This Thanksgiving, Police Officer Brian Murphy has much to be thankful for. Recovering after being shot 12 times, he was the first responder to the scene of the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin on Aug. 5 in which six worshippers died.
In an interview with WISN 12 News, the officer described how he got through the day. The first to arrive on the scene, Murphy and the shooter exchanged gun fire. Murphy was shot in the face, damaging his vocal chords. He moved over and down, but the shooter hit the officer several more times. Murphy took cover under a vehicle.
"It got quiet. It got very warm," he said. "Your eyes start getting a little bit heavy, and I thought, 'I'm not going out like this. I refuse to go out on a parking lot, not happening.'
"The shooter came around again, and he fired a bunch more times" Murphy continued. "At one point—it was after he hit me in the back of the head—I just thought, is that not enough? Did you not shoot me enough times?"
The shooter fired at Murphy 15 times, hitting the officer with 12 bullets. Three landed in his protective vest. Amazingly, Murphy stayed conscious the entire time. He said he focused on his breathing. "If you focus on the breathing, you're not going to panic. So that's what I did."
Although he was shot multiple times, the bullets missed vital organs, and Murphy believes he survived due to more than luck. "For them to miss the important parts, there's something more to it than just luck. That's when I thought, it pays to be an altar boy. It pays going to Mass." He credits thoughts of his wife, stepchildren and his "awesome daughter" for getting him through the extreme situation.
Finally, Oak Creek Police Officer Sam Lenda arrived on the scene and shot the gunman, white supremacist Wade Michael Page. Page then killed himself.
Murphy's arrival stopped the gunman from continuing to shoot people trapped in the temple. "Some of the worshippers had said once he saw me, he stopped and then left and came out to me," Murphy said. "If we were there a minute later, it wouldn't have been six people who were slain, it would have been much more."
He added, "I still can't fathom why those particular people? Because the Sikh community, they're just a very close-knit group of people who are extremely kind and generous. They forgave him immediately."
The 51-year-old had been on the Oak Creek Police Force for 21 years. He is on leave for his injuries and is undergoing physical therapy.
Still, he doesn't see himself as a hero. "I just do what you're supposed to do. And that should be reward enough."