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Church guard’s courage under fire awes Vietnam vet

Church guard’s courage under fire awes Vietnam vet

By Kieran Nicholson
The Denver Post

Article Last Updated: 12/11/2007 12:57:27 AM MST

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Larry Bourbonnais, a combat-tested Vietnam veteran, said it was the bravest thing he’s ever seen.

Bourbonnais, who was among those shot by a gunman Sunday at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, watched as a security guard, later identified as Jeanne Assam, calmly returned fire and killed the shooter.

“She just started walking toward the gunman, firing the whole way,” said Bourbonnais, who was shot in the arm. “She was just yelling ‘Surrender!’ walking and shooting the whole time.”

Bourbonnais, 59, had just finished a hamburger in the cafeteria on the sprawling church campus when he heard gunfire, he recalled.

He headed in the direction of the shots as frightened people ran past him looking to escape to safety.

“Where’s

Deadly Shootings

  • Watch the press conference with Jeanne Assam, the security guard who shot Matthew Murray, stopping the rampage at New Life Church, courtesy of 9News.
  • Watch the law enforcement press conference officially linking the two shootings.
  • Read the five-page El Paso County search warrant issued for Matt Murray’s car, parked in the lot of New Life Church.
  • Discuss the Colorado church and mission shootings.
  • View a slide show from the Arvada shooting.
  • View a slide show from the Colorado Springs shooting.
  • Watch a report about police searching for a link in deadly shootings.
  • Watch video: five killed in shootings at two Colorado religious sites.
  • Listen to an audio statement about the shootings from Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter.
  • Read Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput’s statement about the shootings.
  • Read Colorado Springs Archbishop Sheridan’s statement about the shootings.

the shooter? Where’s the shooter?” Bourbonnais kept yelling, he recalled.Near an entryway in the church, Bourbonnais came upon the gunman and an armed male church security guard, who was there with his gun drawn but not firing, he said.

Bourbonnais said he pleaded with the armed guard to give him his weapon. “Give me your handgun. I’ve been in combat, and I’m going to take this guy out,” Bourbonnais recalled telling the guard.

“He kept yelling, ‘Get behind me! Get behind me!’ He wouldn’t hand me his weapon, but he wouldn’t do anything.”

There was an additional armed security guard there, another man, who also didn’t fire, Bourbonnais said.

Bourbonnais yelled at the gunman to draw his attention, he said.

“First, I called him ‘Coward,’ then I called him ‘S—head’ ” Bourbonnais said. “I probably shouldn’t have been saying that in church.”

That’s when the shooter pointed one of his guns at Bourbonnais and fired, he said. Bourbonnais ducked behind a hollow, decorative pillar and was hit in the arm by a bullet and fragments of the pillar.

At about that moment, Assam, 42, turned a corner with a drawn handgun, walked toward the gunman and yelled “Surrender!” Bourbonnais said.

The gunman pointed a handgun at Assam and fired three shots, Bourbonnais said. She returned fire and just kept walking toward the gunman, pressing off round after round.

After the gunman went down, Bourbonnais asked Assam, a volunteer security guard with the church, how she remained so calm and focused.

Bourbonnais said she replied: “I was asking the Holy Spirit to guide me the entire time.”

Kieran Nicholson: 303-954-1822 or knicholson@denverpost.com

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