Antoinette Tuff stopped a terrible day from being much worse. Yesterday a 20 year old gunman assaulted a school in Georgia with an AK-47. He claimed he was “off his meds.” The school’s bookkeeper talked him out of going on a rampage.
More than 800 students escaped without injury from the confrontation, after Michael Douglas Hill allegedly gained entry to the heavily secured school by “piggy-backing,” or following another person, through the doors, and eventually shot 12 rounds at police from the school’s front office before surrendering.
After Newtown, the push to relieve parental anxieties has focused on bolstering perimeter security, hiring armed guards, and training what security professionals call “immediate responders,” in this case, teachers and a bookkeeper, says Bob Lang, security chief at Kennesaw State University, in Kennesaw, Ga.
“In this case, [teachers] were probably briefed on what the process would be and how to get kids into a shelter-in area or lock the doors and get under desks,” he says. “But it all comes back to the perimeter – how are you keeping these people out? – and that was the weak point here.”
A strong point, however, was the school’s bookkeeper, Antoinette Tuff, who emerged as a hero after apparently talking Mr. Hill into surrendering his weapons, in part by telling him about her own hard times, including a divorce that ended a 33-year marriage and the difficulties of starting a business.
“I just started praying for him,” she told Atlanta’s Channel 2 Action News. “I just started talking to him … and let him know what was going on with me and that it would be OK. And then let him know that he could just give himself up.”
After Hill allegedly exchanged brief gunfire with officers outside the front office, Ms. Tuff says she persuaded Hill to empty his pockets and pile his weapons on the front desk.
We still need armed guards at schools to protect our kids. The presence of the sheriff’s officers outside surely got the shooter’s attention and slowed him down. But we also need brave people like Antoinette Tuff. Amazing.