Long before there was conflict management there existed the wisdom of Solomon and Proverbs 15:1 in which the statement “a soft answer turneth away wrath” would defuse volatile situations.
In Atlanta, Georgia Tuesday, August 20th, Michael Brandon Hill ,20, walked into Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Center with a another potential Sandy Hook shooting incident. McNair carried what the police later called an AK-47 type assault weapon and 500 rounds of ammunition.
Hill’s mental state was one of fatalistic depression. He believed nobody cared about him and he had stopped taking his medication that regulated his mental state. The only thing Hill did not count on was crossing paths with one Antoinette Tuff who personally took ownership of the situation and turned a potential tragedy into a moment of triumph.
Instead of ducking and running for cover as most people would, Tuff stood firm and demonstrated to Hill a determination to not become a victim. She talked to Hill to let him know that he was not the only one with problems and shared her struggles of attempted suicide when her husband left her.
Then Tuff said something to Hill that was a game changer, she said she had love for him. The type of authentic love and caring that could only come from the love of Christ. It was something Hill never anticipated hearing. It was an authentic display of caring that convinced Hill that perhaps life was worth living.
Hill was to the full with hopelessness, rage, and hurt from a difficult life and typically a furious lashing out will result eventually if a healthy outlet is not done. Simmering in your bitterness will ultimately result in an emotional explosion and Hill finally determined to dish out as much agony as possible.
The Sandy Hook shooting was still fresh in the minds of those receiving the 911 call. The circumstances were similar involving an angry and weapons ready 20-year old. However in Hill’s case he did not totally possess the desire to gun down youngsters after his run in with Tuff. If he did, that impulse was skillfully defused by a determined Tuff.
Nerves of steel and a compassionate heart of Tuff changed what probably was going to be another horrific shooting story. After calmly talking down the gunman into surrendering, Tuff told the 911 dispatcher,
“Let me tell you something, babe. I’ve never been so scared in all the days of my life. Oh, Jesus!!”
In Tuff’s communication with Hill she determined that the gunman really did not want to shoot any of the children, but would have fired on police officers if they pressed Hill at all. The police stood down from visual and radio contact while Tuff talked it out with Hill. Hill finally surrendered without anyone being shot or injured.
Dekalb County Police Chief Cedric Alexander declared Tuff “a real hero” and was clearly instrumental in the successful conclusion to the ordeal. The fact the shooter was mentally unbalanced from not taking his medication made Tuff’s actions even more impressive.
It clearly was an example of a soft answer turning away wrath.