On Nov. 5, 2009, an Army psychiatrist went on a bloody shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 people and wounding 43 others.
Fort Hood Police Sgts. Kimberly Munley and Mark Todd, Sr. each responded to the urgent call for help on that awful day, arriving separately at the chaotic scene, and soon finding themselves confronting and trading shots with the gunman.
Munley was the first to spot the attacker, who was shooting at unarmed soldiers, and began firing at him. The assailant, identified as Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, wounded Munley in the right index finger, stalked her and fired two shots that hit her leg, shattering her knee.
Todd had just rounded the corner of a building, saw the attack on Munley unfolding and yelled at the suspect in an attempt to draw his attention. Hasan immediately focused on Todd and the two began exchanging fire, with the policeman bringing him down in a matter of seconds, removing his weapons and handcuffing him. Hasan was left paralyzed, and has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.
Both civilian police officers are employed by the Department of Defense and are part of a force responsible for law enforcement and security services at Fort Hood. The two officers said they acted instinctively that fateful day, just doing their jobs and responding as they had been trained. But colleagues said their actions were heroic and saved countless lives in what is believed to be the largest mass shooting ever to occur on a U.S. military base.
“Both Munley and Todd placed themselves at risk to assist in a tragic incident. Had they not acted the way that they did, there would have been more loss of life. People went home to their families that night because of them,” said Chuck Medley, director of Emergency Management Services at Fort Hood.
Todd, 42, said he does not consider himself a hero. “I got there first. I answered a call for help. This is what I signed up to do, and when it happened, all of my training kicked in,” he said.
After subduing Hasan and making sure Munley and others were being cared for, Todd said he concentrated on securing witnesses, and documenting “the who, what, when and where’’ of what had happened. It wasn’t until hours later that he learned the full scope of what had occurred.
“I think about it and all the people at Fort Hood. You never expect it from a family member, because everyone here in uniform is considered family,” said Todd. “Some days are better than others when I think about what occurred, but I went home that night. That is what police officers strive for. I did my job.”
Todd, who is assigned to the K-9 unit at Fort Hood and volunteered for patrol duty that day, went back to work several days after the shooting. Munley remains on medical leave. She underwent a knee replacement operation in January and may not be able to work as a patrol officer again.
In a posting on her blog, Munley said she was lucky that she did not lose her leg, where a bullet hit an artery. But she said she “cannot complain one bit” because she feels she was given a second chance at life.
Munley, 34, a sector supervisor for patrol officers, was finishing paperwork near the end of her shift when she heard the call on her police radio. Because she was close by, she responded, even though she wasn’t initially dispatched, and quickly was face-to-face with the shooter.
Munley said support for her and for the police profession since the mass shootings has been “unbelievable.”
“At times, it can become overwhelming because police officers normally don’t make the news unless they have done something wrong,” she wrote on her blog. “So working in the world of law enforcement can be quite challenging and battering to one’s soul. But making a difference, whether it be so small or enormous, is such a satisfying feeling that is very hard to explain.”
Fort Hood Police Capt. Jerry Staton described Munley as “a good person and a damn good police officer.”
“She is a firecracker. She is energetic and has no fear,” he said. “When most people are running from a bullet, she is running toward it. That is the kind of business we are in.”
Cheryl Eliano, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Fort Hood Local 1920, said Todd and Munley showed great courage in the face of great danger.
“They took their duty to protect and defend to the heart,” she said. “They thought about others rather than themselves. That makes them heroes to me. The shooter wasn’t finished. We can never repay them enough for their bravery.”