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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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August 22nd, 2013
06:19 PM ET

A school bookkeeper's compassion leads to gunman surrendering

You can only hope every school in the United States employs someone as fearless and heroic as Antoinette Tuff. Tuff is the school bookkeeper from Georgia who disarmed a man with an AK-47 who had slipped through the doors of DeKalb elementary school on Tuesday ready to die.

Tuff's only weapon was human compassion and sympathy for a very sick young man.

In her 9-1-1 call you can hear her comfort the suspect, Michael Brandon Hill, with her own life experiences.

“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,” Tuff told Hill. “We all go through something in life…you’re going to be okay.”

The 9-1-1 call lasted for almost 25 minutes, and true to her words - the suspect, was taken into custody unharmed.

Miraculously, every student - and everyone at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, including Tuff, came out similarly unscathed.

“I first engaged Mrs. Tuff sitting there on the sidewalk, on the curb, after the alleged shooter had been apprehended,” said Michael Thurmond, Interim Superintendent of DeKalb County Schools. “Tears were streaming down her face, but at that point you knew you were in the presence of a hero. She literally placed her life on line to save the lives of hundreds of children and employees.”

The crisis at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy could have been a heartbreaking situation, but Tuff managed to talk the alleged gunman down, buy time for law enforcement and save hundreds of lives.

“It’s not generally understood but the front office is a part of the security system. If an unauthorized person enters a school building, particularly like McNair, the people in the front office there is a redundancy,” Thurmond explained. “A human being [Tuff] engaged the intruder, and she was just smart enough, brave enough, compassionate enough to bring him and to stop him and to re-direct what could have been a murderous intent.”
Thurmond said that all 600 children safely reunited with their parents on Tuesday, and students returned to Ronald E. McNair for school Thursday morning.
“The kids are fine. You know the little kids, they just wanted to get home to mom and dad, but they are so resilient.”
Thurmond also thanked the parents at the elementary school.
“In this crisis situation they [the parents] were there, they were anxious, some of them were frustrated but at the same time they supported the plan that was in place, they worked with law enforcement and when we delivered those little babies over to the beautification location it was just a sight to see, to see them putting their arms around their kids,” he said.

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