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Meet the woman who talked to the Georgia school gunman and convinced him to surrender
Tuesday’s incident in a Georgia elementary school was the best-case scenario for a school shooting. No one was hurt. The shooter, armed with an AK-47 and intent on dying in a shoot-out with police, surrendered peacefully. What was it that kept McNair Discovery Learning Academy from becoming as infamous as Sandy Hook or Columbine?
The empathy of school clerk Antoinette Tuff, for starters.
After the shooter trailed someone past the school’s security doors, he was met by Tuff. She started talking to him, a distraction that saved lives and dramatically changed the course of Tuesday’s events.
“He tried to go out the door where the kids were and I called him back and kept talking to him to keep him calm to stay inside with me,” Tuff said in an interview with Atlanta’s Channel 2 news. “Because I knew that if he got outside, that he was going to start shooting the kids.”
Tuff related to the shooter her own story: a divorce after 33 years, a child with multiple disabilities, and, in her own words, how she, “felt at my low, I didn’t feel like anybody loved me.”
“Look at me. I’m still living.”
It was this amazing act of empathy that coaxed the shooter into conversation. He told Tuff he was sick, that he hadn’t been taking his medicine, that he knew it was already over for him.
She comforted him.
“I told him […] he still had an opportunity. He didn’t kill anybody,” Tuff told WSBTV. “I would allow them to know that he didn’t do anybody any harm.”
The shooter eventually laid down and surrendered, first telling Tuff to apologize to the school over the intercom.
“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 OK,” Tuff can be heard saying in the released 911 call. “I just want you to know I love you, though, OK? 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. No, you don’t want that. You going to be OK.”
Antoinette Tuff’s story is worth hearing in her own words. Watch it below.