It was just another day on the job for Lieutenant Brian Murphy, a police officer working for the Oak Creek Police Department in Wisconsin. The day dawned sunny and beautiful, a summer Sunday providing many with the chance to be outdoors and enjoy the weather. Lt. Murphy was making the rounds in his police vehicle, unaware that a call would come in that would change his life forever.
For others it was another Sunday of religious practice. The Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek was bustling with members attending religious services and a meal afterwards, a tradition in the Sikh community. The Gurdwara, or temple, was filled with members attending the service where meditation and singing are common practices. After the service, members of the Sikh group held a community meal, called a langar, at which people of all religions were welcome to join.
On this particular day many lives were changed. A lone gunman opened fire on the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in what was later deemed a hate crime against those worshipping inside. Frantic 911 calls, attempting to contact the outside world for help, were made from people hidden, frightened, and trapped inside the temple. The gunman, a man named Wade Michael Page, walked into the temple and began shooting at approximately 10:30am on Sunday, August 5, 2012. Page killed six people in the building, exchanged fire with Murphy, and then turned the gun on himself.
The first officer to respond was Lt. Brian Murphy, an experienced member of the Oak Creek Police Department and a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. Upon arriving at the scene he realized that he was the first officer to arrive; two victims were already visible and injured in the parking lot in front of the temple. Murphy called for an ambulance and knew his fellow officers were on their way, but had little time to prepare before the gunman himself exited the temple.
Instinct and decades of training kicked in. Lt. Murphy engaged the shooter with the usual commands to stand down, to drop his weapon, and to surrender. Lt. Murphy had been checking on the victims at the exact time that Page exited the temple, and found he was unable to gain position behind his police car, which would have offered him some protection. There was little else to shelter him in the parking lot of the temple. Page, himself a veteran of the United States Army, refused to disengage.
Wade Michael Page shot at Lt. Brian Murphy, hitting him multiple times in his bullet-resistant vest and other parts of his body that were not protected. Page’s own military training meant he understood battle tactics and how to outmaneuver his opponent; fortunately, Murphy was more than up to the challenge. Despite having been shot 15 times, including twice in the head, Murphy held Page off long enough for backup to arrive.
Additional police officers arrived on the scene and Lt. Murphy was taken to the hospital along with two Sikhs injured in the temple shooting. Lt. Murphy’s condition was critical- one of the bullets that hit his head had traveled down his throat, damaging his trachea, esophagus, and vocal cords. The other bullet was lodged in the back of his skull. Despite these serious injuries, his armed forces training and experience helped him keep calm in the face of a terrible situation- find out how he survived next.