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Man who stopped VA shooter honored

He’s named a Carnegie Hero, credited with saving lives in Feb. 2014 incident

By , Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter
Published:
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Neil Burkhardt, left, who tackled a shooter at the Vancouver Veterans Affairs center on Feb. 4, 2014, receives the county's Citizen Service medal from then-Sheriff Garry Lucas on Dec. 9, 2014.
Neil Burkhardt, left, who tackled a shooter at the Vancouver Veterans Affairs center on Feb. 4, 2014, receives the county's Citizen Service medal from then-Sheriff Garry Lucas on Dec. 9, 2014. (Ariane Kunze/Columbian files) Photo Gallery

Neil C. Burkhardt has been honored as a Carnegie Hero after tackling a woman who shot an official in the Vancouver Veterans Affairs office in 2014.

Burkhardt is one of 24 people honored with medals from the Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Heroes Fund Commission.

Police credited Burkhardt with saving the life of Allen Bricker, a VA administrator, after a stalker shot him twice on Feb. 4, 2014.

Bricker “was a mentor to me. I spent seven years in that office,” the Portland resident said following the Wednesday announcement.

“Allen and his family were put through years of hardships, having this woman stalk them,” Burkhardt said. “My involvement was the last three minutes.”

PRIOR LOCAL CARNEGIE HEROES AND RESCUES

• 2012: John Cody Clark, Vancouver, rescued a boy from drowning in Rockaway Beach, Ore.

• 2003: Brett Michael Schott, Vancouver, aided a wounded California police officer.

• 2003: Johnathan H. Bolender, Silver Creek (Lewis County), prevented a Vancouver restaurant manager from being assaulted with a knife.

• 1991: Jon K. Thomas, Vancouver, rescued two boys from a burning apartment building in Vancouver.

• 1987: John R. Boyes Jr., Vancouver, saved a woman from drowning in Ocean Park.

• 1984: Rose M. Griffith, Vancouver, drowned during an attempt to save a friend from drowning in Gladstone, Ore.

• 1984: Michael R. Howell, Vancouver, saved a woman from drowning in Spokane.

• 1966: Donald Elmer Morse, Vancouver, saved a boy from drowning in Tillamook, Ore.

• 1965: Andre J. Ledbetter, Vancouver, rescued a man from a burning home in Vancouver.

• 1961: Milton W. Odell, Washougal, saved a boy from drowning in Winton (Chelan County).

• 1956: Bert C. Bagley, Vancouver, drowned while attempting to save a girl from drowning in Long Beach.

• 1942: Michael J. Oris, New York, N.Y., saved two men from a burning dormitory building at Vancouver’s Kaiser Shipyard.

• 1940: Harry D. Jabusch, La Center, saved a girl from drowning in Manhattan Beach, Ore.

• 1933: Arthur A. Hilberg, Vancouver, drowned while attempting to save a man from drowning in Battle Ground.

• 1930: George H. Eversaul, Ridgefield, saved a boy from drowning in Deer Island, Ore.

• 1925: James G. White, Vancouver, saved a telephone installer from electric shock in Vancouver.

The Marine Corps veteran was in a room at the end of the hall when he heard the shots, according to the citation from the Carnegie commission.

“I had been in the Marines, and served in combat in Iraq,” Burkhardt said. For about one second, Burkhardt said, he was thinking: “Crap!”

Then a half-second of: “What do I do?”

“I felt pretty secure,” he said. “She was running away from me; I was confident she wasn’t going to see me coming.”

The Carnegie citation continued: “Seeing the assailant pursuing Bricker, Burkhardt ran after her and tackled her, taking them through an interior window in the hall as Bricker escaped … and collapsed.”

The project manager wrested the .38-caliber revolver from the intruder and held her at gunpoint until a security officer arrived and handcuffed her.

Burkhardt likely saved other people in the office that day, too, former Clark County Sheriff Garry Lucas said about a year ago after presenting Burkhardt with a Citizen Service medal.

“One thing I always want to say, there were many heroes that day,” Burkhardt, now 33, stressed in Wednesday’s phone interview. “Staff members provided lifesaving first-aid measures to Allen. He was able to move several hallways away and someone had a very extensive first-aid kit; other staff members treated him for shock” and stopped the flow of blood from his wounds.

They stayed with the injured man without knowing that the shooter was in handcuffs.

“In their minds, that person could have come around the corner at any moment,” said Burkhardt, who now is a compliance officer at the Portland administrative center.

The assailant, Deborah Lennon, was convicted and sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison.

The Carnegie Hero awards are named for Pittsburgh steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who was inspired by stories of heroism during a coal mine disaster that killed 181 people, including a miner and an engineer who died trying to rescue others.

The commission’s latest honorees include a man who took action in another Washington shooting incident. The gunman killed one man and wounded two people on the Seattle Pacific University campus on June 5, 2014. Student building monitor Jon Meis pepper-sprayed and tackled the gunman as he paused to reload his shotgun.

Four of this year’s Carnegie honorees died trying to save others.

The Carnegie Heroes Fund Commission investigates stories of heroism and awards medals and cash four times a year. It has given away $37.7 million to 9,821 awardees or their families since 1904.

Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter
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