'God was with us Tuesday'
Parents, police puzzled over how intruder gained entrance
Ken Watts | 8/23/2013, 6:03 a.m.
DECATUR Attendance at the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy dropped dramatically in the days after a man with an assault rifle invaded the Decatur school and fired shots.
Parents kept 650 of the school’s 820 students home on Aug. 21, the day after the incident, when they were bused to classes at McNair High School.
Principal Brian Bolden said about 790 kids, or about 96 percent, showed up on Aug. 22 when classes resumed at their school on Second Avenue.
DeKalb Schools spokesman Quinn Hudson said the students have adapted quite well in the wake of the Aug. 20 invasion by gun-toting Michael Brandon Hill.
“Other than being in a different building, it was pretty much business as usual for the kids,” he said.
Students who missed school on Wednesday won’t be penalized.
Hudson said that absent kids and staff will be excused.
“We will also have counselors on duty through Friday or longer if necessary for anyone who needs them,” he said.
The dramatic chain of events began about 1 p.m. on Tuesday at the elementary school.
Hill, armed with an AK-47 assault rifle and nearly 500 rounds of ammunition, shattered the normal school day for students and staff.
He told bookkeeper Antoinette Tuff to call a television station and 911.
“He was going to end his life and take everybody with him,” she said.
Tuff was able to calm the intruder and prevented him from going into the rest of the school where students were.
In the dramatic 911 tape, Tuff can be heard telling the gunman that “we all have situations in our lives.”
“We established a rapport,” she told ABC News on Tuesday. “Eventually, I asked him to lay down his weapon and ammo and lie down on the floor, and he did it.”
Police blew up the trunk of Hill’s car, which was parked in front of the school, after a bomb-sniffing dog alerted officers to the possible presence of explosives.
After that, police went classroom to classroom alerting teachers.
Moments later, students were quickly evacuated out a back door.
DeKalb Police Chief Cedric Alexander said officers had to cut a hole in the fence to move the students off campus.
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 OK,” 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.”
Alexander said Hill fired as many as a half dozen shots at officers who were approaching the building.
“As soon as the officers had a clear shot, they returned fire,” he said. “Fortunately, no one was hit.”
Hill, 20, surrendered after the brief exchange of gunfire and was booked into the DeKalb County Jail.
Hill was questioned for hours by police, but Alexander said there’s still no clear motive for the attack.