School Clerk Talks Shooter Into Putting Down His Gun

The quick thinking of a school clerk made all the difference — very likely saving lives — when 20-year-old Michael Brandon Hill, armed with an AK-47 and 500 rounds of ammunition and dressed in black, showed up at the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Georgia, on Tuesday afternoon.

Bookkeeper Antoinette Tuff was among school personnel in the charter school’s front office when Hill walked in behind someone authorized to enter the building. As she told World News with Diane Sawyer, she and other employees saw him load the gun with ammunition. “[I saw] a young man ready to kill anybody that he could and take any lives he wanted to.”

Tuff tried to ask the assailant his name to calm him; she said he at first refused to tell her. According to Tuff, Hill also “told [her] he was sorry for what he was doing. He was willing to die.”

It was when Tuff started talking about herself that Hill started listening:

“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.”

Tuff said she talked about her marriage of 33 years ending and the “roller coaster” of starting her own business.

Hill stepped outside of the school when police and U.S. marshals arrived and there was an exchange of fire before he returned inside. Fearing that he would go back out and shoot at police or children, Tuff asked Hill to “put [his gun] on the table [and] empty his pockets.” Hill agreed to surrender.

According to Tuff, “he had me actually get on the intercom and tell everybody he was sorry, too. … I give it all to God, I’m not the hero. I was terrified.”

SWAT teams helped to evacuate the children, the youngest of whom were in pre-kindergarten.

Hill faces charges including aggravated assault on a police officer, terroristic threats and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Hill had recently been arrested for alleged terroristic threats and acts, sources told ABC News; a man with the same name and age as him had been arrested in McDonough, Georgia, five months ago and been sentenced to three years’ probation and anger management

“I told the police he was giving himself up. I just talked him through it,” Tuff told ABC News.

Tuff has said that she is not a hero. Nonetheless, it is impossible not to be in awe of what she did on Tuesday; she very likely averted another tragic loss of life like that in in Newtown, Connecticut last December.

Tuff’s brave acts are more than a reminder of the everyday heroism of teachers and others who work at our schools — principals, office staff, custodians, counselors — and make them sites not only of learning but communities that mean all the world to students and to parents.

We entrust the learning and the lives of our children to schools every day. As a parent, I’m simply grateful to know that individuals like Tuff are not afraid — are more than willing, even if their life is on the line — to do all that has to be done for the welfare of all and for our children.

Photo from Thinkstock


GGma Sheila D.
GGmaSheila D4 years ago

It just shows that you don't need a gun in every situation. Yes, she's very lucky but I giver credit in being able to sze up the young man and maybe see something that told her he really didn't want to start shooting. She saved not only the children and herself but the young man, and maybe a few police. Kudos and I'll more stars to Pat's.

Lori Ann Hone
Lori Hone4 years ago

Ms. Tuff is a hero, certainly saving many lives, thank God she was at the right place, at the right time and said the right words. As for Republicans, well since they believe everyone should have asault rifles and high capasity clips, I pray for your children.

Lynn C.
Lynn C4 years ago


Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper4 years ago


Nils Anders Lunde
PlsNoMessage s4 years ago



Although I recognize her excellence, she also put her life in the gunman hands. Not all the gunmen give up, most of them shoot first.
Brave woman anyway.

Kathy K.
Kathy K4 years ago

I listened to some of this on the news. Antoinette Tuff was just stunningly amazing. She was calm, compassionate, thoughtful. What a blessing she is to that school!

Roxana Saez
Roxana Saez4 years ago

God bless all the good people in our lives that we often and stupidly take for granted. She rekindles our faith and hope in humanity.

Pat A.
P A4 years ago

Antoinette Tuff is indeed a heroine - and a truly good, compassionate, God-centred and wonderful woman. Stars all over the place... I think it was in an article in the Huff Post that I read she gave the credit for what she did to God, and to her pastor for teaching her to pray inside - what an example to us all!