FORT HOOD, Texas — From the first frantic 911 call that a shooter was rampaging through the Readiness Processing Center on this sprawling Army base, it took police officer Kimberly Munley just four minutes to get there.
But it was already bloody chaos.
Munley heard shots and saw a rush of scared people, some wounded by gunfire, scrambling to get away.
Figuring that the shooter must be between buildings for medical and psychiatric services, she rounded the corner and saw him chasing after a wounded soldier. She fired twice.
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"He turned to her and charged, firing rapidly. She returned fire and fell to the ground to help protect herself," said Chuck Medley, director of Fort Hood's emergency services.
The shots fired by Munley and the gunman hit each other simultaneously; she took shots in both legs and the wrist. Altogether, she fired four shots into his torso with her Beretta 9mm, dropping him to the ground and ending the worst mass shooting a U.S. military base has ever seen.
"She eliminated the threat. She did what she was trained to do," Medley said. "She, in my mind, saved countless lives."
Munley, 34, is an expert in firearms and a member of the SWAT team for the civilian police department on the base, officials said.
Medley said she had received specific training in a tactic called active shooter protocol, which was intended for this kind of situation.
"She's absolutely a hero," he said.
Lt. Gen. Robert W. Cone, the post commander, praised Munley for reacting so swiftly and without hesitation.
"It was an amazing and an aggressive performance by this police officer," Cone told The Associated Press.
Munley began her career as a police officer in the beachside town of Wrightsville, N.C., right after graduating from high school in nearby Wilmington. She quickly earned a reputation for fearlessness, despite her small stature. (She's 5 feet 4 inches tall.)
Her former partner in Wrightsville, investigator Shaun Appler, recalled how Munley saved him one night when she wrestled a large man off him after the man had pinned him down and was trying to take his gun. She earned the nickname "Mighty Mouse" for that, he said.
"She's a ball of fire," he said. "She's a real good cop."
In facing down the gunman at Fort Hood, Munley suffered wounds in each thigh and one to her right wrist. The base's fire chief applied tourniquets to stop her bleeding and she was taken to an undisclosed hospital. Her friends and family members who spoke to her Friday said she was recovering and in good spirits.
Munley joined the police force on the sprawling base in January 2008 after several years in the Army, most of them at Fort Hood.
It was there she met her husband, Matthew Munley, a member of the Special Forces. The couple have been selling their house to move back to North Carolina, where her husband has been assigned to Fort Bragg, family members said.
She lives with her husband and their 3-year-old daughter in a tidy community of ranch homes on the south side of Killeen. Her neighbors described her as quiet and friendly. She often is seen washing her Chevy Tahoe in front of her house, tending her neat lawn and playing with her daughter.
Munley's biography on Twitter reflects her sunny outlook. "I go to sleep peacefully at night knowing that I may have made a difference in someone's life," she wrote.
Medley said Munley is an advanced firearms instructor for the civilian force, which is used to assist the military police with policing the fort.
The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times contributed to this report.