Video courtesy of CNN

August 22, 2013

School employee helped avert tragedy in Ga. standoff

By Kate Brumback and Phillip Lucas / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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A McNair High school staff member works on a welcome sign for Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy students on Wednesday, a day after an armed gunman held staff members captive and fired into the floor of the school office. As officers swarmed the campus outside, he shot at them at least a half a dozen times with an assault rifle from inside the school and they returned fire.

AP

Law enforcement officers praised Tuff for helping to avert a potential tragedy.

"She was a real ally," Alexander said. "She was a real hero in all of this. She just did a stellar job. She was cool, she was calm, very collected in all of this, maintained her wherewithal."

Tuff told WSB-TV in Atlanta that she tried to keep Hill talking to prevent him from walking into the hallway or through the school building.

"He had a look on him that he was willing to kill — matter of fact he said it. He said that he didn't have any reason to live and that he knew he was going to die today," Tuff said.

Hill was arrested in mid-March for making terroristic threats in Henry County, DeKalb and Henry County sheriff's officials have said. He was sentenced to probation.

A woman who said she served as a mother-like figure to him said he didn't seem to have any friends and rarely talked about his family or past during the months he lived with her and her husband several years ago.

He was quiet and didn't display anger or violent tendencies, said Natasha Knotts, the woman who took him in after he started coming to the small church where her husband is pastor and she is an assistant pastor.

Knotts told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Hill lived with them for about six months in his late teens.

"He was part of our family," Knotts said, though they were not related. She said her family was aware that "he had a mental disorder" before he moved in.

Hill told her that his birth mother was dead and that he didn't know his father. He also has brothers.

Knotts was shocked when she realized Hill had been taken into custody.

"This is something that's totally out of his character. This is not him. This is not the Mike that I know. For anyone that knew Mike, this was a total devastation," she said in an interview at her home in Lithonia, Ga.

She kept in touch after he moved out and said he'd recently been living with another couple who belonged to the church. Knotts last saw Hill about a month ago and he seemed fine.

Knotts said Hill called her sister Tuesday afternoon before the shooting to thank the family for all they had done for him and said he had a rifle. He did not say what he was planning to do.

Police released an undated photo of Hill posing with an assault rifle they believe is the one used Tuesday.

Knotts said she thinks Hill's actions were a plea for help.

"Unfortunately," she said, "he didn't know a better way to get it."

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