The Washington Post

Atlanta school shooting averted; clerk Antoinette Tuff describes confrontation

Shots were fired Tuesday at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, an elementary school outside of Atlanta. Police took Michael Brandon Hill, 20, into custody and said later that he was carrying an AK-47 rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition, the Associated Press reported.

Fortunately, no one was injured. The outcome seems largely due to Antoinette Tuff, a school clerk, who told ABC affiliate WSB-TV that she met the gunman when he entered the building.

“He had a look on him that he was willing to kill,” Tuff said. “He said he didn’t have any reason to live, and he knew he was going to die today.” Tuff said she began telling him the story of her own life in order to calm him down. She described how her separation from her husband after 33 years of marriage left her feeling lonely and in pain, but she encouraged the man not to succumb to despair.

She said she prayed for the gunman during the crisis, and credited God with helping her maintain her composure.

“I give it all to God. I’m not the hero. I was terrified,” she said.

At one point, the man exchanged gunfire with police. Tuff said she convinced the man to stand down so that he would not be killed.

“I just explained to him that I loved him,” she said. “I didn’t know his name, I didn’t know much about him, but I did love him.”

Eventually, Tuff persuaded the man to surrender to police.

“It was scary because I knew that at the moment, he was ready to take my life along with his, and that if I didn’t say the right thing then we all would be dead,” she told ABC.

Hill has been charged with assault against an officer, making threats, and illegally possessing a firearm.

Max Ehrenfreund writes for Wonkblog and compiles Wonkbook, a daily policy newsletter. You can subscribe here. Before joining The Washington Post, Ehrenfreund wrote for the Washington Monthly and The Sacramento Bee.
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