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Hero in 2007 Colorado church shooting provides insight on recent mass shootings across the US

Posted at 7:01 PM, Nov 08, 2018

DENVER -- It was a snow-covered Sunday morning on December 9, 2007 in Colorado Springs as church services were just wrapping up inside the New Life Church. 

Outside, a 24-year-old was heavily armed and began shooting, setting his sights on the inside of the building.

It’s been nearly 11 years since the gunman killed two and injured three others in a mass shooting that could have been much worse.

"I saw a sad, confused individual who forced me to end his life," said Jeanne Assam during an interview with Contact7 Chief Investigative Reporter Tony Kovaleski.

Assam, speaking out now in the wake of several recent mass shootings across the country, offered details about what happened back in 2007 and her perspective on what has happened since. 

"I just had no fear, I was very comfortable," Assam said. "It was a big responsibility I was feeling and I can’t let these people down. I’ve got to kill this guy before he kills me and kills all these people."

The former Minneapolis police officer was volunteering on the security team at New Life Church the day the gunman took aim on the church community. 

She was armed with a handgun, a Beretta 9mm with 16 rounds. The gunman walked into the place of worship with an assault rifle and a significant number of rounds. Assam recalls every moment. 

"I said, 'drop your weapon or I will kill you.' I didn’t have a bullet proof vest on."

She says she rapidly fired five rounds, sending the gunman to the ground and to his eventual death. 

"Do you believe if you didn’t shoot him you would have never walked out alive?” Kovaleski asked.

"Oh no… He could have killed me. He shot at me. We were shooting at each other, so I am a miracle because I didn’t get hit. He was a good shot,” she said. 

Assam credited her experience as a veteran police officer in providing the skills necessary to win a shoot-out with a heavily armed killer. Prior to moving to Colorado Springs, she spent five years as an officer with the Minneapolis Police Department. 

“I have the training and I have the mindset. That’s what all police officers need, you can’t wait for SWAT.”

Following the attack in 2007, many called Assam a hero and credited her with saving dozens of lives with her quick actions and accurate shooting. She also talked candidly about the reality of mass shootings in our society and offered advice. 

"Everybody thinks it’s not going to happen here. I am just amazed at the naivete of our society still, when these things happen every day.”

She continued, “You know, you just can't single out that it's a place of worship. These cowards are going to show up anywhere. They could show up at a restaurant where you're eating or at your school or at a concert venue. So, I really want to emphasize (that) we need to be pro-active rather than reactive.”

She said it is critical for people and venues to have safety measures in place. 

Assam also talked about the motivation of mass murderers and provided her suggestions for law enforcement officers responding to future mass shooting calls.

"A lot of these people have different motivations, a lot of them are sociopaths, a lot of them are making statements, but they're all crazy. For someone to kill innocent people, you’re insane, you're a coward and you are not a hero and you're going to end up dead.”

On advice to first responders?

"You go in and conquer immediately. You are up against a coward. This is a coward and you cannot let him intimidate you and make you afraid. You just go in there and take care of business… whatever it takes to stop... end of story," Assam said.