Armed and Dangerous: Two Incidents Frighten Parents, Renew Calls for Gun Control
By D. Aileen Dodd Contributing Writer | 8/23/2013, 6 a.m.
This year at APS there are more full-time police officers working to keep kids safe. The school board agreed to spend $10.1 million to increase the ranks of SROs, sworn police officers specially trained to interact with kids. The safety net includes adding between 25-to-47 full-time officers in the first wave of the program.
Security officers at New Schools at Carver use hand-held wands and metal detectors to search kids who enter the campus. APS officials have said the equipment was working when the loaded gun was found. The girl caught with the weapon told police she was holding it for another student.
“She gave us that student’s name,” said Maj. Keith Meadows of the Atlanta Police Department. “Subsequently, we were able to place him in custody as well in connection with that particular handgun.”
At McNair, even though visitors must show identification to a camera before they are buzzed inside locked double doors, a breach still occurred.
DeKalb County Police Chief Cedric L. Alexander said that the gunman likely slipped in behind someone given access to the school. He barricaded himself in the front office with an employee and asked her to call the police and an Atlanta news station.
School volunteer Debra Hayes said she saw the suspect talking to a secretary, but did not see his gun.
“I heard him say, ‘I’m not here to harm any staff or any parents or students.’ He said he wanted to speak to a police officer.”
“By the time I got to 2nd Avenue, I heard gunshots,” she said.
School clerk Antoinette Tuff, who survived a divorce and the pitfalls of running her own business unsuccessfully, said she convinced the gunman to put down his weapons and ammunition. She told him her life story and how she made it through difficult times.
“He told me he was sorry for what he was doing. He was willing to die,” said Tuff.
“I told him, … we all have situations in our lives,” she said. “If I could recover, he could, too.”
The clerk then coaxed the suspect into surrendering to police.
DeKalb County Schools Superintendent Michael Thurmond praised faculty and law enforcement for their bravery and leadership.
“This was a highly professional response on the ground by DeKalb County employees assisted by law enforcement,” Thurmond said.
Kindergarten through 5th-grade students at McNair were evacuated after police dogs alerted officers that there could be explosives in Hill’s trunk. SWAT teams searched the school, classroom by classroom. Anxious parents nervously gathered at a nearby Walmart parking lot, waiting for up to three hours for a glimpse of their kids.
Some burst into tears and waved as school buses escorted by agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation rolled in.
U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who was waiting with parents, said the gunman endangered innocent lives.
“I am deeply disturbed by the shooting at McNair Learning Academy,” he said in a statement. “As a society, we must find a way to deal with the fact that there is too much violence on our city streets. Somehow and some way we must convey the message to young and old that violence is not an effective way to solve human problems.”
Associated Press and the Georgia Public Broadcasting news service contributed to this report.