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Denver officer who stopped church attack that tested his faith

11:09 PM, Dec 23, 2012   |    comments
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"I'm trying to still grasp that being called a hero," the Denver police officer said. "I was in the right place in the right time to do what was needed to be done. Just happy I was there. Only God knows how much worse it could've gotten."

Milow, a six-year veteran at DPD, was off duty April 22 and was at his family's church, Destiny Christian Center in Aurora.

That afternoon, a man crashed a car in the parking lot as the service was wrapping up, got out of it and opened fire. Milow acted fast by shooting the gunman and saved almost everyone in the church.

He's been cleared by Aurora and Denver Police departments, as well as the Arapahoe County District Attorney's office, which ruled the shooting was justified. The investigations are standard procedure any time an officer fires a weapon.

It's taken Milow eight months to be able to share the story from that day. He talked only to 9NEWS Crime and Justice Reporter Anastasiya Bolton.

GETTING BACK TO CHURCH

"What drew me to the church is plain and simple; I saw what God did for my cousin and positive changes in his life that happened. If God could do that for him, surely he can do that for me," Milow said.

Milow moved to Colorado from Flint, Mich. on July 4, 2000.

Milow grew up with his cousin De Lono Straham. Straham was in Colorado, serving as a pastor at Destiny Christian Church. Straham's family was there, including his mom Josephine Echols, the woman Milow considered his second mother.

He called her "Aunty," because, as a kid, he couldn't pronounce the word "aunt."

"Love her like my mother. She had raised me. Part of the reason I'm the man I am is part to her," Milow said. "Half the reason I did come out here from Michigan was to get a better relationship with God."

That relationship was tested Sunday April 22, in the very place Milow tried to get it back.

APRIL 22, 2012

Sunday morning, Milow got home a bit late from his overnight shift in downtown Denver as a DPD District 6 officer.

Milow's 7-year-old son wanted to go to church. That church is a family place where Milow's cousin goes, Straham was the pastor, where Echols - who everyone called "Momma Jo," was a mom to all.

"I'm like 'You sure you want to go? I'm kind of tired,'" Milow said. "He's like 'No, I want to go to church.'"

Milow says he always carried a gun. For him, it was like putting on his socks when getting dressed."[I] kind of hesitated that morning," he said. "I looked at it, I was like, 'Argh, man, do I really feel like going through this?' Then 'Nope, you always carry it, so go ahead, put it on. Let's get to church.'"

The service was running late.

"My cousin says, 'I know it's normal time for us to go, but God doesn't want us to leave yet, so we're not leaving till God says it's time for us to go," Milow recalled.

Milow said everyone was praying, the music was playing, and he was called up to the front of the church, which is unusual.

"God's got something for me; [be] ready to receive it," Milow said.

Then according to Milow, Straham turned to him, turned off his microphone and said, "God told me to give you a word, and it's just for you only. God told me to let you know that you're about to do something that you never had to do in your entire life, and you will be courageous, and you will be brave and you will see it through."

"Then my aunt gives me this great big hug and pulls me down cause she's short and just gave me a kiss on the cheek and said 'I love you, son.' I was like 'I love you too mama,'" Milow said.

When asked later, Straham told Milow he didn't remember saying those words.

At that moment, something happened outside that would test Milow's faith.

"I'm walking out and I can see where a car had crashed into one of the member's cars. I see this guy," Milow said. "I see him reaching under his shirt. My brain just started going. 'Wait a minute,' I said, 'Is he pulling out a gun?' I pulled mine out to be safe. My brain just goes 'Is this really happening?' I yell at him, 'Police, drop the gun.' He turns and fires a shot. I hear a bullet fly by," Milow said.

Milow said the man kept coming at him firing. He had no cover in front of the church. His training kicked in.

"I'm yelling, telling him to drop the gun. He's sprinting at me full speed, firing, and I'm returning fire. I could hear the bullets flying by, and I'm moving," Milow said.

The shooter, who police later identified as Kiarron Parker, was shot several times, but made it all the way inside the front door of the church, full of women and children.

Milow said he ran inside the church - thinking the shooter will keep going. Milow used the soda machine as his cover. When Parker walked inside the door, Milow said he grabbed his gun.

"I looked into his eyes, nobody was there," Milow said. "He'd shot every bullet that he had."

KIARRON PARKER

Parker had an extensive criminal history in both Colorado and Oklahoma, as well as a pattern of drug use. He had no relationship to the Destiny Christian Center, and authorities may never know why he chose to attack that church on that day.

MOMMA JO

The next thing Milow remembers is hearing a voice - one that sounded familiar.

"He shot my mama," Milow says his cousin Straham cried out.

Milow said those words didn't seem real.

"I love her. That was my mama. That was another mama," he said. "I didn't even know she went outside. She was still inside."

The last time Milow had seen Echols, she was inside the church.

"When I go visit her gravesite, it's real, it's real but it's like 'Man, did all this really just happen?'" Milow said.

Echols was a nurse. She ran outside to help whoever crashed their car.

"When such a peaceful person has to die in such a violent manner, it's kind of like 'Really? Really? Why her?'"

Milow still has her number in his phone. It's been eight months.

"I saved everybody but that one person, and it does bother me still. I couldn't save her," Milow said.

FAITH

Faith takes work. Milow had to work on it, had to pray, meditate on what happened, he says. However, he came out stronger in the end.

"I always believed God won't give me anything more than I can handle. So apparently I can handle it," Milow said.

"If somebody tells me there is not a God, I'm going to have to disagree with you. Because, you see, I'm not a small person of stature and for the bullets to fly by me and not get hit is nothing less than a miracle," Milow said.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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