Thursday August 22 2013
– A man armed with an assault rifle entered a primary school in the US state of Georgia, held employees hostage and exchanged fire with police, before giving himself up.
Dramatic overhead television footage captured pupils racing out of the building.
Just a week into the new school year, more than 800 students in pre-kindergarten to fifth grade were evacuated by teachers and police on Tuesday from the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, a few kilometres east of Atlanta.
DeKalb County police chief Cedric Alexander said the suspect, identified later as 20-year-old Michael Brandon Hill, fired at least half a dozen shots from inside the administration area and officers returned fire when he was alone and they had a clear shot.
Mr Alexander said Mr Hill surrendered shortly after and he had other weapons, but police had no motive for the incident.
Although the school has a system where people must be buzzed in by staff, the gunman may have slipped inside behind someone authorised to be there, Mr Alexander said.
Mr Hill never got past the front office, where he held one or two employees captive, the chief said. He has been charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, terroristic threats and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
School clerk Antoinette Tuff, in an interview on ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer, said she worked to convince the gunman to put down his weapons.
“He told me he was sorry for what he was doing. He was willing to die,” she said.
She told him her life story, about how her marriage fell apart 33 years and the “roller-coaster” of opening her own business.
“I told him, ‘OK, we all have situations in our lives’,” she said. “If I could recover, he could, too.”
Then Ms Tuff said she asked the suspect to put his weapons down and empty his pockets and backpack on the floor.
“I told the police he was giving himself up. I just talked him through it.”
Officials cut a hole in a fence to make sure students running from the building could get even further away to a nearby street, DeKalb County Schools Superintendent Michael Thurmond said.
SWAT teams went from classroom to classroom to make sure people were out.
They sat waiting in a field for about three hours until school buses came to take them to their parents and relatives at a nearby Wal-Mart department store – AP