911 Call Captures School Employee Talking Down Gunman
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Finally this hour, there was a harrowing report earlier this week of a gunman at an elementary school outside Atlanta. But it had a happy ending, thanks, in large part, to the heroic actions of the woman who made this 911 call.
ANTOINETTE TUFF: I'm on Second Avenue in the school and the gentleman said tell them to hold down the police officer coming and he said he going to start shooting so tell them to back off.
CORNISH: Her name is Antoinette Tuff. That's T-U-F-F. She works in the front office at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in DeKalb, Georgia. And she was there Tuesday when a 20-year-old man named Michael Hill walked into the school with an AK-47.
TUFF: I'm in the front office. Oh, he just went outside and started shooting. Oh, can I run? Hold on.
CORNISH: Antoinette Tuff did not run. When the gunman returned, she calmly relayed his demands to the police dispatcher.
TUFF: Now, what did you want me to tell her, sir? Okay. He told me, put you on hold and call the news, ma'am.
CORNISH: Police say Michael Hill was carrying 500 rounds of ammunition and Antoinette Tuff simply kept him talking.
TUFF: Okay. He doesn't want the kids. He wants the police. So back off and - and what else, sir? He say he don't care if he die. He don't have nothing to live for.
CORNISH: Over the course of the 25-minute 911 call, Tuff doesn't simply communicate for Hill, she bonds with the gunman.
TUFF: He said he should've just went to the mental hospital instead of doing this because he's not on his medication. But do you want me to try - I can help you. Let's see if we can work it out so that you don't have to go away with them for a long time.
CORNISH: When the gunman appears to mention suicide...
TUFF: No. You don't want that. You gonna be okay. I thought the same thing. You know, I tried to commit suicide last year after my husband left me, but look at me now. I'm still working and everything is okay.
CORNISH: Finally, Michael Hill told Antoinette Tuff that he was sorry and laid down his weapon.
TUFF: It's gonna be all right, sweetheart. I just want you to know that I love you, though, okay? And I'm proud of you. That's a good thing that you're just giving up and don't worry about it. We all go through something in life.
CORNISH: Then, the police rushed in.
TUFF: Okay. He just got his phone. That's all he got is his phone. It's just him. Okay. I'm gonna tell you something, baby, I ain't never been so scared in all the days of my life.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: But you did great.
TUFF: Oh, Jesus.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: You did great.
TUFF: Oh, god.
CORNISH: Antoinette Tuff and the 911 call for the school shooting that did not end in tragedy.
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