BOOKKEEPER ANTOINETTE TUFF has been hailed a hero in the United States after she managed to talk down a gunman at an elementary school in Decatur, Georgia.
The 999 call from the incident on Tuesday has been released and reveals what happened when Michael Brandon Hill walked into her office at at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, gun drawn and ready to kill.
In an interview with Atlanta News 2, Tuff recalled how Hill told her he was ‘not playing’.
“This is for real,” he said. “This is not a show.”
Tuff told the reporter that the 20-year-old had “a look on him that he was willing to kill”.
“Matter of fact, he said it,” she added. “He said he didn’t have any reason to live and that he knew he was going to die today.”
The bookkeeper then worked to keep Hill calm and away from the school’s 870 pupils.
He tried to go out the door where the kids were and I called him back and kept talking to him to keep him calm and stay inside with me. I knew that if he got outside, he would start shooting the kids.
To keep his attention, Tuff began telling stories about her own life – her marriage, the loss of her husband of 33 years, her disabled child and the struggles she has come through.
“I told him, ‘OK, we all have situations in our lives. I went through a tragedy myself. It was going to be OK. If I could recover, he could too.”
The conversation between the pair lasted about one hour before Tuff persuaded the young man to surrender to police. She can be heard telling him to put his weapons down and empty his pockets. He also asked for her to tell everybody in the school he was sorry.
Although there was a brief exchange of fire when police entered the building, he eventually surrendered properly and nobody was injured.
Tuff has been reticent to accept the ‘hero’ tag, saying she gives it “all to God”.
“I’m not the hero. I was terrified.”