Fortunately, Tuesday’s gunman incident at an elementary school near Atlanta ended with no injuries or deaths. This is mainly thanks to Antoinette Tuff, a school clerk who spent about an hour calmly persuading the gunman to put his rifle down and surrender.
Tuff feared the worst when she encountered the gunman carrying an AK-47 assault rifle and other weapons in her school office. She told reporters, “I saw a young man ready to kill anybody that he could.” Approximately 870 pre-kindergarten to fifth grade students at the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Georgia were safely evacuated during the incident. While the gunman exchanged some shots with the police, no one was hurt.
Tuff told Atlanta’s local news station that the 20-year-old gunman was able to pass the school’s security because he followed a parent who had not shut the door. She immediately began speaking with the gunman in an attempt to reason with him. The gunman told her he had nothing to live for before loading his gun. “I just started talking to him … I let him know what was going on with me and that it would be OK,” she said. “I give it all to God, I’m not the hero. I was terrified.”
She told ABC’s Diane Sawyer that much of her conversation focused not only on trying to understand the gunman, but also on trying to get the gunman to relate to her. “I just started telling him stories,” she said, and things like, “You don’t have to die today.” Tuff told him a story of tragedy in her own life, and explained to reporters that she simply asked him to put his weapons down and surrender to police. She “talked him through it” by reminding him that “life will still bring about turns, but we can learn from it.”