COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Jeanne Assam is hailed for saving countless lives in shooting a gunman outside her church, but the volunteer security guard insisted that her steady hand was a matter of divine guidance.
The 42-year-old former police officer was part of a small team of church members pulling guard duty Sunday at the New Life Church when 24-year-old Matthew Murray opened fire outside the building.
Weak from a three-day religious fast, Assam said Monday that she shut out the frightening gunshots outside and focused on Murray as he walked down a church hallway. When Murray came in with an assault rifle, she shot him several times with her gun.
"It seemed like it was me, the gunman and God," said Assam, whose hands trembled a little as she recounted the shooting during a news conference Monday.
Murray is believed to have killed two people after a midday ceremony at the megachurch and two other people 12 hours earlier at a missionary training school in the Denver suburb of Arvada.
Police said a weapon found at the church was forensically linked to shell casings left behind at the missionary school. Even though Assam shot Murray, investigators said he may have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Before the shooting at her church, Assam said, she felt chills when reading that the gunman from the missionary school shooting hadn't been captured.
When the gunman entered New Life Church, she said, she took cover and drew spiritual and physical strength from her religious faith. As church members ran away, Assam said, she had no intention of fleeing.
"I was given the assignment to end this before it got too much worse," she said. "I just prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide me. I said, 'Holy Spirit, be with me.' My hands weren't even shaking."
Assam, who now works for a ministry, declined to provide details of her prior work in law enforcement, saying only that she had pulled her gun several times in the course of her job but never had to fire at anyone.
Minneapolis police Sgt. Jesse Garcia said Assam is a former police officer who worked in Minneapolis during the 1990s. Garcia said Monday night that he didn't know the exact dates of her employment with the force and couldn't comment on why she left.
Dressed in blue jeans and boots, the petite Assam (pronounced ah-som) was greeted with applause at the news conference. When asked about her marital status, Assam said she was single — and then cracked a smile.
"I am not married yet. I will someday. God's going to find me the perfect man," she said.