*Residents in Decatur, Ga. were breathing a sigh of relief Wednesday while authorities were trying to determine why a man fired shots inside an elementary school on Tuesday.
Antoinette Tuff, the bookkeeper at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, was being credited with calming the gunman down and convincing him to surrender. She told ABC News Wednesday that the suspect, Michael Brandon Hill, told her he had recently stopped taking medication. She said he added that he was going to die — along with police officers. No one was injured. [Scroll down to watch the interview.]
Hill, 20, was in custody, accused of firing at least a half dozen shots with an assault rifle in the elementary school in a confrontation that forced the evacuation of 800 or more students and prompted police to return fire.
Investigator T.L. Wortham of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Fugitive Unit told WSB-TV that as officers were apprehending the suspect, he said, “I’m sorry, I’m off my meds.” Several weapons were seized, Wortham said.
Hill’s brother, Timothy, told ABC News the suspect has a “long history of medical disorders” including bipolar disorder, and was bound to “do something stupid.”
Timothy Hill, 22, said he’s not close to his brother and thinks he last saw him in January 2011. Hill, who said his brother once threatened to kill him, also said Michael Hill was taking drugs for treating attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder as early as age 6.
“I had a feeling he was going to eventually, one day, do something stupid, but not of this magnitude,” he told ABC News.
DeKalb County Police Chief Cedric Alexander said the McNair school has a system requiring visitors to be cleared and buzzed in, and the gunman gained entry by slipping in behind someone authorized to enter. He said the man did not get past the school’s main office.
School clerk Antoinette Tuff said she worked to convince the gunman to put down his weapons and ammunition.
“He told me he was sorry for what he was doing. He was willing to die,” Tuff said in an interview on ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer.”
She said she told him her life story, including about the end of her marriage after 33 years.
“I told him, ‘OK, we all have situations in our lives,” she said. “It was going to be OK. If I could recover, he could, too.”
Tuff said she asked the suspect to put his weapons and backpack down.
“I told the police he was giving himself up. I just talked him through it,” she said.
Assistant Police Chief Dale Holmes said the suspect was not injured and was undergoing police interrogation.
Hudson said all the students have been accounted for. Students were evacuated into a field behind the school and reunited with their parents at a nearby Walmart, Hudson said.
Television images from a helicopter showed the students racing out of the building, escorted by teachers and police.
A woman in the school office called WSB-TV as the events were unfolding. She said the gunman asked her to contact the Atlanta station and police. WSB assignment editor Lacey Lecroy said the woman who made the call said she was alone with the man and his gun was visible.
“It didn’t take long to know that this woman was serious,” Lecroy said. “Shots were one of the last things I heard. I was so worried for her.”
DeKalb County Schools Superintendent Michael Thurmond praised faculty and authorities who got the students to safety, staying calm and following safety plans in place.
“It’s a blessed day. All of our children are safe,” Thurmond said.