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Oak Creek Person of the Year: Lt. Brian Murphy

Murphy made headlines around the world when he survived 12 gunshot wounds and helped end an attack at the Oak Creek Sikh temple.

Most days, Brian Murphy feels about a 4 on a 10-point scale.

He had another surgery on his throat, where the first bullet hit, about a month ago. Unfortunately, "it didn't take," Murphy said, so surgeons will try more procedures in January to relieve some of the pain and further repair his vocal cords.

His thumb still isn't great. Wade Michael Page shot him there soon after he hit him in the throat, knocking Murphy's gun out of his hand in the process. The end of the thumb has often been problematic in the last four months. "There's always something with the thumb," Murphy said.

A bullet that hit him in the left leg causes issues that come and go. But of all of the major injuries he suffered in the Sikh temple parking lot on Aug. 5, when Page shot him 12 times—with three more bullets hitting his vest—that one affects him less than the others.

The injuries Murphy sustained that day made him known around the world. He was the first officer on the scene of a mass shooting that took the lives of six temple members and survived an incredible number of gunshots to buy time for another Oak Creek police officer, Sam Lenda, to arrive and fire the shot that sent Page to the ground, ending the terror the white supremacist brought to a peaceful place of worship and community.

And when police officers found him lying in the parking lot bleeding, Murphy waved them off and told them to help those in the temple. The officers got Murphy away from the scene first and into an ambulance.

His story was an inspiration to people around the world, in particular India, where the Sikh faith originates. 

And although Murphy says he was just doing his job, his actions brought him many accolades, including this one: Patch's 2012 Oak Creek Person of the Year.

When Patch solicited nominations earlier this month, Murphy's name came up again and again. In a phone interview Friday, Murphy said this honor hits close to home because it's from the community he has served for almost 22 years.

"It means so much more because these are people who know you," said Murphy, who watched Oak Creek grow from 14,000 people to the 35,000 population it is today. "My wife and I talked about that. If you know me ... I'm not into accolades. I'm not that type of person. But based on everything that happened, the ones from people you know and work for for so long, it does mean a lot.

"It kind of sets it over the top."

In a word, "hero"

Murphy knows he's being redundant when he says he was only doing his job that day. But it's something he truly believes. If another officer got to the temple first, Murphy is sure they would have done the same thing.

"If that call would have came in five minutes later or five minutes sooner, who knows who would have gotten there?" Murphy said.

But the average person simply doesn't see it that way. "Hero" is a word that is often overused, but you'll have trouble convincing a member of the Sikh community that it shouldn't apply to Murphy.

After Murphy was released from the hospital Aug. 22, the Sikh temple put up a huge sign on Howell Avenue that said, "Welcome Home Lt. Murphy, Thank You For Everything You've Done For Us," with signatures from temple members. An Oak Creek Patch Facebook post with Murphy's picture was "liked" by more than 3,000 people.

District Attorney John Chisholm believes the actions of Murphy and Lenda prevented Page from continuing his assault at a different location.

"The courageous and timely actions were necessary to prevent further tragedy," Chisholm said Sept. 10.

Murphy spent some free time last Thursday going through e-mails he received on Aug. 7, two days after the shooting. From Australia, to Spain, to Canada, to India, it was clear how global the events of that day became.

"Never in a thousand years" would he imagine something he did as a police officer would have that kind of reach.

"The gratitude sometimes gets overwhelming," Murphy said.

What will 2013 bring?

Health-wise, Murphy and his family are hoping for some sort of resolution by the end of the spring.

By that, he hopes that after a surgery on his hand and an injection in his throat, he will know if his health is as good as it's going to get so that he can move on. It's been tough, mentally, to be in such a period of flux, not knowing how much better things are going to get, Murphy said.

He's been to Froedtert Hospital more times than anyone would ever care to, usually at least a couple times a week for appointments or therapy.

"If I had a dollar for every time I went out to Froedtert for one thing or another, I'd be doing pretty good," Murphy said.

Work-wise, he misses the job, the camaraderie of his co-workers and the people of Oak Creek.

"But I also know for the betterment of the department, I couldn't help right now until fully healed and I wouldn't want to be a liability," Murphy said.

He has stayed connected with the Oak Creek Police Department though, regularly checking e-mails and stopping at the station every once in awhile. Murphy reached out to the person who stepped into his position to offer help on things he may have dealt with in the past.

It's not known whether Murphy will ever return to the department. But if his injuries prevent him from coming back, his last day will go down as one of immense bravery, and he'll retire as one of the most famous Oak Creek police officers ever.

And whether he likes it or not, the "hero" label will stick with him, too.

Sharon Armstrong December 27, 2012 at 02:01 PM
To Oak Creek Patch - an excellent choice! To Lt. Brian Murphy - My best wishes to you in your ongoing recovery. You remain in our thoughts and prayers and "yes" you will always be thought of as a hero!
Tony Paladino December 27, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Agreed excellent choice. I think a very honorable mention needs to go to all of the other first responders as well.
Kevin R Martin December 28, 2012 at 03:36 AM
Thank you Lt. Murphy for your heroism, humility and graciousness.

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