When suspected gunman Michael Brandon Hill, 20, entered the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, in Atlanta, GA this week, the first person he encountered was office bookkeeper, Antoinette Tuff. In an interview on ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer,” Tuff said she worked to convince the gunman to put down his weapons and ammunition.
As visitors to the school are normally buzzed in by staff, police believe Hill must have walked in behind someone meant to be at the school. Lucky for the staff, teachers and 800 pre-kindergarten through fifth graders, Hill never got past the front office, and Tuff’s desk.
Tuff told ABC’s Good Morning America, the gunman said, “was sorry for what he was doing. He was willing to die. And he hadn’t taken his medication.”
To talk him down Tuff began to share her own life story with Hill. She says, she told him about how her marriage fell apart after 33 years and the “roller coaster” of opening her own business.
“I told him, `OK, we all have situations in our lives,” she said. “It was going to be OK. If I could recover, he could, too.”
Then Tuff said she asked the suspect to put his weapons down, empty his pockets and backpack on the floor.
“I told the police he was giving himself up. I just talked him through it,” she said.
She told WSB-TV in Atlanta she tried to keep Hill talking to prevent him from walking into the hallway or through the school building.
“He had a look on him that he was willing to kill – matter of fact he said it. He said that he didn’t have any reason to live and that he knew he was going to die today,” Tuff said, adding that Hill told her he was sure he’d be killed because he’d shot at police officers. “I knew that if he got out that door he was gonna’ kill everybody,” she said.
Thanks to the level-headed thinking of a suburban Atlanta school bookkeeper, no one was struck or injured.
As officers swarmed the campus outside, Hill shot at least a half a dozen times with an assault rifle from inside the school. Officers returned fire, said DeKalb County Police Chief Cedric L. Alexander, but eventually Hill then surrendered.