An employee who stopped a shooting in a Vancouver Veterans Affairs office is among 177 Carnegie Heroes honored for 2015-2016.
Neil C. Burkhardt’s response to a workplace shooter is one of the examples of civilian heroism detailed in the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission’s biennial report.
According to Columbian coverage, police credited Burkhardt with saving the life of Allen Bricker after a stalker shot the VA administrator twice on Feb. 4, 2014.
The Carnegie Hero Fund awarded its lifesaving medal to the Portland resident in December 2015. Following that announcement, Burkhardt told The Columbian what was going through his mind when he heard the shots.
Did You Know?
• Since 1904, the Carnegie Hero Fund has considered more than 88,000 acts of heroism and selected 9,914 medal winners.
• The fund defines a hero as “a civilian who knowingly risks his or her own life to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the life of another person.” (About 20 percent of those honored lost their lives.)
“I had been in the Marines and served in combat in Iraq,” Burkhardt said. For about one second, he said, he was thinking: “Crap!”
Then a half-second of: “What do I do?”
According to the Carnegie citation, this is how Burkhardt responded: “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.”
“I felt pretty secure,” Burkhardt said. “She was running away from me; I was confident she wasn’t going to see me coming.”
He wrested the .38-caliber revolver from the intruder and held her at gunpoint until a security officer arrived and handcuffed her.
Burkhardt, now a Portland-based VA administrator, also received a Citizen Service medal in 2014 from Garry Lucas, then Clark County sheriff.
“One thing I always want to say, there were many heroes that day,” Burkhardt said in the 2015 interview following the Carnegie award.
“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 bleeding.
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.
The assailant, Deborah Lennon, was convicted and sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison.
Other Carnegie heroes in 2015-2016 include William Ayotte, who fought off a polar bear that was attacking a woman in Churchill, Manitoba. Philip Scholz leaned into the path of a California commuter train to pull a man from the track; he saved the man’s life, but Scholz was killed by the train.