Antoinette Tuff, the school bookkeeper credited with heading off a possible massacre at a DeKalb County elementary school, spent much of last week being showered with praise by everyone from local law enforcement to President Barack Obama.
But for a woman who credits God with giving her the strength she needed to face down a gunman, Sunday’s recognition from her local church may be the sweetest.
Tuff was honored Sunday morning at The Way, The Truth and The Life Christian Center in Decatur for her cool-headed handling of Michael Brandon Hill, 20, who allegedly entered Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Center Tuesday with an AK-47-style rifle and nearly 500 rounds of ammunition. While being held hostage, Tuff said she talked to Hill, calmed him down and eventually persuaded him to surrender to police, a feat Obama called “remarkable.”
But while Tuff has been singled out for her caring and understanding approach to the gunman, she has used every occasion to credit her faith.
“I give it all to God, I’m not the hero. I was terrified,” Tuff told Channel 2 Action News in an interview last week.
School officials evacuated the building while Tuff kept Hill talking. Hill fired several shots, but no one was injured and he was arrested without incident, police said.
“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.
Hill faces a number of felony charges related to the incident. The DeKalb County Public Defender’s office said Hill is “a young man with a long history of mental health issues.”