by: WSBTV.com web staff Updated:
DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy students headed back to the classroom at a different school Wednesday morning, one day after a gunman opened fire in their school.
Students began arriving at McNair High School after 7 a.m. They were greeted by counselors and a welcome message that said, "Welcome McNair Elementary School. Our prayers are with you."
Meanwhile, investigators questioned a 20-year-old man late into the night Tuesday after investigators said he was the person who opened fire inside the DeKalb County school.
Police told Channel 2 Action News that Michael Brandon Hill, 20, may have slipped in behind an employee at the school before confronting office staff about 1 p.m.
DeKalb County Police Chief Cedric Alexander said Hill fired on officers as they arrived and officers returned fire.
"When we received the call and we engaged, he started to fire from inside the school at our officers. He had one or two of the staff members inside the main office. He was holding them captive," Alexander said.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne confirmed that the suspect was peacefully apprehended by DeKalb County sheriff's deputies and U.S. marshals inside the school "without incident, without resistance."
Winne spoke to the arresting deputies.
"Once we got to the building we set up our position, possibly 30-40 feet from the actual door that the shooter was coming out of, taking rounds," said Investigator S. Daniels with the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office Fugitive Unit.
"When we took him into custody he said, 'I'm sorry, I'm off my meds.' He seemed like he was tired." Investigator T.L. Wortham of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Fugitive Unit told Winne.
Hill's attorney waived his first court appearance on Wednesday. He will be held on no bond and no court date has been set.
Hill's brother told ABC News that the 20-year-old has a troubled past.
"I couldn't tell you what his mindset was when he went up there. I honestly can tell you he's got a long history of medical disorders, including bi-polar," Timothy Hill said.
Michael Hill was arrested earlier this year for alleged terroistic threats and acts. He was sentenced to probation and anger management.
Investigators said Hill will be charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, terroristic threats and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Alexander said that officers feared the man had explosives in the car or the building. Alexander also said the alleged gunman had multiple guns, including an AK-47.
One of the women held captive in the school office, Antoinette Tuff, called Channel 2 Action News to report that there was a shooter in the school. She told a Channel 2 assignment desk editor that the gunman asked her to call WSB-TV and police.
"All the time of doing this I never experienced anything like this," LeCroy said. "It didn't take long to know that this was serious."
The McNair elementary office worker told LeCroy that the gunman wanted Channel 2 Action News to "start filming as police die."
The gunman then told the woman that he wanted "police to back up." Shots could be heard over the call. Eventually the woman told LeCroy "they got him."
Channel 2's Jovita Moore spoke exclusively to Tuff said for nearly an hour she talked to Hill about her life and his own all the while saving the lives of many others.
"The clips that go into the gun … he sat there right in front of me in the office and began to load them with bullets," Tuff told Moore.
"Antoinette, this whole time, what are you thinking?" Moore asked Tuff.
"I just started praying for him. I just started talking to him and allowing him to know some of the stories and let him know what was going on with me and that it would be OK. And then let him know that he could just give himself up," Tuff said.
"Did you tell him to put the guns down?" Moore asked.
"I did. I told him to put them on the table, empty his pockets. He had me actually get on the intercom and tell everybody he was sorry too. But I told them, 'He was sorry, but do not come out of their rooms," Tuff said.
"You're the hero today," Moore told Tuff.
"I give it all to God, I'm not the hero. I was terrified," Tuff said.
Tuff said her pastor has recently talked about
"anchoring" in the lord. She said she just thought about her faith in God the entire time she was facing the gunman. She also thought about her family.
Several shots were fired in the front office area before the suspect was taken into custody. Police then went classroom to classroom, knocking on doors and alerting teachers and students there was an intruder.
Alexander told Channel 2's Ryan Young firefighters cut a hole in the fence of a nearby residence so children could evacuate the school grounds through the back of that home.
"We could not bring the children around to the front of the school because we didn't know if explosives were in the vehicle," Alexander said. "Now, this deviates from our typical plan, but this was a very unusual situation, where we had to get the kids away from any possible explosives."
News Chopper 2 showed video of children running from the school and huddling near a fence in a field behind the building.
About 800 students from pre-k through fifth grade attend the school, which employs nearly 70 teachers and staff members, according to the Georgia Department of Education.
Parents were asked to go to the Walmart near Gresham Road and Interstate 20 to get their children. Hundreds of McNair elementary school parents flooded the parking lot to be reunited with the students, who were bused from the school. Parents were required to have a photo ID to pick up their child.
"When I first heard about the incident I had to rush to leave work, about an hour away to the school to see if everything is all right. When I got here they'd caught the guy and that's a good thing. Man I just heard all the kids are fine. Just good to have your little one back with you," parent Antonio Johnson said.
Parents at Walmart spoke to Channel 2's Lori Geary about their fears for theirchildren's safety.
"My daughter called me on the telephone while I was at home and she said 'Mom, are you listening to the news? There's something going on at Nadia's school. And so, she was on her way to Walmart and I came behind her," Anna, the
grandmother, told Geary.
"I don't know what's going on. I'm mad scared, upset, disappointed," said Tiyuana Lewis, whose 8-year-old son Tarik was still at the school. "I don't know how a gunman could just walk into the school with all that security. It makes no sense."
Shortly after 6 p.m., officers surrounded a home near the school on East Lilac Lane. A car belonging to the suspect also was extensively searched, police said.
A woman who lives in the home told Channel 2's Amy Napier Viteri that Hill was a good friend of her boyfriend's who had been sleeping on their couch for a couple weeks. She said Hill was a member of their church and he had been staying with them because he was having a rough time.
"I'm just happy no kids were hurt and just happy that he's off the streets," the woman said. "Because if that could happen, he could have done something to our family."
Investigators planned to work through the night to piece together what may have led the suspect to cause the scare at the
school in the 2100 block of Second Avenue.
Classes for the elementary students will be held at McNair High School on Wednesday, authorities said. Grief counselors will be at the school to assist students and staff.
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