Cadet receives high honor for 2010 act
Rare award is the 'highest mark of distinction' in Air Force JROTC program
02/20/2012 4:00 PM
02/21/2012 6:32 AM
Christopher Allman was talking on a cell phone to his brother, Michael, when he heard a bang, followed by a moan and what sounded like call for help.
Patti Hatcher Campbell, a family friend visiting from Boone, was supposed to drive the brothers to a party at Mount Pleasant Middle School that night in March 2010. She ended up shooting Christopher's 11-year-old brother in the back with a .38 Smith & Wesson snub-nose revolver.
Christopher and his mother, Rebecca, were nearby, driving to their Mount Pleasant home. When they pulled in the driveway, Christopher said, he thought he saw his brother's jacket on the ground but quickly realized it was his brother.
Michael was lying on the concrete walkway, bleeding from a bullet that had entered his left shoulder and exited through the opposite side of his neck, narrowly missing his spine and his jugular vein.
"I heard this muffled bang and then a moan," Christopher said, according to the police investigation report. "I thought I heard someone say, 'Help me,' and I might have heard another shot after that.
"When we got there, I ran toward Michael and Patti fell. I bent down and saw he had blood coming out of his mouth and on his hands."
Then Campbell turned the gun on Christopher.
"I was close enough to touch her," he recalled in the report. "I heard two bangs and saw two flashes."
He also said he felt pressure from the bullets passing by his head.
"I broke to the left, to run behind my house, and Patti kept pulling the trigger," said Christopher. "I just heard the gun clicking at that point and saw her start to get up. She aimed the gun toward my mom, and I ran toward her and tackled her."
Christopher, then 15, said he wrestled the gun from Campbell and threw it. His mother came to his aid, and Campbell was knocked unconscious in the struggle. Then Christopher called 911 to get help for his injured brother.
"(Michael) eventually told me he saw Patti reach down and pull the gun up with a blank stare on her face, and he just turned around and ran for the front door to get inside," Christopher said in an interview last week.
"Apparently she shot once and missed - it went into the house, in the shutter - and she shot again and hit him in the back when he was running."
Act of valor
For his selfless act of courage, Christopher was awarded the Gold Valor Award from the Air Force Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps. The former cadet of the JROTC chapter at Mount Pleasant High School is the first in Cabarrus County to receive the award.
Lt. Col. Tom Clark, who oversees the JROTC program at Mount Pleasant High, said fewer than a handful of the Gold Valor Awards are given out each year, and this is the first time it has been awarded locally since the first JROTC chapter formed at Central Cabarrus High School in 1972. The MPHS chapter was formed in 2002.
The award recognizes "the most outstanding voluntary acts of self-sacrifice and personal bravery by a cadet involving conspicuous risk of life above and beyond the call of duty." It consists of a medal, ribbon and certificate.
Clark said Christopher took very decisive action.
"He thought, 'Something needs to be done,' " said Clark. "He knew everybody was at risk. His brother was already wounded.... And he did what do he needed to do to minimize the possibility of further injury."
Clark commended Christopher's bravery.
"Bullets whizzing by your head, that's something," said Clark. "I've experienced it, but in a controlled situation, and you can truly feel the pressure of those bullets pushing their way through the air.
"This is the kind of award that people want, and they'll tell lies and fabricate events just to get it," Clark said. "Without really being in his shoes, they want the gold without the risk. But this is the kind of thing that merits this award."
Two years later
Christopher's mother, Rebecca Allman, said she no longer thinks about the shooting every day, as she used to.
She said she remembers hearing a gunshot before Campbell turned the gun on her. Allman said she winced and heard the gun click a few times before realizing the gun was empty and hadn't fired.
"I still can't believe it," said Allman. "It's been almost two years, but there are days when I'm in the yard and I'll look back at the area where it all happened. I try to make sense of it all in my own head. How did a 15-year-old move so quickly? How he could jump so far to tackle her?"
Doctors told Allman that her younger son might never have full function of certain parts of his body, but Michael, who was in intensive care for about a month, has since made a full recovery.
Christopher said he had to do something, and his track, football and wrestling training helped him pull off his heroic feat.
"I think I just reacted," he said. "I don't know what made me do it, but I had to try and save his life. I couldn't just let my little brother die. I don't know if I was more scared or (angry), but I was so mad it happened to him.
"She was on her back, and I was on top of her with both hands on the gun, trying to wrestle the gun away," Christopher said. "I've wrestled some strong kids, and I play football, but she was by far the strongest person I've ever dealt with in my entire life. I don't know what was going through her."
Campbell, then 48, was charged with two counts of first-degree attempted murder and was held on $2 million secured bond in the Cabarrus County jail before she pleaded guilty to one count of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and one count of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury.
She is serving seven and a half years in the N.C. Correctional Institute for Women in Raleigh and is scheduled to be released in 2015.
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