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Civilians, first responders honored for their actions on day of Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting

January 12, 2016 Updated: January 12, 2016 at 10:53 pm
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photo - Michael Hagiwara, RN, right, with his daughters Kali, left, and Avery, after Hagiwara was presented with a "Spirit of the Springs" award Tuesday, January 12, 2016, for his actions during the Planned Parenthood shootings in November. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
Michael Hagiwara, RN, right, with his daughters Kali, left, and Avery, after Hagiwara was presented with a "Spirit of the Springs" award Tuesday, January 12, 2016, for his actions during the Planned Parenthood shootings in November. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

Dr. Derrick Hurst hadn't treated a gunshot wound in eight years when he was suddenly faced with helping two people shot at a Planned Parenthood clinic across the street from his office.

"Normally you're in an emergency room and everything is safe and you have all the supplies you need and you have 20 medical staff," Hurst said. "There, it was just the five of us with what we had."

He was among several people honored Tuesday by Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers for their quick thinking, courage and selflessness during the Nov. 27 attack, which left three people dead and nine others wounded.

Amid standing ovations, Coffman shook the hands of dozens of Colorado Springs and University of Colorado at Colorado Springs police officers, El Paso County sheriff's deputies and firefighters who responded to the shooting.

She applauded the agencies for their collaboration and calm in the face of "evil," and she made special mention of one UCCS officer not there - Garrett Swasey, 44, who died trying to stop the rampage.

Swasey was working at the university campus 4 miles from the Planned Parenthood facility, and UCCS officers were "not obligated to respond," Coffman said. Yet Swasey was among the first officers at the clinic, she said.

Swasey's wife, Rachel, attended the ceremony.

Colorado Springs Police Chief Peter Carey shied away from the word hero.

"Police officers, when they do their job they're not expecting to be recognized, so this is a special day," Carey said.

Four Colorado Springs police officers, four civilians and a sheriff's deputy were wounded, Coffman said.

"A final shootout seemed absolutely inevitable," Coffman said.

Instead, Robert Lewis Dear Jr., 57, surrendered. He has been charged with 179 felonies, including first-degree murder in the deaths of Swasey, Ke'Arre Stewart, 29, Jennifer Markovsky, 35.

Dear is being held at the El Paso County jail without bond, and a judge has ordered he undergo a mental competency evaluation.

Suthers heaped praise on everyone who helped respond.

"Our city is defined not by the senseless and violent action of one individual, but by the courageous response and resilience of our citizens, both uniformed and civilian," Suthers said.

People in a nearby office building were among those who sprung to action.

Michael Hagiwara was across the street at an optometrist's office with his 3-year-old daughter when someone ran inside, yelling people had been shot at Planned Parenthood. Hagiwara, a registered nurse in Penrose Hospital's emergency room, asked someone to watch his daughter while he cared for a bleeding woman who sought help in the building's lobby.

A couple minutes later, Hurst and his staff arrived.

Hurst didn't know if there were multiple gunmen, where any shooters were or whether the staff in his Mountain View Medical Group office were about to become the next victims.

The family practice wasn't equipped to handle gunshot victims - the woman had been hit in the shoulder, he said - but Hurst acted anyway. At his side were Bridget Holisky and Carmella Vega, his two medical assistants, and Kelly Hayes, a Colorado Hand Center employee who consoled victims.

Hagiwara could see a man, whose arm was outstretched, lying on the pavement outside the building. A law enforcement officer tried to bring him inside.

"He (the officer) must have saw something because he let the man go and raised his weapon toward the Planned Parenthood," Hagiwara said.

Hagiwara ran out, grabbed the man's hand and pulled him about 10 feet into the medical building. Hurst said the man was shot in the shoulder and the thigh.

"We did what we could to buy them some time," Hagiwara said.

All the while, Vega and Holisky helped gather medical supplies, move people to safety and improvise treatments. The teamwork was critical because ambulances could not reach the building while a firefight raged outside. After roughly 30 minutes, an armored personnel carrier arrived to take the patients to a hospital.

Both victims survived and are recovering, Hurst said.

Down the street, Cathy Stark, assistant manager at King Soopers, was manning the grocery store door when a man covered in blood stumbled inside. Rather than retreating into the building for safety, Stark ran outside to herd employees and customers inside.

She heard gunfire and locked down the store while an off-duty nurse treated the man's wounds.

In the hours that followed, her staff passed out coloring books, cards and Lunchables to people holed up in the store to keep them calm, Stark said.

"To me, we were all just doing our jobs; we weren't being heroes," she said.

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The Gazette's Jakob Rodgers contributed to this story.

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