By C.N. Staff Writer
In a country with unrestrictive gun laws and unfortunate school killing tragedies, one Georgia woman helped decide the fate of a school full of children by her actions alone. Antionette Tuff, a school bookkeeper at Ronal E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, GA took a bold step, confronting and talking down a would-be shooter, who planned on killing hundreds of children at the elementary school.
In a tense 911 call, Tuff is overheard talking to Michael Brandon Hill, 20, the would-be killer, helping him to surrender after she says he fired shots outside a Georgia elementary school. Thanks to Tuff, this time there will be no funerals with tiny caskets, no candlelit vigils and no families mourning the lost of their little ones. There will not be a repeat of Sandy Hooks Elementary, where a killer shot up the school killing dozens of children before turning the gun on himself.
According to police, Hill entered the school, which sits just outside of Atlanta, armed with Hill an AK 47-style rifle and nearly 500 rounds of ammunition. He entered the schools front office, where Tuff was sitting and because of her courage to speak to Hill, not a single student was shot, although Hill did fire shoot the sidewalk before entering the school. With 870 students inside, aged between five and eleven years of age, the nation, in all likelihood was staring down the barrel of yet another horrific school shooting, with Hill confessing he had not been taking his psychiatric medication.
Tuff said she helped intercept the tragedy by speaking calmly to Hill and acting as a go-between Hill and police officers, relaying Hill’s demands that police refrain from using their radios and “stop all movement,” or else the suspect would shoot. “We’re not going to hate you,” Tuff told Hill, later referring to him as “baby” and “sweetie”. While Tuff worked to keep the gunman calm and spoke with him, she signaled a code to her two counterparts, who immediately triggered a phone tree to tell teachers to lock doors and send children to safety. By the end — with police themselves having never directly talked to him — Tuff and the gunman were talking about where he would put his weapon, how he’d empty his pockets and where he’d lie down before authorities could get him.
The only reason there was not a mass shooting because Hill listened to Tuff as she calming and compassionately talked him down. As soon as Hill entered the school and fired one round into the ground, Tuff called 911 and stayed smooth and calm as a computer help line operator.
On Thursday, August 23, 2013, President Obama identified Tuff as a hero, with a surprise phone call thanking her for her act of bravery. Obama called “to thank her for the courage she displayed while talking to a gunman who entered the school where she works earlier this week,” the White House pool report said. Tuff said she was surprised Obama called her. “I was like, ‘President Obama, it’s really you!'” Tuff said. “It was the best voice that I could ever hear.”
After the shooting in Newton, Connecticut, left 20 children and six adults dead, Wayne LaPierre, the head of the National Rifle Association, insisted the incident was not evidence of the need for more gun control but more guns. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he said.
Tuff’s action shows neither guns nor guys are necessarily compulsory. A woman armed with emotional intelligence, immense poise and copious amounts of empathy can do the job and leave everybody alive.