Gunman invades McNair Academy; scare ends well for students, families
Ken Watts | 8/20/2013, 9:59 p.m.
DeKALB COUNTY Hundreds of students from the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy were reunited with their parents off campus Aug. 20, hours after a man with an assault rifle entered their school and fired shots. There were no injuries and DeKalb Police have a suspect in custody.
He’s identified as 20 year-old Michael Brandon Hill. Police detonated the trunk of a car parked in front of the school that they believed belonged to Hill and may have contained explosives.
Parents were reunited with the children in the parking lot of a Walmart on Gresham Road after hours of tension and uncertainty.
George Colbert hugged his son George, Jr, a first grader. when he got off the bus.
“I’m happy to see him and relieved that he’s okay," he said, "but I’m upset that this happened. No parent wants to see this kind of thing happen at the place where their child goes to school.”
The dramatic chain of events began around 1 p.m. at the elementary school on Second Avenue in Decatur.
DeKalb Police Chief Cedric Alexander said the armed man barricaded himself in a front office and fired shots at officers.
“He fired as many as a half dozens shots at officers who were approaching the building," Alexander said. "As soon as the officers had a clear shot they returned fire. Fortunately no one was hit.”
The suspect surrendered after the brief exchange of gunfire. DeKalb Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Kyle Jones said Michael Hill will be booked into the DeKalb Jail.
Alexander said there’s still no clear motive in the attack.
McNair Discovery Learning Academy has an enrolment of 870.
Interim School Superintendent Michael Thurmond praised the school’s faculty, administrators and staff for the way they handled the situation.
“This was a professional response on the ground by DeKalb County employees assisted by law enforcement,” Thurmond said. “And not just during the crisis, but also the way they managed the kids after the gunman was arrested and they worked all afternoon to get the kids home to their parents.”
Antoinette Tuff, the school's front officer clerk, is credited with playing a key role in ending the confrontation without injury.
Tuff said she was able to calm the intruder and prevented him from going into the rest of the school where students were.
“I said it’s okay, we all have situations in our lives,” Tuff told ABC News. “We established a rapport. Eventually, I asked him to lay down his weapon and ammo and lie down on the floor, and he did it.”
After a bomb-sniffing dog alerted officers to the possible presence of explosives in the suspect’s car, police went classroom to classroom alerting teachers. Moments later, students were quickly evacuated out a back door. Alexander said officers had to cut a hole in the fence to move the students off campus.
Thurmond said school administrators and media reports notified parents that they could pick up their children in the Gresham Walmart parking lot about two miles from the school.