DECATUR, Ga. — A school clerk on Tuesday stalled a man dressed in black who had sneaked into an elementary school with an AK-47, giving police time to arrive before he could make his way into classrooms packed with 800 children.
The man, who police said was Michael B. Hill, 20, and who lived near the school, the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, was in a car suspected of carrying some type of explosives along with other weapons. He probably followed someone into the secure school, according to police and school officials.
Once inside, he made his way to the main office, said Cedric Alexander, chief of the DeKalb County Police Department. There he found the clerk, Antoinette Tuff, who said in an interview with ABC News that the man demanded that someone call the police and a television station. He was “a young man that was ready to kill anybody that he could,” she said.
Tuff kept him engaged throughout the ordeal. The gunman also held other employees hostage.
When police arrived, the gunman stepped outside of the building and fired four to six shots, and went back inside, police said. An officer returned fire. Tuff said the man had wanted to go back outside but she told him to empty his pockets and backpack and to put his weapons down. “He got down on the floor, but when the police officers came in, he was actually laying on the floor with his hands behind his back,” she said.
Alexander said that at this point, “He did not put up a fight whatsoever.”
Inside the school just east of the Atlanta city limits, doors were barricaded and students hid under desks. Some said they thought they were participating in a fire drill. Others heard the shots.
The man’s car was parked in front of the school, and a police dog detected explosives, Alexander said. So officers herded children to the back of the school.
Then, in a scene made familiar by school shootings in Littleton, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., students ran hand in hand from the school, escorted by police officers who led them onto buses.
Parents who had rushed to the school spent more than three hours behind yellow police tape in a nearby Walmart parking lot, waiting for the buses to deliver their children.
Tempestt Radford, who was waiting for her fourth-grader, said she had heard about the shooting from a friend. “Everything that could be wrong went through my head,” she said. “My main thing was to try to go get my child.”
Like so many others, she immediately thought of the shootings in Newtown.
“That’s the first thing that popped into my head,” she said.