A harrowing day at Ronald E. McNair elementary school – thankfully all are well


Channel 2 Action News confirmed that one person is in custody after shots were fired at a DeKalb County elementary school.

The DeKalb County school board chairman said there was an active shooter at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy just after 1 p.m.

DeKalb County police chief Cedric Alexander said the suspect fired on officers as they arrived and officers returned fire.

The man, described as 19-years-old and wearing all black, was armed with an AK-47 and other guns, police said. Alexander said they also feared the suspect had explosives in his vehicle.

Sources told Channel 2’s Mark Winne the suspect was peacefully apprehended by DeKalb County sheriff’s deputies and U.S. Marshals inside the school.
Turn on Channel 2 Action News or click here to stream for live updates.

+++ Kudos to DeKalb County police for their professional handling of the situation, resulting in no injuries and a peaceful arrest.

Click here
to watch the press conference with the chief and superintendent.

Click here to watch Mr. Thurmond’s interview later that evening.


UPDATE: Here is a link to a school security report sent to the blog by an internationally-known security professional, Michael Minieri, CPP++

Click to access school_security_feb2013.pdf

Feel free to share this report with anyone you know in school security.

SDM Magazine called Michael Minieri “…one of the most prominent people in the industry…” in a cover story and exclusive interview. Few others have the credentials, experience, skills, knowledge and abilities that our founder has gained in almost 40 years of protecting lives and property of every type in nearly 30 countries..

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46 Responses to A harrowing day at Ronald E. McNair elementary school – thankfully all are well

  1. H.A. Hurley says:

    We all now live with a certain number of violent incidents in every school system. Our culture of violence in this country leaves us all vulnerable. It is imperative that DCSS use modern instant methods to communicate with parents about their children.
    Parents spoke on camera about driving from Douglasville, Alpharetta and miles away. High sleed – dangerous! Had they been notified immediately that ALL Kids were safe, meet at Walmart, buses will bring kids, ID will be required to pick up the child. Standard message!! It would have prevented the panic and chaos for the parents. Parents and children now live with the daily fear of Newtown, CT. Collective PTSD!
    DCS, get your Twitter going! Use it the way news stations update!
    I heard the new PR Genius, Mr. Hudson, who knew squat about DCS. Period!
    Keeping parents calm will help kids deal with serious situations.
    Mr. Thurmond and BOE, get it together, it is only the second week.
    Think Twitter & publish evacuation plans for your schools, to churches and bus pick ups. These plans are in the system and need to be available!

  2. We are fortunate to have a professional, responsive fire and police force that took command quickly and evacuated children safely. I don’t give credit to anyone at the Palace, but McNair staff deserve praise for getting the children out with no casualties.

  3. Kim says:

    H.A. Hurley: While I certainly echo your enjoining the leadership to speed up communications to the fullest extent, I have to (sadly) point out that publishing evacuation plans would be a mistake. Those that would harm civilians or our children would use those very plans to maximize their own evil, lethal plans. I wish it weren’t so. God bless the families and children of Robert E. McNair ES and protect them from all harm for the rest of their walk through DCSD.

  4. Thurmond, in his email to DCSD staff, thanked law enforcement, Walmart, and parents. He didn’t thank the local McNair staff and faculty. Figures. In his non-educational thinking mode, they surely had nothing to do with getting the students out of the school safely. Thurmond doesn’t give a rat’s rear-end about those local school folks, who were the true first-responders.

  5. H.A. Hurley says:

    Kim ~ you are correct about secure escape plans given a specific situation. Every school has identified a community location in case they have to vacate the building. Often, it is a church, a community center or any large building within walking distance away from school. Administrators have that info and use that plan as needed. Using Walmart parking lot and receiving water and snacks from them, was a good plan. Given our dangerous world, every school needs to have a pick up place away from school, that is accessible for parents, lots of kids and buses.
    DCS has so little in place, I hope they think about each & every school in the system and plan for the worst.

  6. concerned citizen says:

    I thought Thurmond was pathetic at McNair today. His dopey smile, his constant fidjetting, hopping around like a kangaroo, interrupting the police chief but most of all, his OBVIOUS need for recognition. Even if Quinn coached him, and I know he did, momfromhell, he(Quinn) can’t make a silk purse with a sow’s ear. Thurmond was trying to be the hero of the situation and so not succeeding. He was so far into himself he couldn’t call the principal’s name! It was another embarrassment. Each shenanigan gets more grotesque. He’s a desparate man, from his glazed look and running- over mouth. He said the same thing over and over. We’re all sorry for the school. Credit the principal, teachers, staff,the adorable children, and police and leave out the politics and the so-called supt. !

  7. dsw2contributor says:

    The AJC is reporting that the school bookkeeper at McNair, Antoinette Tuff, convinced the suspect to put his weapon down and surrender.

  8. Don't give up hope says:

    I caught the same thing when I heard him live on the radio. HIs mentioning of dekalb teachers and school house administrators was a mere blurr of “staff.” It was only when a reporter sort of shamed him by saying don’t you think in so many words your teachers were the heroes too today that he was shamed into saying more. WOW!!!!. Can there may be a more blatant example of disrespect by Central Office but not surprising.

  9. whyaminotsurprised says:

    @dissonancetheory – I agree about the email message. It was oddly abrupt, and didn’t even introduce information about what had actually happened (not everyone listens to the news during the day). It didn’t mention that other schools had a level 1 lockdown until they were sure what was happening to keep children safe (a good thing!) I actually understand that it may take several hours to manage a safe dismissal, but I know others did not, and the email did not explain why things were done and how it kept kids safe. Even in a situation that was handled relatively well, they had just lousy communication.

    BTW, does anyone know what happened to the K12 Alerts? The system never worked well (my email kept getting kicked out of the system) and now it seems to be completely gone. We also aren’t getting the “good news” weekly emails that used to come around with info about what is going on at different schools.

  10. John Oselette says:

    I was particularly curious that Thurman stopped the press conference, even interrupting, immediately after the Chief of Police answered a reporter’s question about how the gunman gained entry in the building.and before any follow up questions. He sure looked a little nervous.
    —at about 7:15 in


  11. dsw2contributor says:

    John Oselette: According to the DCS job website (https://pats.dekalb.k12.ga.us), job posting #1345-2012, DCS needs an Operations/Locksmith. The position is described as:

    “Under direct supervision, installs, repairs, rebuilds, and services mechanical or electrical locking devices; establishes key codes and re-keys buildings. Maintains, installs and repairs all electric and magnetic locks, panic hardware and safes; maintains all tools and equipment and obtains parts from suppliers; originates codes and cuts keys to accommodate specific locations; maintains accurate and complete records on all jobs and work orders; confirms locks work properly per Fire Marshal Code to ensure the safety of the staff and students at each school; key locks to master, grandmaster and individual keys; collaborates with contractors and facilities/construction personnel regarding specifications for hardware and keying of construction projects; performs other duties as assigned.”

    That job opening was posted back on 12/20/2012.

  12. This kind of says it all:

    Contact info: School officials do not have a hotline set up for parents. Check back at ajc.com for updates.


  13. @ John Oslette — did Cedric Alexander the Chief of Police say that he was the Chief at DeKalb County FLORIDA? Bizarre!

    Thurmond does thank the staff and the principal at the school in this video. The chief also highly compliments the staff.

  14. Big kudos and a debt of gratitude to Antoinette Tuff!! What bravery, steadiness and maturity!

    The school bookkeeper, Antoinette Tuff, found herself alone with the alleged gunman, who instructed her to call Channel 2 Action News. Tuff did as a prayer rolled through her mind.

    “God help us all,” Tuff said to herself.

    Tuff told ABC News on Tuesday evening that she was with the suspect throughout the ordeal and asked him to put the weapon down. Hill did and surrendered without further incident. But by then, multiple shots had been fired, according to police.

    Alleged gunman’s name released; McNair students reunited with parents

  15. Tim McGaughey says:

    We are very fortunate. Thank you to everyone who helped make today a blessing, not a tragedy.

    Tim McGaughey

  16. howdy1942 says:

    I am just so grateful that all of the children are safe and that we did not have any injuries. I’m also glad that we were able to capture the suspect so that we perhaps can find out what was going through his head. For all of this, we must all be ever so grateful to Ms. Antoinette Tuff for her courage. I just wish that I could think that well under the pressure she was under. Not only was she successful in getting this gunman to stop what he was doing, she also talked him into surrendering. Finally, I am grateful to the police department for its rapid response and the manner in which it protected our kids. Superb job! I’ve heard our police chief on several occasions and today I watched him lead this response – great job!

  17. former dekalb parent says:

    Part of the communication problem may be that even I received a call from Super Thurmond, even though as my name implies..I am a FORMER DEKALB PARENT. They need to update their parent information.

  18. This woman is a true hero — thank God for Antoinette Tuff!!!

    From Yahoo news —

    A woman in the office called WSB-TV to say the gunman asked her to contact the Atlanta station and police. WSB said during the call, shots were heard in the background. Assignment editor Lacey Lecroy said she spoke with the woman who 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.”

    School clerk Antoinette Tuff in an interview on ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer” 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 told ABC.

    She told him her life story, about how her marriage fell apart after 33 years and the “roller coaster” of opening her own business.

    “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.”

    Then Tuff said she asked the suspect to put his weapons down, empty his pockets and backpack on the floor.

    “I told the police he was giving himself up. I just talked him through it,” she said.


  19. dsw2contributor says:

    Also on Tuesday, DCS was holding all-day-long meeting for its administrators. Consequently, DCS Principals were at the Palace –NOT in their schools– when the shooting happened.

  20. H.A. Hurley says:

    Antionette Tuff ~ Love her bravery and resourcefulness! That is strength personified! Also, life experiences and working with people. I hope DCS will recognize her, BigTime!

    Poor Mr. Thurmond looked so lost running around the buses. The Police Chief was great and he was in charge. Poor Mr. Thurmond…I keep say that, because he is so unprepared and befuddled in so many situations. But yet, euphoric, giggly and over the top sexist gripper at Midvale. Poor Thurmond!
    Again, DCS Twitter could have given parents specific bus pick up info, kids are safe, Photo ID needed to pick up kids at Walmart. But, no! No way to calm parents and get important info to parents. APS uses their Twitter all day long. It works! DCS and Thurmond are pittyful!

  21. dsw2contributor says:

    H.A. Hurley @August 21, 2013 at 9:31 AM – “Poor Mr. Thurmond looked so lost running around the buses.”

    Well, in fairness, it was the first time in Michael Thurmond’s education career that he had been present for a school dismissal…

  22. Click here to watch Mr. Thurmond’s interview later that evening. He does a bit better job. Still no answers as to how the kid even got in the building with all those guns!

  23. concerned citizen says:

    Dear DSW: I watched the proceedings for many hours, and Thurmond repeatedly was thanking people, but I will say I never heard him say the principal’s name or refer to the faculty. I know I saw three/four comments from him but no references to the principal and faculty/staff. He certainly did not say anything much positive about anybody. I have seen this personality disorder pretty often; someone who genuinely doesn’t care to hear someone else praised; in fact, the tendency is for this person to get hostile or mad, as Thurmond did in yanking away the chief of police. He simply loves to get in the limelight. Real sick.

  24. Dekalbite2 says:

    Antoinette Tuff epitomizes the kind of person we want working with our children. She is a remarkable person.

  25. Interesting, concerned. However, in the later interview, Thurmond does praise Ms. Tuff. That said, we tend to think he pulled the chief away because the chief started answering the questions as to exactly ‘how’ the perpetrator got in the building. There’s a security question there and parents want to know. How did the guy get in? He had an AK-47, a backpack full of weapons and he had no prior or known business at the school.

  26. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    If Thurmond plans to run for Senate. I think he might have lost it yesterday. He looked like a jack wagon trying to figure out what to do. Hey interim Super, let the real professionals deal with it. Your Central Office crew certainly proved yesterday that they have some issues to work out. Hey BOE, when will the search begin for a full-time Super…

    However, the school house employees did their job exactly as trained. Our local school leaders got email blaststo our community within the hour of the incident, to explain the District wide Level 1 lockdown. Way to go NcNair employees, you showed that it is all about the safety of the DeKalb school kids FIRST and FOREMOST and not the so-called Central Office leaders racing to the cameras first.

  27. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    One more thing, Ms. Tuff is a true American Hero!

  28. Here is a link to a school security report sent to the blog by an internationally-known security professional, Michael Minieri, CPP++

    Click to access school_security_feb2013.pdf

    Feel free to share this report with anyone you know in school security.

    SDM Magazine called Michael Minieri “…one of the most prominent people in the industry…” in a cover story and exclusive interview. Few others have the credentials, experience, skills, knowledge and abilities that our founder has gained in almost 40 years of protecting lives and property of every type in nearly 30 countries..

  29. Thurmond’s response to a reporter’s question as to how the school system went about informing parents…

    “We immediately began into an emergency protocol to respond to this crisis. I was out. I went directly to the scene so that I could be there to help to direct the response in terms of responding to the kids.”

    I kid you not. Those were his exact words.

    @ about 7:10

  30. HA Hurley says:

    I would like for all the English teachers to take red pen in hand, grade his comments and ask for a corrected assignment.
    And, AdvancEd does not call this an interruption? Thurmond is continuity? Oh, wait…he is right! It is continuity, as in business as usual. Poor Thurmond. As they say, ignorance must be excused, but where it is…it must be used. Please Mr. Thurmond, carry a Teleprompter wherever you go, and keep your hands off principals and other living things.

  31. Tucker Insider says:

    Nothing says we have it together like the live shot I saw on Channel 2 of the SPLOST Ford Sedan, with expired tags….parked right next to a DeKalb Police Cruiser, in HD.
    Stay classy, DCSS, stay classy. (note: I noticed this after all the kids had arrived safely at the Wal-Mart)

  32. John Oselette says:

    Thurmond’s response to the question about informing parents is, IMHO, what is wrong with the DCSS; people who are disconnected, not qualified for the positions they hold and are getting paid way too much for it. There is no coordination, no plan, no way forward. The motto of the BOE and the Office of the Superintendent should be: “All reaction, no proaction”

    Despite the failings at the Central Office, the staff and Administration at McNair were the hero’s of the day. The teachers, staff and administration obviously had implemented their security plan that kept the children safe. And, they did what they could to alert parents of the situation as soon as possible.
    The response of the DeKalb Police and other agencies was swift and overwhelming. For that I am so proud and thankful.

    However, the unbelievable composure of Ms. Tuff was beyond words. Her strength in the face of what must have been unimaginable fear brought tears to my eyes. She is the reason that the sick young man decided to lay down his arms. She is the reason that the McNair students and/or staff did not suffer the unimaginable fate as those young innocents in Sandy Hook. She looked evil in the eye, with composure and compassion, and talked him down.

    As a parent, if I were to meet Ms. Tuff, I would hug her and thank her. I want my son to shake her hand and know, this is a hero.

  33. Ms. Antoinette Tuff — my hero! That’s an amazing 911 call. What a strong lady! She was so in control and understanding. She has the biggest heart. She convinced him to give himself up and stayed with him as he surrendered. God bless her!


  34. H.A. Hurley says:

    Pierse Morgan played the entire 911 call with Ms. Tuff. Unbelievable bravery! I did not realize that the entire call and defusing the shooter took more than 15 minutes. A.m.a.z.i.n.g!
    DCS should collect $$$ at the Palace and send her on a two week paid vacation. Small gesture for the ultimate gift to everyone.

  35. hopespringseternal says:

    A real angel. That call should be replayed in every middle and high school in this — country. And in every introduction to training for first responders. Oh my.

  36. Former teacher says:

    I am on vacation in New York City, and Antoinette Tuff’s name is emblazoned in lights on every street corner where the national news highlights scroll. First time in a long time I was proud to say, “Yeah–that’s where I come from.”

  37. Oh that’s awesome Former Teacher!!

  38. concerned citizen says:

    Let me tell you about the call we received as retirees on Wednesday from Thurmond, only it wasn’t Thurmond. The phrasing and vocabulary and diction were no where what we get from Thurmond, who doesn’t speak the King’s English. I’m sure it was Hudson.

  39. dekalbite2 says:

    Quinn Hudson told CNN:
    “Tuff had training in how to deal with such a scenario.
    School staff regularly train for dangerous situations involving trespassers and emergency protocol, school district spokesman Quinn Hudson said.
    Tuff and two other staff members — a cafeteria manager and a media specialist — were specifically trained in hostile situations. The training is so often and extensive, they thought it was a drill” at first, said Hudson.”

    However, in her wsbtv interviews Ms. Tuff says that she knew this was not a drill, and she gives the training credit to her pastor who has started teaching on Anchoring and how to anchor yourself in the Lord. She used the principles she was learning in church – consulting people when they are bereaving. She is a remarkable person who let her strong faith guide her. How many people would live their faith to the extent she did? The idea that she kept this young man close to her and in the office so that he would not harm others shows how she lives her faith every day.

    The wsbtv interview is well worth watching as she describes how she works her way through this crisis.

    I hope Mr. Thurmond and the Board honor Ms. Tuff in a memorable way, and I hope the community can be there to show how grateful they are to her.

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