God's Girl with a Gun
"I'm coming for EVERYONE soon and I WILL be armed to the @#%$ teeth and I WILL shoot to kill. ....God, I can't wait till I can kill you people. Feel no remorse, no sense of shame, I don't care if I live or die in the shoot-out. All I want to do is kill and injure as many of you ... as I can especially Christians who are to blame for most of the problems in the world."
-- Matthew Murray
"I saw him coming through the doors and I took cover. And I waited for him to get closer and came out of cover and identified myself and engaged him and took him down... God was with me and I asked him to be with me and he never left my side. I was very focused and it was chaotic. It was so loud. I'll never forget the gunshots. It was just so loud. I didn't think it was my sole responsibility. I didn't think about this. It seemed like it was me, the gunman and God"
-- Jeanne Assam
It was the stuff of legends; the psychopathic loner with a grudge versus the blonde, God-fearing ex-cop. For, just after 1pm on Sunday, December 9th, Michael Murray approached the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, with one thing on his mind: mass murder. Earlier in the day, he had already killed two staff members at a training center dormitory for young Christian missionaries in another Denver suburb, and he was now intent on increasing his tally. He was carrying 1,000 rounds of ammunition in a backpack, his vest had sleeves with additional magazines and he had a gun belt strapped to his leg.
Murray had previously been thrown out of missionary school, enrolled in a class at Colorado Christian University last year, and seems to have wavered for most of his life between loving religion and hating it, with equal intensity. His assault on the complex began with setting off smoke bombs near two entrances, and he then began firing an assault rifle in the parking lot, killing two teenage girls and injuring their father. Approaching the main entrance of the church, he fired through the doors, wounding Larry Bourbonnais, before making his way down the long hallway which leads towards the central area of the church, capable of holding up to ten thousand people. Only one woman stood between Murray and those located there: Jeanne Assam.
Assam was born in 1965 in South Dakota, one of seven children. Cousin Matt Swenson remembers her as a tomboy: "I remember a picture of her with a cowboy hat, a six-shooter and cowboy boots. She was a very focused person. Of her sisters, she's the one I'd want being a security guard. She knew how to shoot guns when she was a kid." She became a cop in Minneapolis in 1993, after graduating from a criminal-justice program at Hamline University in nearby St. Paul. However, she was fired after an incident on a bus - not for the incident itself, but because she lied during an internal affairs investigation.
It's not clear exactly when or where religion became the focus of her life. Her family was not particularly inclined that way, though her mother appears to have undergone some kind of conversion later in life, and tried to encourage her children to join her. Over the past year, Jeanne seemed to grow more deeply entrenched in the locak religious community around Colorado Springs; she worked in a call center which sold Christian books, CDs and videos, and also joined the security team at New Life, a group of volunteers, some of them armed, who helped protect the complex. This is what brought her face to face with Murray on that December afternoon.
Bourbonnais, a Vietnam veteran, said it was the bravest thing he had ever seen. "She just started walking toward the gunman firing the whole way. She was just yelling 'Surrender,' walking and shooting the whole time." This was in marked contrast to other male guards who, according to Bourbonnais, had their gun drawn but did not fire. After she dropped Murray, he asked Assam how she remained so calm and focused. She replied, "I was asking the Holy Spirit to guide me the entire time." An autopsy revealed that, while Assam did not inflict the fatal wound, she did hit the gunman three times, twice in the thigh and once in the wrist - Murray then shot himself in the head with a 9mm pistol. Without Assam's presence, one dreads to think how much higher the death-toll might have been...
As a side-note, what is it with mass killers and KMFDM? The Columbine killers, and the recent Finnish shooter both were fans, and the posting by Murray quoted at the top of the article ended with a verse from their song. I should mention that I'm a big fan too: so if I ever go berserk, between that and this site, the media will have their articles written for them. :-) Naturally, this is a story which has been used by both sides in the gun-control debate. The pro lobby have pointed out that Assam's presence likely prevented worse carnage, while those on the other side counter with the fact that all Murray's guns were obtained legally.
For the record, however, I have touched real guns exactly once in my life, when Chris got me a Valentine's Day session at a local shooting range. I have no problems leaving that count there. I am somewhat ambivalent on the whole Second Amendment thing; I tend to think we'd be better off if "the right to bear arms" applied only to weapons available when the Founding Fathers wrote the original document. Hey, Michael; feel free to go ahead on your killing-spree...with a muzzle-loading flintlock. If you get further than "one" before a mob of enraged locals tear you apart, I'll be quite impressed. However, it's far too late for that, and basically, the only defense against bad guys with guns is good guys with guns. Besides, if the Second Amendment goes down, can the First one be far behind?
Denver Post, December 10, 2007
Denver Post, December 11, 2007
9News.com, December 12, 2007
Denver Post, December 12, 2007
Denver Post, December 12, 2007
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