Claim:   A Colorado church shooting was stopped by an armed member of the congregation.

   PARTLY TRUE

Example:   [Collected via Twitter, June 2015]

Origins:  On the evening of 17 June 2015, a mass shooting occurred at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. Nine of those in attendance were killed, including South Carolina State Senator Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney. Suspect Dylann Roof was arrested soon after the incident and charged with multiple counts of murder.

The tragedy prompted an outpouring of grief and debate on social media, and in its wake the image meme seen above and its backstory soon began to circulate widely online. According to the meme, a woman named Jeanne Assam was in attendance during a similar armed attack on a church but was able to shoot and wound the assailant, halting the attack.

The attack ultimately stopped by Assam occurred in two phases in Colorado on 9 December 2007, starting at the Youth with a Mission (YWAM) training center in Arvada. At that location, shooter Matthew Murray killed two churchgoers and wounded two more before fleeing to the New Life Church in Colorado Springs.

At the second location, Murray killed two more victims and wounded three others before Jeanne Assam, who was present at the church service taking place there, fired at Murray and struck him several times, ending his assault.

However, Jeanne Assam wasn’t quite a random churchgoer who just happened to show up at the service fortuitously carrying a weapon that day, as implied by many online accounts of this incident. She was a former police officer and a volunteer church security guard who was aware of the earlier attack at the Youth with a Mission training center and had suggested that the New Life Church add extra security that day for that very reason:

Assam worked as a police officer in downtown Minneapolis during the 1990s and is licensed to carry a weapon. She attends one of the morning services and then volunteers as a guard during another service.

[New Life’s Senior Pastor Brady] Boyd said Assam was the one who suggested the church beef up its security Sunday following the Arvada shooting, which it did. The pastor credited the security plan and the extra security for preventing further bloodshed.

Boyd said there are 15 to 20 security people at the church. All are volunteers but the only ones armed are those who are licensed to carry weapons.

Jeanne Assam herself to us that:

This message is regarding a post about me. It has a picture of me and words to the effect that I was just some random woman at New Life church when a gunman entered. The fact is that I am and was a police officer at the time of the shooting. I was part of the volunteer security team that day at the church.

Outside in the parking lot, Murray shot 5 more people, killing 2 and wounding 3 others before I engaged and killed him inside the church, shooting and striking him 10 times. I engaged and killed the gunman. I was 5 feet from him when I had to fire the last of 10 accurate rounds. He did not kill himself and I am the one who got his blood all over my clothes from arterial spray. Trust me, if he killed himself, I would have both seen and heard it. He didn’t.

Please post the TRUTH regarding my incident. That post floating around about me is completely FALSE.

Nonetheless, the official coroner’s ruling was that although Assam had hit and wounded Murray, the gunman’s fatal wound was a self-inflicted one:

The man who killed four people at a church and missionary training center shot himself in the head and died after being hit by shots from a church security officer, police said.

Matthew Murray, 24, was struck multiple times by a security officer at New Life Church, but his death was ruled a suicide, the El Paso County Coroner’s Office concluded after an autopsy.

Murray shot himself in the head, said police Sgt. Skip Arms.

Shortly after the incident, Assam was quoted as saying:

“There was chaos.”

“I will never forget the gunshots. They were so loud …  I saw him coming through the doors” and took cover, Assam said.

“I came out of cover and identified myself and engaged him and took him down … God was with me,” Assam said. “I didn’t think for a minute to run away.” Assam said she believes God gave her the strength to confront Murray, keeping her calm and focused even though he appeared to be twice her size and was more heavily armed.

While Assam was initially hailed as a hero for minimizing loss of life during the shooting at great personal risk, she later said she was asked to leave New Life Church because of her sexuality (although the church disputed the claim).


Sources:

Draper, Electa.    “Former Minneapolis Cop Says ‘God Was with Me’ When She Shot Gunman in Colorado Church Hallway.”     Denver Post.   11 December 2007.

Hendrick, Thomas.    “Security Guard: ‘God Guided Me and Protected Me.'”     Denver Post.   10 December 2007.

Noreen, Barry.    “New Life’s Hero Comes Out — Heroically.”     Colorado Springs Gazette.   24 February 2011.

Riccardi, Nicholas and DeeDee Correll. “Guard Saved Untold Lives, Officials Say.”     Los Angeles Times. 11 December 2007.