Monday, November 16, 2009
When the shots rang out, Sgt. Kimberly Munley was on traffic detail.
This is hardly the kind of duty she found motivational. Her training and her experience made her an eminently overqualified traffic cop. Mainly, the wiry compact young police officer was prepared for whatever. At five foot three inches tall, she hardly dominates. But what she lacks in size, she balances out with attitude and heart. It is her life.
A mom with two daughters, juggling schedules and following orders come with the territory. She shows up on time and takes her assignment. A regular at Fort Hood, up until that moment, it was just an ordinary day.
Most of us experience violent confrontations from the comfort of an overstuffed chair or a reclining theater seat. We sip on something pleasant, maybe munch on handfuls from a bucket full of popcorn, and watch images on a screen. Sound effects add to the “experience.” We have climate control and comfortable seating. We feel a contrived sort of emotional connection; fears and starts, gasps and the instinct to take cover. The editors enhance the images with slow motion close-ups, replayed from several angles and surround-sound crashes and blasts. This week, a movie was released that portrays the end of the world. Every city, every landmark, every wonder of the world is digitally destroyed. “It’s almost like being there,” we like to say. But of course, we are not. When it’s over, we go out for a burger, fries and a shake.
Munley is a police officer with plenty street experience, a firearms instructor and an award-winning marksman. One night, while a working crime on the streets of Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina, Munley stopped a suspect along with Investigator Shaun Appler. The detainee shouted obscenities at the two officers and then charged Appler. Apparently, the man discounted the threat of the short, female officer standing beside her uniformed partner, and with reckless abandon tackled the larger man knocking him off his feet. His radio and flashlight flew up into the darkness. They rolled down a grassy embankment. Munley spotted the assailant reaching for Appler’s holster, which twisted around his waist onto his back. The attacker pulled loose the strap and grabbed for his pistol.
Appler remembers the scene in detail. Kimberly Munley leapt after the two wrestlers, flying down the hill and pouncing on his assailant. She slapped his hand loose from the pistol, ripped him off her partner by sheer strength, neutralized his assault and held him under her own drawn gun. In those moments of shock and terror and helplessness, Appler believed he would die – until he saw the flash of an airborne officer coming to his rescue. To this day, he claims that she saved his life. Since that night, he calls her “Mighty Mouse.” He’ll break out in the old theme song, “Here I come to save the day!” He’s not joking.
“She’s mentally and physically tough,” Appler said. “I’d rather have her by my side on patrol than anyone else.”
So last week, as Sgt. Kimberly Munley waved the traffic through outside the Soldier Readiness Processing Center at Fort Hood, and she heard the shots. Instinct from years of training and street experience sent her towards the door from where the pop-pop-pop came. She drew her weapon.
Major Dr. Nidal Malik Hasan had already wreaked havoc on a room crowded with troops waiting idly for their inoculations. He chased one of his victims out the door shouting and shooting, two hands each with a pistol firing as Kimberly ran full speed around the corner on a polished concrete floor. The marksman took her aim, shouted at the shooter, and pulled her trigger.
Malik turned from his target, and aimed his two guns directly at her. He fired. She fired back. He fired again. First her hand, then both legs. Three hits. But she kept charging and kept firing. She brought Malik down. The shooting stopped.
On her way to the hospital, she pulled out her cell phone. They controlled the bleeding. They used a bandage for her hand, and a tourniquet for one of her wounded legs.
She called a neighbor. “Could you pick up my little girl this afternoon? I got delayed.”
“Thank you so much.”
Copyright Kenneth E Kemp