignment to end this before it got too, too much worse. I just prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide me. I just said, 'Holy Spirit, be with me.' My hands weren't even shaking."
Police declined to confirm Monday whether Assam's weapon, which she reportedly emptied in the exchange, inflicted Murray's fatal wound or whether the wound was self-inflicted.
Police also wouldn't describe how close Assam had been to Murray or exactly where they were in New Life's long hallway.
The church's senior pastor, Brady Boyd, said Assam was a real hero to him and to the whole church. He said she acted as his personal bodyguard.
"We will be holding a funeral for two very precious young women who were shot and killed on our campus," Brady said. "Three people are needlessly dead, but many more lives could have been lost."
Church spokesman Rob Brendle called Assam's clear-eyed, swift action the "good news" of that horrible day.
"It was scary," Assam said at the news conference. "It was God. God was with me. And I asked him to be with me and he never left my side."
Assam said she had drawn her weapon countless times in her prior law enforcement career, but she had never shot anyone until Sunday.
"Honestly, I was very focused. And it was chaotic. It was so loud. I'll never forget. The gunshots were so loud. I was just focused. I just knew I was not going to wait for him to do any further damage. I just knew. I just knew what I was going to do," Assam said.
Assam, single and without children, has been working three months for an educational ministry called Messengers International, run by John and Lisa Bevere in Colorado Springs.
Assam said she had just ended a three-day fast Sunday. During the fasting she prayed and asked God to help her decide what to do with her future and whether she should work again in law enforcement.
"I was weak," she said. "And where I was weak, God made me strong. He filled me and he guided me and he protected me and many other people. And I'm honored that God chose me. I'm very honored."
She said she loves law enforcement, but she still doesn't have her answer about her future.
"I'm going to continue to pray about it," Assam said.
Sgt. Jess Garcia III, the public-information officer for the Minneapolis Police Department, said Assam left his department in the late 1990s.
He said that during her time there she worked in north Minneapolis, the busiest crime area of the city, as well as in downtown Minneapolis.
"Some of the training she received here apparently helped her," Garcia said. "She did a great job."
He said he knew her during her time in Minneapolis.
"I thought she had a great personality and always got along with everybody," Garcia said.
Copyright 2007 The Denver Post
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