Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

August 28, 2013

House of Burgess: A good woman without a gun

Bookkeeper disarms would-be shooter with love

Whatever Antoinette Tuff is being paid by DeKalb County School District, it’s nowhere near enough. On Aug. 20, the Lithonia, Ga. bookkeeper single-handedly prevented what easily could have ended as a ghastly school shooting.

Whilst suspect Michael Brandon Hill brought “an AK 47-style rifle and packed up nearly 500 rounds of ammunition — enough to shoot more than half the school’s students,” according to CBS News, Tuff’s weapon of choice was love. That and above-average people skills.

The 24-minute-long 911 recording of the incident is a roller coaster. The whole drama unfolded within earshot of the receiver of Tuff’s phone. The call began with an earful of the half-dozen shots which were fired in the front office of the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy.

“He said to tell them to back off,” Tuff told the dispatcher. “He doesn’t want the kids. He wants the police. … He said he doesn’t care if he dies. He said he’s not mentally stable.”

I’ve worked in customer service before, and I’m here to tell you she’s a master. As soon as she finished discovering the issue, she began to establish common ground.

“I can help you,” Tuff said to her assailant. “Do you want me to talk to them? OK, but let’s see if we can work it out so you don’t have to go away with them for a long time. … No, it does matter. I can let them know you’re not trying to harm [us] or anything. … It’s all going to be well, and they’re going to talk to the police.”

She then made a school-wide announcement at the behest of her captor.

“He wants to let everybody know that he’s sorry,” she said into the intercom. “He does not want to harm anybody. Everybody stay in place.”

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