Two days after two women worked together to get an armed gunman at a DeKalb County elementary school to surrender peacefully to police, they met and hugged on national TV.
Thursday evening, CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewed Antoinette Tuff, a bookkeeper at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, and 911 operator Kendra McCray about the role they played in disarming 20-year-old Michael Brandon Hill.
Hill, who, according to family members receives medical care for a mental condition, entered the school at about 1 p.m. Tuesday and fired multiple shots from an AK-47. He was in possession of almost 500 rounds of ammo.
No one was hurt, largely because of the calming and calm reaction of Tuff, who managed to talk Hill into laying down and letting police take him into custody.
Thursday was a big day for Tuff, who also received a phone call from President Barack Obama just before the show, said Cooper. AJC colleague Jim Galloway reports Obama may invite Tuff to the White House.
When Hill entered the school’s offices, he fired one round and Tuff called 911. McCray answered, and together the women relayed information from Hill to police. On 911 audio tapes, the women’s voices remained calm even while Hill fired rounds from the high-powered rifle.
“Let me tell you something, baby, I ain’t never been so scared in all the days of my life,” Tuff told Cooper. “I was actually praying on the inside. I was terrified, but I just started praying.”
McCray said she’d never “had a call where the caller was so calm, and so confident in what you were saying, and so personable. … [I] was terrified, coming on that line and hearing those gun shots… my hands were shaking so bad.”
Tuff said the “scariest moment” came after police fired back at the school and Hill became agitated. Then he started reloading his weapon and stuffing more ammo in his pockets.
After Hill told her he was off his medication and considering suicide, she said she “began to feel sorry for him.”
“So I knew that I wasn’t actually speaking to someone that was in their right state of mind,” she said.
After Tuff had gotten Hill to agree to surrender, the women said he became “agitated” and thought the situation would become violent. But Tuff told McCray to get the police into the office quickly and the Hill was taken into custody without more gunfire.
“[During the incident] I knew that I could help somebody. Somebody — God sent people, my pastor and people and friends and family in my path to help me through. And I knew at that point in time, that [Hill] needed me. And I was the only person there,” said Tuff.
Tuff said she wants to meet with Hill again and would like to help him.
“He’s a hurting — he’s a hurting soul. And so if there’s any kind of way that I can help him and allow him to get on the right path, we all go through something. And I believe that God gives us all a purpose in life. And I believe he has a purpose and destiny for that young man, also,” said Tuff.