Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Account of Jeanne Assam's Response to Matthew Murray

Early on Sunday morning, Matthew Murray, 24, the home-schooled son of devoutly Christian parents, had shot and killed two people at the Youth With a Mission training center in a Denver suburb. Twelve hours later, police say, he drove to Colorado Springs and started shooting in the parking lot of the New Life church before walking inside the church building as a service was letting out, shooting as he went.

He took two more lives at the church. He was in the building when Bourbannais (a member of New Life Church who is a Vietnam veteran) arrived.

“I ran and heard the gunfire and it was roaring like thunder,” Bourbannais told Meredith Vieira (TODAY co-host).

He saw a male security guard with his gun drawn, but the guard was not firing at the Murray.

“I said, ‘Gimme your handgun. I’ve been in combat. I’m going to take this guy out,’ ” he said, adding he repeated the request four or five times, but the guard would not hand him the weapon.

Bourbannais was behind a pillar at the time, deciding what to do next.

“The only thing I could think to do was walk out from the pillar so the gunman would see me,” he said. “He was a man in black, but he sure wasn’t Johnny Cash.

“So I yelled, ‘Coward!’ stood out, and our eyes met and he lifted his rifle, fired, and I took a few fragments – very minor – in my left forearm.”

Bourbannais stepped behind the pillar again and repeated his demand that the security guard give him a gun so he could take the shooter out. When he got no response, Bourbannais stepped out from behind the pillar to confront Murray again.

At that point, another security guard, 42-year-old Jeanne Assam, arrived with her gun drawn. Unlike the male guard, she was using hers.

“They were engaged in a firefight. He was firing. She was firing,” Bourbannais said. “And she was completely exposed. I was in Vietnam for 14 months in combat, and it’s the bravest thing I’ve ever witnessed. She kept yelling, ‘Surrender,’ and returned fire the complete time.”

Bourbannais walked parallel to her toward Murray as Assam shot him.

“As he slumped down and his head tilted, I said to her, ‘That’s the calmest, bravest thing I‘ve ever seen. How did you do it?’ “ he said. “She said ‘I was praying and asking the Holy Spirit the entire time to guide me.’ ”

Vieira asked Bourbannais if he realized that he could have been killed.

“I figured my chances were 30 percent,” he said, as calm as if he were describing a trip to the corner store.

“It’s the grace of God,” he said. “Like Jeanne, we’re both followers of Christ. I want to give God the glory, because I’m convinced He spared us that day.”

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