Prayers for the Fallen: Moscow, Idaho, 10 years Later - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Prayers for the Fallen: Moscow, Idaho, 10 years Later

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MOSCOW, Idaho -

Video by Gabe Ferguson, KHQ.

This month marks 10 years since the town of Moscow, Idaho, lost its innocence.

It was May 19th, 2007, that Jason K. Hamilton opened fire at the Latah County Courthouse. More than 200 bullets later, four people were dead, three were wounded. For the first time, one of the survivors - Latah County Sheriff’s Lt. Brannon Jordan - is talking publicly about the decisions that put him in the line of fire.

“I'm not the same. Everyone that was on that call is not the same,” says Jordan. “There's a lot of people in our community who are not the same.”

Lt. Brannon Jordan had spent the evening playing 'traffic cop' to the controlled chaos of moving in. “I was trying to get the crib down. Get the curtains up,” Jordan said. “It was supposed to be our first night in our new house.”

Then he got the call. His dispatch, the Latah County Courthouse and the adjoining Sheriff's Department
were under fire. We asked him what he told his wife that night: “Not to worry. That I’d be back soon. What I always tell her.” But Jordan wouldn’t be coming home.

“That’s all I know. To go.”

Like Brannon Jordan, Moscow Police Officer Jay Waters has never hesitated to put on a uniform in service of others. “I'm a Marine; I've been doing that since I was 17 years old,” says Waters. “That’s all I know. To go and try to help.”

When the call came to him that night, he was on patrol, about 15 minutes outside of town. “I heard a call going out over the radio. That the sheriff's office was taking fire,” Waters remembered. “You know how you kind of look at the radio like you don't believe what they just said?”

Jordan and Waters reached the scene in the heart of Moscow, about the same time. From the shelter of the U.S. Post Office, they could see the entire block ahead of them was under fire, coming from the direction of the First Presbyterian Church.


Jason Hamilton was armed with two high powered rifles, taking aim from the church grounds at the Latah County Courthouse, parked vehicles, and - tragically - at the people responding to the calls of 'shots fired.'

Moscow Police Officer Lee Newbill was shot coming up 5th Street toward the gunman, the first law enforcer to fall. “All I knew is an officer was down,” Waters says. “We didn't know what his status was.”


“I’m still in the fight.”

Together, Waters and Jordan came up with a daring rescue plan. Recounts Waters: “I just said, ‘Hey, we gotta go get him. Let’s use a vehicle. You guys get in the back. We pull up. You grab him and we go.’”

So they did. Waters behind the wheel of another deputy's personal car, Jordan in the back. And the gunman unloading on anyone he saw.

“I just drove up, pointed the car directly at the church to keep it between bad guy and them,” Waters said. “They jumped out, grabbed Lee, and of course I’m yelling, ‘We gotta go! We gotta go!’”

It all happened so fast. Too fast. “Jay went to make a turn. There just wasn't enough room in the back,” says Jordan. “I fell out. I was standing under the street light and they were speeding away.”

Jordan immediately ran for cover, miraculously finding another officer's weapon that was dropped during the attack. “I scooped it up like a gift from God,” he said. “I picked up the shotgun and figured, ‘I'm still in the fight.’ I got down behind a tree and just waited.”

Waiting for his chance, for the one shot that could end this rampage. But Jason Hamilton fired first. The pain was instant; Jordan was hit three times. “I could feel my back getting warm; the blood running down my back,” said Jordan. “I've seen a lot of shootings. I knew where I was hit. It wasn't good.

Jordan was bleeding out, and on the verge of blacking out. He began to pray. “I said, ‘Oh God. Not like this. Not murdered. My wife was at home, brand new baby. Not like this.”

“I fully expected to get shot”

It wasn’t until Waters and the other officers reached the hospital, that they realized Jordan had been left behind. “It wasn't until we were dragging Lee into the hospital, until we heard Brannon saying I've been hit,” Waters recalled.

He says he didn’t hesitate. He grabbed another officer and got back into the vehicle, driving back into the line of Hamilton’s fire. “I fully expected when we went back up there, to get shot out,” says Waters.

It was the salvation Jordan had been praying for. “They came skidding up. I stuck out my arm,” he said. “The next thing I knew I'm looking at the ceiling.”

Blood was everywhere. The pain - both physical and emotional - was excruciating. “When I got to the ER, they started cutting my uniform off me,” Jordan said. “I asked about Lee. I knew anyway. He was laying right next to me.”


Officer Lee Newbill, murdered in the line of duty. University of Idaho student Pete Hussman was also hospitalized - fighting for his life, after he too was gunned down. And from there, the body count - and heartbreak - kept piling up.

Jordan’s superiors briefed him in recovery. In addition to Lee Newbill, church caretaker Paul Bauer was also dead. But they weren't Jason Hamilton’s first victims. His wife, Crystal Hamilton, had been the first one murdered. As the beloved custodian for the Latah County courthouse, Jordan knew her. “She was very bubbly. Very happy,” Jordan recalls. “Everybody loved her.”

In all, Hamilton fired between 200 and 300 shots, with the final bullet ending his own life. It was later determined that
he had been suicidal for months before his shooting spree.

“No acceptable losses”

The days, the weeks, the years, since that horrific May night have gotten easier in some ways. Harder in others. Jordan says there have been some tough questions about whether the police response may have resulted in more bloodshed.

“I've had criticisms, critiques of our tactics: if you're under sniper fire, you don't let yourself drawn in by another casualty,” explained Jordan. “To them, I say, ‘There are no acceptable losses in law enforcement.’ We went to get Lee. We risked it to go get Lee.”

And they risked it for the people and places they still call home.

Jordan and Waters, along with other law enforcers from Moscow and Latah County, were awarded the
Idaho Medal of Honor for their actions that night.

There will be a vigil on Friday, May 19th, that will start at the fountain near the Moscow Police Department and proceed to the Presbyterian Church. KHQ will be there that evening as the Moscow community comes together to offer a moment of silence and prayers for the fallen.

RELATED LINKS:

In Memory of Officer Lee Newbill

Idaho Medal of Honor Recipient - Brannon Jordan

Idaho Medal of Honor Recipient - Jay Waters

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: 

www.khq.com/story/6622395/surveillance-video-shows-beginning-of-moscow-gunmans-killing-spree? 

http://www.khq.com/story/8168852/police-guns-used-in-moscow-shooting-spree-to-be-destroyed 

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