FORT HOOD, Texas - Sgt. Kimberly Munley, a civilian police officer on this Army post, was taking her vehicle to be serviced Thursday when the killing began.
Inside a soldier-readiness facility, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire with two handguns, officials said. The gunfire was continuous, methodical, and well-aimed.
Police officers began racing toward the scene. Among them was Munley, 34, a mother of two whose husband's family is from East Bradford Township, Chester County.
She arrived at 1:27 p.m., about four minutes after the first 911 call, as Hasan was fleeing the building, according to official accounts.
Munley rounded a corner and fired twice at Hasan. He fired back and charged at her, according to the accounts. Munley dropped to the ground in a protective position and continued firing.
At some point, Hasan began to fumble with his gun. "He's reloading!" someone screamed, according to an officer on the scene.
In the exchange, Munley was struck in both thighs and one wrist. Hasan was shot four times, including at least once in the torso.
By some accounts, other police officers might also have fired at Hasan. Army officials, however, said credit for stopping the gunman belonged primarily to Munley, who remained hospitalized yesterday in stable condition.
Just over 5 feet tall, Munley is an advanced firearms instructor and civilian member of Fort Hood's special reaction team. She had trained on "active shooter" scenarios after the April 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech.
"It does not surprise me she acted the way she did," her brother-in-law, Bryan Munley, of State College, said from his parents' home in East Bradford yesterday. She is "a tough woman."
Her husband, Matthew, is a soldier at Fort Bragg, N.C., who got back from a second tour of Iraq about six months ago, according to Kelley Chandler, who said she and Matthew became good friends years ago when they both attended Henderson High School in the West Chester Area School District.
The Munleys have a 21/2-year-old daughter, Jayden, and a 13-year-old, Hope, from Kimberly Munley's previous marriage. Kimberly Munley was in the Army when she met Matthew and left the military when she got pregnant, Chandler said.
Munley's actions at Fort Hood quickly made her a hero to colleagues and strangers alike, as online discussion groups, police union officials, and others praised her decisive role in felling the alleged gunman.
"She walked up and engaged him," said Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, the post commander. "It was an amazing and an aggressive performance by this police officer." Cone called Munley "one of our most impressive young police officers" and said she responded to the shooting rampage just as she was trained to do.
"If you act aggressively to take out a shooter, you will have less fatalities," Cone said.
No one answered the door yesterday at Kimberly Munley's brick home on a tidy block on the outskirts of Killeen, Texas, an area that is home primarily to current or former members of the military.
A neighbor, Brooke Beato, said Munley was passionate about her job, and she wasn't surprised to learn of Munley's heroic actions.
"There should be a parade for her all the way to her front door," Beato said.
"There could have been a lot more lives lost. It could have been someone else there first, someone not as well-trained, not as brave."
More than a dozen Facebook groups popped up in support of Munley.
"Sgt. Kimberly Munley: A Real American Hero!" had 560 members by late afternoon.
Another group, "God Bless SGT Kimberly Munley," is aggregating information about her - and growing rapidly.
According to a little-used Twitter account, Munley was a typically worried mother and a country-music fan who strove to help other people. "I live a good life . . . a hard one, but I go to sleep peacefully @ night knowing that I may have made a difference in someone's life," one entry reads.
Inquirer staff writers Dan Hardy, Mari A. Schaefer and Joelle Farrell contributed to this article.