Kimberly Munley: Heroine of Fort Hood
"I live a good life....a hard one, but I go to sleep peacefully @ night knowing that I may have made a difference in someone's life." -- Kimberly Munley
The killing spree of Nidal Malik Hasan at Fort Hood on November 5th shocked the entire United States: he killed 13 people and wounded 30 others, with the impact being magnified due to the location, with both the majority of the victims and the perpetrator being members of the US Army [interesting to contrast the far smaller degree of coverage of the Binghamton, New York shootings in April - more people were killed, but there, both victims and the perpetrator were mostly immigrants]. The issue of Hasan's motives may never be resolved, but what we're interested in here is Kimberly Munley, the military police officer credited with bringing down Hasan. As we'll see, there's some doubt about this, but it's fair to say she's become the highest-profile real-life action heroine in the US or quite some time.
Kimberley Munley with country star Dierks Bentley
The 34-year old mother of two was washing her patrol car when she got word of Hasan's actions, and went to the scene, which she described as "confusing and chaotic". "As soon as I got out of my vehicle and ran up the hill was when things got pretty bad," she said. People pointed her to a corner where they believe Hasan to be located, and Munley ran forward, turned the corner and fired twice. Said Chuck Medley, director of emergency services at the facility, "[Hasan] immediately spun around and charged her. She fired a couple more rounds and fell back, continuing to fire... She struck him a couple times in the upper torso and he went down." Another police officer, Senior Sergeant Mark Todd, arrived seconds later, also shooting Hasan, then kicking his gun away and handcuffing him.
Munley herself was hit by three bullets, twice in the legs and once in the wrist, and described how the first shot felt like "a muscle being torn out of my leg". She underwent two operations, one to repair a severed artery, but is expected to make a full recovery. A former soldier, and aslo married to one, she became a member of Fort Hood's civilian police department. Medley said, "She has some special qualifications. She's a firearms instructor. She's a member of our SWAT team...a weapons and marksman expert." Before relocating to Texas, Munley spent about five years as a cop in North Carolina where she forged a reputation as a no-nonsense officer, despite her small build (5'4", 120 lbs).
Said one friend, "I’d like to say I’m surprised, but I’m really not. She was born and bred to be a police officer. If you were ever to be in a fight, she’d be the first person to stand up next to you and back you up. She’s a tough cookie." Wrightsville Beach Police Investigator Shaun Appler said Munley saved him from an assailant. When Munley arrived, Appler had been tackled to the ground and was struggling to hold onto his gun. "She actually launched on the back of this guy and together we were able to subdue him... From that point on, I've called her Mighty Mouse. She was never afraid to get in the middle of things."
Munley talks to Defense Secretary Robert Gates
There has been some question raised as to whether Munley or Todd actually fired the shots which brought down Hasan, with an anonymous witness telling the New York Times that Hasan was not shot by Munley, had turned his back on her and was reloading when Todd came around another corner and shot him. This contradicts earlier reports, such as when Fort Hood's commander, Lt. Gen. Bob Cone, was asked on CNN whether Munley's shots brought down the assailant and stopped him from shooting. His reply was unequivocal: "That's correct. The critical factor here was her quick response to the situation... It was an amazing and an aggressive performance by this police officer."
Of course, there have been cases where heroines have had their deeds exaggerated for one reason or another - Jessica Lynch is the most obvious example. Here, the irony of a Muslim "terrorist" being taken down by a member of the inferior sex may just have been too delicious to ignore. We'll have to wait for the full results and ballistic analysis to find out who shot who and when However, to some extent, it's not really that important. She was certainly the first to engage with Hasan, and she didn't have to do that. Munley could easily have held the perimeter, and waited for backup: that would have been the safest option. But instead, she put herself in the line of fire, and paid the price for that decision. Whatever may turn out to be the facts, Munley's bravery and self-discipline can certainly not be questioned.
ABC News, November 6, 2009
NY Daily News November 6, 2009
CNN, November 6, 2009
Guardian, November 11, 2009
Guardian, November 12, 2009
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