Her bedside manner was astounding. After she negotiated the terms of the surrender, she continued to reassure the gunman.
“We’re not going to hate you, baby,” she said. “It’s a good thing that you’re giving up, so we’re not going to hate you.”
Even the dispatcher couldn’t hide her admiration.
“Ma’am, you’re doing a great job,” she said.
Tuff continued to build rapport.
“It’s going to be all right, sweetie,” Tuff said to the gunman. “I just want you to know that I love you, though. 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’re going to be OK. I thought the same thing. You know, I tried to commit suicide last year when my husband left me, but look at me now: I’m still working and everything is OK.”
After a few more tense moments of negotiation and brutal silence, a cacophony of deep-throated police voices barked orders in the background as the danger subsided.
“Let me tell you something, baby,” said Tuff to the dispatcher over the noise. “I ain’t never been so scared in all the days of my life.”
When WSB-TV’s Jovita Moore called Tuff a hero during an interview the next day, she refused the title. “I give it all to God,” said Tuff. “I’m not the hero. I was terrified.”
What’s important is Hill is now jailed and charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, making terroristic threats and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
After I listened to the emergency recording, I couldn’t help but remember what unfolded in the days after another similar story. A week after December’s Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, broke the group’s silence. He called for armed educators and proclaimed: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”
Hey, Wayne. Care to add a “sometimes” to the start of the sentence? Maybe it’s not the only thing. Cool it with the absolutes. A little bit of compassion can do the trick, too.
Rob Burgess, Tribune night editor, may be reached by calling 765-454-8577, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at twitter.com/robaburg.