Shortly after 1pm Tuesday, a man, authorities have identified as Michael Brandon Hill, walked into Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Center in DeKalb County with a fully automatic weapon and demanded to talk to WSB-TV News and the police.
Police say the 20-year-old apparently was able to get into the school by walking in behind an authorized parent. He was carrying an AK-47 and police said he possessed other weapons as well as possible explosives in the trunk of his car.
According to a press conference, police say Hill held two school staffers hostage and fired multiple gun shots at police, shattering the glass at the front door of the school. Police returned fire and soon Hill surrender without injuries to staff or students.
A WSB-TV assignment desk editor recapped her experience in an on camera interview about when she took the call from a school employee who was face to face with Hill. Hill told the school employee, that he did not want to hurt anyone. He also said he wanted WSB-TV to be on the scene to “start filming as police die” Hill stated, He was not afraid to die and the police should backed up”.
As this terrifying story unfolded across Atlanta news outlets, parents of the 800 student school poured into area of the neighborhood campus with fear and concern over the safety of their children. Many did not know if their children were still in the building with Hill.
Police say because of the possibility of explosives in Hill’s car, and the SWAT teams’ efforts to secure the building, students were evacuated from the campus. Carefully, the children were brought through a neighbor’s yard, and transported by school buses to a nearby WalMart.
Anxious, emotional parents started reuniting with their children about two and half hours after the incident begin. With and without patience, parents, who possessed photo I.D.s were able to pick up their children at the WalMart parking lot located right off the Interstate-20 at the Flat Shoals exit.
There were children crying, as well as parents as they finally saw each other. Some children even told local media that they heard the loud booms, or apparently gunshots while in their classrooms.
As part of the standard lockdown procedure, the classroom doors are locked and students hide under their desk. Law officers helped to rush students to safety out of the back doors of the school.
Many parents have expressed concern and are upset about how an armed man was able to get into the school with heighten security measures in place. The district will review this incident and answer parent’s concerns.
DeKalb Superintendent Michael Thurmond credits the McNair staff for the smooth evacuation of students. Law enforcement from across various agencies secured the school site and helped in the transporting of students.
As for Michael Brandon Hill, WSB-TV has reported that he said to police, “I am sorry and I am off my meds.”
Hill is facing charges including: Aggravated Assault on a Police Officer, Terroristic Threats and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.
School officials say McNair Discovery Learning Center will be open for classes on Wednesday.