The west side of Killeen, Texas, is like countless other places in America's heartland, freshly carved out of prairie pastures with wide streets in bucolic neighborhoods like Sunflower Estates and Bridgewood. But on a glorious, cloudless fall day, the flags at the home-sales center nearby were at half-staff in honor of the 13 fallen at Fort Hood, victims of a gunman whose deadly attack was stopped thanks to a petite, long-haired, blond mom from the neighborhood.
Sergeant Kimberly Munley, 34, a civilian Department of Defense police officer at the base, is credited with stopping the firing rampage of Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan at the Soldier Readiness Center within a few minutes after he launched his attack. The center is a quick five-minute drive from Munley's home, past the new strip centers and the high school football field along wide Cross Creek Boulevard, but a world away from the horrors inflicted in one of the worst incidents of soldier-on-soldier violence in U.S. Army history.
Munley, described by neighbor Brooke Beato as "very petite, with long blond hair and a strong personality," was credited by base officials with preventing further carnage by aggressively engaging Hasan as he shot at her. She rounded a corner, took aim at Hasan and brought him down, officials said. "It was an amazing and an aggressive performance by this police officer," base commander Lieut. General Robert Cone said. It was also a tactic straight out of the lessons learned from the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, when first responders waited for additional backup before engaging the shooter.
"She walked up and engaged him," Cone told the Associated Press. As a member of the base's Special Reaction Team, Munley had learned that "if you act aggressively to take out a shooter, you will have less fatalities," Cone said.
Soon after Munley fired at Hasan, taking him down, she fell, wounded, and police radios quickly sent out an "Officer down" call. Wounded three times in the arm and leg, Munley is in stable condition after undergoing surgery on Friday to repair damage to an artery. Base officials said she wished she could have acted even faster and saved more lives and that she spent Thursday evening calling friends and colleagues, expressing those regrets.
While the shooting on Nov. 5 sent a shock wave throughout the tight-knit Killeen community, Beato, whose husband is an Army captain, said she was not surprised when Munley's name surfaced as the police officer who ended the shooting. "It was just like her she carries herself with confidence," Beato said.
Beato is a 30-year-old mother of four whose children often play with Munley's daughters, ages 12 and 3, in a quiet cul-de-sac. "I couldn't believe what happened, but when I heard what she did," said Beato of her neighbor, "I believed that because of who she is I know her."
Munley, who worked as a police officer for five years in North Carolina (where her father Dennis Barbour once served as mayor of Carolina Beach), is a talented shooter on the Special Reaction Team, which trains for the possibility of events like the Nov. 5 shooting rampage. She is a passionate fan of Twitter, and once news of her actions spread, her followers began to blossom in number among them country singer Dierks Bentley, who posed for a photo with the petite officer at the fort's annual July Fourth FreedomFest. The photo is posted on her Twitter page, along with a brief biographical quote: "I live a good life ... a hard one, but I go to sleep peacefully at night knowing that I may have made a difference in someone's life."