None injured in Georgia school shooting

Tuesday, Aug 20, 2013 11:25 PM
Last updated 11:37 PM
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Parents cheer as school buses arrive with pupils after a shooting at Ronald McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga. A 20-year-old man fired on police from inside the school Tuesday. No one was injured.  JOHN BAZEMORE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Parents cheer as school buses arrive with pupils after a shooting at Ronald McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga. A 20-year-old man fired on police from inside the school Tuesday. No one was injured.

DECATUR, Ga. — A man with an assault rifle and other weapons exchanged gunfire with officers Tuesday at an Atlanta-area elementary school before surrendering, a police chief said, with dramatic overhead television footage capturing the children racing out of the building, being escorted by teachers and police to safety. No one was injured.

Just a week into the new school year, more than 800 pupils in pre-kindergarten to fifth grade were evacuated from Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, a few miles east of Atlanta. They sat outside in a field for a time until school buses came to take them to their waiting families at a nearby Walmart.

When the first bus arrived about three hours after the shooting, cheers erupted in the parking lot from relieved relatives, several of them sobbing.

The suspect, identified as 20-year-old Michael Brandon Hill, fired at least a half-dozen shots from the rifle from inside McNair at officers outside, the chief said. Officers returned fire when he was alone and they had a clear shot, DeKalb County Police Chief Cedric L. Alexander said at a news conference. Hill surrendered shortly after and several weapons were found, though it wasn’t clear how many, Alexander said.

Police had no motive.

The suspect, who had no clear ties to the school, never got past the front office, where he held one or two employees captive for a time, the chief said. Hill is charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, terroristic threats and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

A woman in the office called WSB-TV to say the gunman asked her to contact the Atlanta station and police. WSB said that during the call shots were heard in the background.

School clerk Antoinette Tuff said in an interview on ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer that she worked to convince the gunman to put down his weapons and ammunition.

“He told me he was sorry for what he was doing. He was willing to die,” Tuff told ABC.

She told him her life story, 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.

DeKalb County Schools Superintendent Michael Thurmond praised faculty and authorities who got the pupils to safety, staying calm and following security plans. All teachers and students made it out of the school unharmed.

“It’s a blessed day, all of our children are safe,” Thurmond said at the news conference. “This was a highly professional response on the ground by DeKalb County employees assisted by law enforcement.”

School volunteer Debra Hayes said she encountered the suspect without knowing it.

She stopped by the office at the end of her shift and saw a man talking to a secretary but she did not see a gun.

“I heard him say, ‘I’m not here to harm any staff or any parents or students. He said he wanted to speak to a police officer.”

“By the time I got to 2nd Avenue, I heard gunshots,” she said.

Complicating the rescue, bomb-sniffing dogs alerted officers to something in the suspect’s trunk and investigators believe the man may have been carrying explosives, Alexander said. Officials cut a hole in a fence to make sure students running from the building could get even farther away to a nearby street, he said. SWAT teams then went from classroom to classroom to make sure people were out.

Police had strung yellow tape up blocking intersections near the school while children waited to be taken to Wal-Mart where hundreds of people were anticipating their arrival. The crowd waved from behind yellow police tape as buses packed with children started pulling up along the road at the store. The smiling children waved back.

Regional superintendent Rachel Zeigler used a megaphone to say children were organized on the buses by grade level and that each bus would also be carrying an administrator, a teacher and a Georgia Bureau of Investigation officer. Relatives had to show ID, sign each child out and have their photo taken.

The school has about 870 children enrolled. The academy is named after McNair, an astronaut who died when the space shuttle Challenger exploded on Jan. 28, 1986, according to the school’s website.

Jonessia White, the mother of a kindergartner, said the school’s doors are normally locked.

“I took (my son) to school this morning and had to be buzzed in,” she said. “So I’m wondering how the guy got in the door.”

Jackie Zamora, 61, of Decatur, was at the Wal-Mart waiting and said her 6-year-old grandson was inside the school when the shooting was reported and she panicked for more than an hour because she hadn’t heard whether or not anyone had been injured.

Since shootings in classrooms all over the country, the massacre at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary being the freshest in people’s minds, schools have implemented security from metal detectors to armed guards. McNair had its own safety precautions.

White said the school has a set of double doors where visitors must be buzzed in and show identification to a camera to be allowed in.

“I don’t know how this could happen at this school,” Zamora said. “There’s so much security.”

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pantherluvcik 08/21/13 - 05:11 am
What a shame that these nuts

What a shame that these nuts are targeting schools and innocent children. It's not even safe to send your children to school anymore. Thank God nobody was harmed and I hope they lock him up for a long time and that way he can talk to all the officers he wants to.

corgimom 08/21/13 - 05:55 am
This is why these "security

This is why these "security measures" of keeping the doors locked, and buzzing people in, are worthless.

ragingbull 08/21/13 - 07:05 am
If the young man wanted to

If the young man wanted to take his own life, more power to him. But to endanger the lives of children in the process takes any form of compassion for the suspect off the table. Suicide by cop would have been a good ending for him.

nocnoc 08/21/13 - 08:10 am
Was in Atlanta Yesterday

Listing to it live, between the sentencing coverage.
Here is what was said on the TV and WSB Radio 750AM
Here is what was reported live up there
The only weapon on him was 1st it was a semi-auto AK style weapon with a 30 round clip. He pulled the trigger each time to fire it and did NOT fire all 3o rounds in whole clip. AK's are Full Auto this was NOT a full auto.

The guy came up to the school secretary and told her to call WSB.
He wanted maximum media attention.

WSB had a copter over head as the kids ran out the back doors to the school yard. The white guy ONLY had 1 weapon with him and that was repeatedly stated by both the secretary and the news person still on the phone with her at the time.

The guy shot up the ceiling and a some windows, but NEVER was contact with the students or classrooms.

Repeated remarks made by those that came in contact with him, indicated he looked and acted to be Mentally handicapped aka retarded.

There are good things and problems I see with what was described.

* The Secretary should be awarded a medal . She stopped and challenged the guy then kept him occupied while the alarmed cleared the students and classrooms.

* The students were quickly evacuated.....

This is where the good ends and the problems start.

1. The students were evacuated to a Fenced in School yard.
If there had been a second shooter the students would have been fenced in and mowed down in a clear KZ. Fortunately an officers quick thinking cut a hole in the fence to get the kids further away

2. The shooter gained access to the lobby and the secretary by walking in. He was never BUZZED in, he walked in ?? Which conflicts with parent statements

3. The students were quickly placed on buses and moved to a parking *lot at Walmart off I-20 Flat Shoals Area, where they again were held in mass groups.

4. Atlanta RUSH HOUR and others issues precluded easy pickup by a parent(s).

5. The student instead on being sorted out and placed on their normal bus for delivery home, were held there until a parent with picture ID arrived (shoots a hole in the idea of the voter ID is racist) to pick them up.

6. The I need to be on TV dramatics kicked in, as a few women started screaming the usual "Where's my baby" mantra. Even though it was high 60's - 74's yesterday in Atlanta the media started in on the children could have heat stroke sweating to death on the buses, for
sensationalized coverage angle.

7. When 600-700 students, this what they said in Atlanta not 800, are crowded into a Public parking lot on buses, Next time make provisions for basics (Water, & Porta-lets).

A few suggestions as we build new schools and remodel older ones:
1. Reenforce School Lobby areas with the bank teller drive up windows.
2. Man trap the lobby area, have a enclosed waiting area with No access to the School class rooms or hallways.
3. Lockable Steel doors in classrooms.
4. Have several Wireless Panic buttons that connect directly to 911 or APD / SWAT.
5. Have an Armed guard on campus.
6. Allow Admin staff to be trained and armed.

If Public Government buildings can be protected with limited controlled access, why not the schools?

Some interesting observations:
Within 20 mins. of time the school problem was announced:
* Politicians lining up and Anti-gun statement.
* CNN was live and already had Anti-Gun and school safety expert talking heads on camera,
* DrudgeRETORT had up a banner headline in 10 mins.
* MS-NBC had dusted off the Anti-Gun Play book and the NRA evil script.

This guy wanted attention

He was clear from the start on the point when he demanded WSB-TV / Radio be contacted.

Within 20-25 mins, he was taken alive with 1 weapon next to him on the floor. This why Admin personnel need to be trained and armed.

Later SWAT later blew open his vehicle trunk and that was the last I bothered to listen and switch to music.

seenitB4 08/21/13 - 08:33 am
I watched it too noc

This guy wanted attention & the smart woman gave him attention...she was the hero yesterday....also I give full credit to the police of DeKalb county...this could have ended in a disaster.

Amazing thing about that ID to pick up the kids...great idea & no one balked at that...did they?

Darby 08/21/13 - 11:12 am
"Amazing thing about that ID to pick up the

kids...great idea & no one balked at that...did they?"

What?? No one said, "You can keep the kid, I ain't showing you no picture ID."? //

Are you certain about that?

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