"He had me get on the intercom and tell everyone he was sorry..."
August 21, 2013 10:46 AM   Subscribe

On Tuesday, 20 year old Brandon Michael Hill walked into a Georgia elementary school dressed all in black, and carrying a bag full of guns and ammunition, including an assault rifle. He exchanged gunfire with the police, and fired off several shots in the office of bookkeeper Antoinette Tuff-Michael. Here, she gives her account of what happened next.

From the video:

"He tried to go back out of the office, where the kids were, and I called him back and told him to stay inside with me...I knew that if he got outside, he was going to start shooting kids... [So] I just started telling him my stories and things that I had been going through...I [saw] myself and my kids, and all those 800 babies and staff members that was in there, depending on me to keep their lives safe...He told me he had no reason to live, and that nobody loved him. And I just told him that I loved him.""


Tuff-Michael eventually convinced Hill to set down his weapons and surrender himself to the police. She says she'll be back at school tomorrow.
posted by pretentious illiterate (99 comments total) 77 users marked this as a favorite
 
That settles it, every school in America should equip its employees with loaded brains and hearts.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:49 AM on August 21, 2013 [277 favorites]


That bookkeeper is so fucking brave it almost made me cry.
posted by orme at 10:52 AM on August 21, 2013 [37 favorites]


NO NON NO GUNS GUNS GUNS AND FEAR!

(seriously though - what an amazingly powerful story - if only there were more love in the world, more help for those who need it, those who didn't feel neglected by our society, how much more healthy we would be as a whole).
posted by symbioid at 10:52 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is clearly a liberal media lie. I have it on good authority that the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:53 AM on August 21, 2013 [72 favorites]


Brave and excellent. More people like her, please!
posted by rmd1023 at 10:56 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's not how to defend the Second Amendment! Needs much more crazy and stupid.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:56 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

And not just any gun - an automatic with laser sights and two high capacity banana clip magazines...
posted by playertobenamedlater at 10:56 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Hill, who had address listed about three miles from the school, is charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, terroristic threats and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon"

There's so much horrifying about this story. This is a) a guy 2 years out of high school who b) has a felony on his record and c) got his hands on a "bag full of guns" and d) sauntered into a school with said bag intent on e) shooting the place up.

It's a laundry list of how society can absolutely fail one of its members. I am nothing but glad that the tale ends the way it does, but the intervention should have taken place long before he walked through the doors into that school.
posted by griphus at 10:56 AM on August 21, 2013 [30 favorites]


I'm so glad that this ended without slaughter. I hope that since this guy survived the incident, unlike many others who either kill themselves or are killed by police in situations like this, we can learn something from him about why some men do things like this and perhaps even use those insights to design mental health or other policy interventions.
posted by clockzero at 10:57 AM on August 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


I know this is crazy talk but we could actually talk about the interesting, different, heartening stuff about this story instead of just reciting sarcastic restatements of shit we don't like about other stories that aren't so good.
posted by cortex at 10:57 AM on August 21, 2013 [69 favorites]


Hey guys good news apparently guns do not actually kill people, so this wasn't as bad as it all sounds.
posted by GuyZero at 10:58 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, you guys, you can't do this to me today. My fourth and last child went to her Kindergarten orientation today with her mom. I thought I was going to be OK but you're making my fight-or-flight reaction kick in!
posted by wenestvedt at 10:59 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


we could actually talk about the interesting, different, heartening stuff about this story

Ugh. FINE.

What I found odd was that the cops had to cut a hole in the fence around the school to let the kids get away.

Fences are nominally to keep the school safe. Oddly once you're in an armed intruder situation, fences are not so great any more.

I wonder if schools will actually dial back on the fencing for this reason. It seems that there's no universal security measure.
posted by GuyZero at 11:00 AM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


You know, my right wing friends point out this is what you get when you have gun free zones.

But then, this guy drove right past however man gun-toting freedom loving patriots who didn't do a thing to stop him on his way to that gun free zone.

I'm starting to think that America's gun nuts are bad at stopping bad guys.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:01 AM on August 21, 2013 [19 favorites]


I love that she thinks she wasn't a hero because she was terrified. That's what makes it heroic. That's what heroism is.
posted by neuromodulator at 11:02 AM on August 21, 2013 [152 favorites]


Obs a staged false-flag operation to lull folks into thinking they don't need guns in schools. THANKS OBAMA
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:03 AM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


What an amazing story.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:03 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


A woman answering the phone at a number listed for Hill in court records said she was his mother but said it wasn't a good time and rushed off the phone.

Always blaming the mother!
posted by Obscure Reference at 11:05 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


What a great, great person. I can only hope I'd do anything as cool and good in the same situation. I don't think I would. Hat off to her.
posted by alasdair at 11:06 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


THIS IS HOW IT IS SUPPOSED TO WORK.
posted by edheil at 11:11 AM on August 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


What astonished me most about the video is all the little ways Tuff-Michael managed to form bonds of empathy with the guy:

-Instead of begging or crying or shouting (or shooting), just telling him her life story, including her feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and how she got through it.

-Telling him they could have been related (because they shared a name.)

-Telling him she remembered him from the time he came and played in a band at the school, and that he'd done a good job. (Even though it wasn't true, she had no memory of the event.)

-Asking to get on the phone with his family member to reassure them that he was going to be okay.

That last is a stroke of empathetic brilliance. Not "Please, beg your son to leave us alone," but "I know you must be worried about your son, but he can still get through this and be all right." She promised him that the encounter didn't have to end up with him dead, and then did everything she could to make it happen. Including - and she doesn't state this outright; you have to read between the lines - volunteering to stay at her desk so that she and not the gunman was the first person the police saw when they burst into the room, ready to start firing. She risked her life over and over and over again for those kids, and it worked. If that's not the definition of heroism, I don't know what is.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 11:11 AM on August 21, 2013 [260 favorites]


I wonder if schools will actually dial back on the fencing for this reason.

I hope not. Fences are a strong psychological deterrent to trespass. They don't prevent every incident ever, and they might have slightly complicated this one; but they do more good than harm, and they do more good than many other measures.

It sounds like everyone performed excellently. The bookkeeper obviously went above and beyond. But I'd also praise the school staff for executing the evacuation, and both administrators and law enforcement for making sure the children were being released into safe custody. ("Relatives had to show ID, sign each child out and have their photo taken.") It's disturbing to hear the gunman was able to bypass locked doors and a buzzer, but I won't criticize before hearing how that happened.
posted by cribcage at 11:12 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


playertobenamedlater: "the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

And not just any gun - an automatic with laser sights and two high capacity banana clip magazines...
"


"I couldn't get to my grenades
The howitzer was in the shop
My stomache was tied into a monkey knot
Ya my only hope was betty lou
She was da one
A combination AK-57 uzi radar laser triple barrel double scoped heat-seekin shotgun "
posted by symbioid at 11:13 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


THIS IS HOW IT IS SUPPOSED TO WORK.

Well, except for the part where a guy with a felony conviction walks into a school with a bag-full of guns and starts shooting.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:13 AM on August 21, 2013 [17 favorites]


Can you imagine being a parent of a kid who was just starting pre-kindergarten there this week for the first time and this happening?

I can, which is why I'm, among other things, celebrating Antoinette Tuff today.


BTW, it's just "Tuff" -- the "-Michael" is the shooter's first name and probably the result of some weird Slate headline
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:13 AM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh, and now that I've gotten indicting Society and its Failures out of the way, I have to ask: do we still give out medals? Like, can someone give Tuff a medal? She deserves a medal.
posted by griphus at 11:15 AM on August 21, 2013 [28 favorites]


has anyone proposed the idea that middle names be called "notorious crime name" yet? that seems to be the purpose of them now.
posted by gorestainedrunes at 11:17 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, you guys, you can't do this to me today. My fourth and last child went to her Kindergarten orientation today with her mom. I thought I was going to be OK but you're making my fight-or-flight reaction kick in!
posted by wenestvedt


Hold tight, this might not be the best day to show up at your daughter's school with a distraught look on your face.
posted by jamjam at 11:18 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


"I don't know how this could happen at this school," Zamora said. "There's so much security."


Because that's not fucking security. That's theater. Like everything in America these days.
posted by DigDoug at 11:19 AM on August 21, 2013 [21 favorites]


Anyone know what this guy's felony conviction was for? I'd be curious to know if it was a violence or weapons charge (which might be a potential precursor to this) or something different, like theft.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:19 AM on August 21, 2013


@MCMikeNamara - whoops, thanks!
posted by pretentious illiterate at 11:20 AM on August 21, 2013



I have to ask: do we still give out medals? Like, can someone give Tuff a medal? She deserves a medal.

The Carnegie Medal for Heroism.

Get those nominations in, folks.
posted by longdaysjourney at 11:26 AM on August 21, 2013 [13 favorites]


Anyone know what this guy's felony conviction was for? I'd be curious to know if it was a violence or weapons charge (which might be a potential precursor to this) or something different, like theft.

Assuming the conviction was in Georgia, the state will happily tell you for a paltry $15.
posted by jedicus at 11:27 AM on August 21, 2013


I walked my youngest daughter into school today--only her third day of real, all-day kindergarten in her whole life--and while she was excited to be there, she couldn't seem to quite let go of me and go sit with her class. I sent her to her seat with a quick goodbye, thinking that it was best not to drag it out, because as uncomfortable as the little bit of social fear is, it seems like it's very healthy to let her work it out herself, so she can make friends and have fun without me hovering.

The school doesn't have a police guard, like some schools other parents have told me about. No metal detectors or anything like that. If it's 7 am, you can walk on in. If classes have started, there's a lady at the front to take your name down and give you a Visitor sticker.

So reading this story brings up a lot of both emotional and practical conflicts. Because I don't really want my daughter to go to school in what is functionally a jail, full of barred windows and stern authorities keeping out all the frightening people...because that in itself is frightening, and dehumanizing, and completely misses the point of that little bit of healthy work-out-your-own-insecurity she needs to do when I drop her off. But I also can't imagine--as tear-inducing as this news story is--that it's replicable. There isn't always going to be someone Crazy Gun Shooter can talk to, even if you trained the whole staff in some sort of school-shooting negotiation skills.

I love that this story ended well. But it sets off all those parental Something Must Be Done psychological alarms.

One thing that could be done--and which should be, because frankly it's a service to both parents and children (and public debate)--is to put these stories into an accurate context. Yes, the possibility of a school shooting is terrifying...but is it more likely than, say, someone getting hit by a car in the school parking lot? How likely is it compared to a tornado or fire, for which there are regular drills? But also, why not open the story up to talk about how well different solutions work? In this case, people had to be buzzed in. How did the school come to the conclusion that was adequate? Is it normally adequate? What do the data look like? I think that having some actual solutions, with their pros and cons, discussed, would go a long way towards stopping that awful gut reaction stories like this have, which I share in, especially the "please turn my school into an inpenetrable fortress" feeling.
posted by mittens at 11:27 AM on August 21, 2013 [13 favorites]


mittens: How likely is it compared to a tornado or fire, for which there are regular drills?
My old man works at a school and they have "lockdown" drills too. Given that they can clear the school in under two minutes (as of the last fire drill), I'm not sure the utility of locking the doors, covering the inside windows with paper, and opening the blinds so the police can see in.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:35 AM on August 21, 2013


My kids get the lockdown lecture at the beginning of every school year, e.g. yesterday. Honestly we've had more actual code blue-red events than earthquakes and I live in California.
posted by GuyZero at 11:39 AM on August 21, 2013


I'm starting to think that America's gun nuts are bad at stopping bad guys.

They're awful at it. Not just because they generally lack the training or the brains to deal with a combat situation - which is what a mass shooter situation is - but also because you can walk everywhere armed to the teeth; guns stuck in every pocket, orifice, whathaveyou, and, despite all of that - the element of surprise always wins. Ask anyone who's been ambushed and watched the people around them get cut to shreds while toting a semi-automatic rifle.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:41 AM on August 21, 2013 [17 favorites]


Bless her.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:45 AM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have it on good authority that the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

"But no living man am I! You look upon a woman!"
posted by weston at 11:45 AM on August 21, 2013 [63 favorites]


Fences are nominally to keep the school safe. Oddly once you're in an armed intruder situation, fences are not so great any more.

I wonder if schools will actually dial back on the fencing for this reason. It seems that there's no universal security measure.


When I was a kid (Edmonton suburbs, 1990s) the fence around our elementary school had a few kid-friendly holes (about 1-1/2ft by 1-1/2ft) placed at a kid-friendly height, with a crimped metal frame so we didn't get snagged on the chain link. I'm guessing these were installed for similar, albeit lesser (e.g. bullying), reasons.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:46 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


1) Tuff-Michael did very well at keeping cool, and defused a potentially disastrous situation.

2) The behaviour of the shooter speaks more to someone suffering extreme loneliness, rather than a man who is a rational and calculated murderer.

3) I do not look at this and feel relief or happiness at the outcome. This was a near-miss that could have just as easily gone the wrong way. Whilst it is important to celebrate this woman's bravery, and what is a neutral result, it is still deeply concerning that she was put in this situation to begin with.

4) "...it appears as though one major reason the nation isn't morning another Newtown today...

What does it mean that we are relieved that an armed man did not murder children in a school? Should we not be outraged that an armed man was capable of murdering children in a school?
Should we not be saddened that we have to worry about children being murdered in a school?

If this a victory, what sick game are we playing?
posted by nickrussell at 11:52 AM on August 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


I know this is crazy talk but we could actually talk about the interesting, different, heartening stuff about this story instead of just reciting sarcastic restatements of shit we don't like about other stories that aren't so good.

Nope, I guess not...
posted by randomkeystrike at 11:53 AM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


mittens, I completely understand your feelings. My son is starting first grade tomorrow, and in his kindergarten year, there were two genuine lockdowns. One of them I was in the school too, but in the cafeteria without about 100 other parents, while some nutter went on a shooting spree a few blocks away.

Since I come from another country (where guns are much less available after a shooting spree at a school!), I get this urge to quit my job and sell my house and move back across the world to a safer country. And then I remind myself that he could get hit by a bus no matter where we live, and I don't have a job in the other country. And then my brain sort of shuts down and I just carry on carrying on, because I don't know what else to do. How can a mother stop nutters with guns walking into schools? The issue is not really preventable at a school level - all the fences and buzzers and gates and security guards in the world can't prevent it 100%. The issue starts earlier, and its such a huge systemic problem with the American social system. I just throw up my hands and try not to worry about it.
posted by Joh at 12:01 PM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Timothy Hill, 22, told ABC News on Wednesday that the suspect has "long history of medical disorders" including bipolar disorder, and was bound to "do something stupid." Hill said he's not close to his brother and that Michael Hill was taking drugs for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder as early as age 6.

Investigator T.L. Wortham of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Fugitive Unit tells WSB-TV that as officers were apprehending him, he said “I’m sorry, I’m off my meds.”

Kinda curious what he was taking.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:02 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I love that she thinks she wasn't a hero because she was terrified. That's what makes it heroic. That's what heroism is.

Exactly. Courage isn't the absence of fear. Courage is doing the right thing, despite the fear.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:05 PM on August 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


Wow, that hits close to home. I know it is a delusion to think, it can't happen in my hometown, or where I live, but it always is disturbing. That magnificent woman saved who knows how many lives, thank God.

"I don't know how this could happen at this school," Zamora said. "There's so much security."
In a better world, we would meditate hard on this.
posted by thelonius at 12:06 PM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


"...do we still give out medals? Like, can someone give Tuff a medal? She deserves a medal."

She really does.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:10 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bless Antoinette Tuff for going above and beyond the call of duty. She saved many lives, both the kids' and the gunman's.

This whole story makes me so homesick. Is that weird? I had to leave Decatur/Atlanta last year to find work, and now I am far away while things (even bad things!) are happening in My Cuty, and it sucks. I want to hear the gossip and share the relief with random ATL people in person; instead I can only reload the Creative Loafing site and Decatur blogs obsessively. Ugh, I hate this.

On a slightly unrelated, evilly funny note: I am completely amused / unsurprised to see the Decatur Metro comments already throwing a "this wasn't in Decatur! it was DEKALB COUNTY!" hissyfit.
posted by nicebookrack at 12:15 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Man, it sometimes is hard to get me to actually truly tear up enough that I need to work on reining it the fuck in so I don't all out bawl. But when I got "And I just told him that I loved him."...well I found out what verklempt really means.

Because I think she meant it. And so did he. Which is why the situation ended like it did.
posted by sio42 at 12:22 PM on August 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


There's something in my eye-
What a hero.
posted by windykites at 12:25 PM on August 21, 2013


I think she was brave and is heroic. However, I also think that everyone involved in this situation was really lucky.

As I recall, the principal, head teacher and a member of the school support staff of Sandy Hook tried to stop the shooter with their bare hands.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:25 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow. What a lovely, heroic woman.

And yeah, to echo KokuRyu, that doesn't make other staff members who died at elementary school shootings less heroic. Different shooter, different circumstance.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:41 PM on August 21, 2013


Ms. Tuff-Michael demonstrated the raw power of compassion and non-judgment. She saw a hurting human being--even though he was heavily armed and there to kill--and reached out to him in a genuine way. Just amazing, what an exemplary human being.

Watching the interview, I wanted to add to the other observations that it was truly heartening to hear her speak of applying lessons she learned from her pastor in church, and that her faith makes her a better, more compassionate and understanding person. So many messages we hear coming from pulpits these days are the opposite, I think her pastor deserves a pat on the back, too.

Everything about this situation was extraordinarily lucky, and it's good to be legitimately grateful that no one was harmed (physically). I do think there is a lot we should be talking about regarding these incidents, but Americans don't do feelings so well (nor mental/emotional health at all, really), so I'm not optimistic those conversations will happen.

But yeah...compassion often is the most powerful weapon of all.
posted by LooseFilter at 12:42 PM on August 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


I wonder if schools will actually dial back on the fencing for this reason.

I suppose this depends on where a school is, but I hope not. Most elementary schools in southern California where I grew up were right near streets with moderate traffic on them, so for example the fields or the playground would be adjacent to the sidewalk and the street beyond it. If there wasn't a fence, kids could easily just wander off onto the road in pursuit of a ball or whatever. I definitely think there's plenty of security theater going on in schools, but fences have more than enough practical, obvious use to justify them.

I'm so glad compassion won the day here. And yeah, Ms. Tuff-Michael needs a medal or something. I can imagine she's going to be getting a lot of thank you notes and little presents from kids and their parents. I know I would be indescribably grateful for her bravery and compassion if I knew a kid or adult at that school.
posted by yasaman at 12:44 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


They're awful at it. Not just because they generally lack the training or the brains to deal with a combat situation - which is what a mass shooter situation is - but also because you can walk everywhere armed to the teeth; guns stuck in every pocket, orifice, whathaveyou, and, despite all of that - the element of surprise always wins. Ask anyone who's been ambushed and watched the people around them get cut to shreds while toting a semi-automatic rifle.

Spontaneous office Nerf fights actually make pretty good teaching moments.
posted by jason_steakums at 12:47 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just tried to fill out the Carnegie Medal form, but it required all sorts of information that I didn't have, like Tuff's email address. Boo.

Anyone who lives in Decatur, maybe you'll have better luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:01 PM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Any job openings in the Pentagon?
posted by Catchfire at 1:18 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Everything about this situation was extraordinarily lucky,...

Agree, even though the unlucky part was Michael Hill showing up with all those guns. The luckiest part? Antoinette Tuff.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:28 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Because how else can you create a surveillance society where everyone is taught to suspect and fear everyone else? And in which grocery store clerks are replaced with shiny, chromed machines barking orders?

The alternative, too dangerous to think about, is one in which people don't need very, very expensive protection from each other - or grossly incompetent leadership - because they've remembered how to be human.
posted by Twang at 1:50 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Best of Humanity.
posted by Artw at 1:57 PM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


He told me he had no reason to live, and that nobody loved him

That's terrible and all but I don't understand how feeling this way leads people to "well I guess it's time to go shoot a bunch of random children!" It's bizarre and terrifying.
posted by Hoopo at 1:59 PM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


So Brandon Michael Hill proved he could be a Responsible Gun Owner. He deserves acclaim from the NRA.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:12 PM on August 21, 2013


Such an amazing woman - I hope she gets some reward. Anyone know the president here?
Her compassion made me cry. If only there were more of her.

Re: fences: I live in a gang-ridden area, and the local gang was using the school playgrounds for drug-dealing and general hanging out, including the occasional shoot-out. For some reason, I don't know why, it was decided not to fence in the playgrounds, but to re-design them, light them up, and build a community building on part of the playground for the youngest kids. And it works. The gang is still there, but they are obviously stressed, moving around the area, and they are a lot less aggressive towards the rest of us living here. People use the playgrounds and the area in front of the school round the clock, making life a lot harder for criminals. There's even a café, used by local moms. I haven't tried the café, but I've been at a party at the community building, and it was a truly happy thing, to sit with friends, neighbors and children in the sun at a site that was recently a locale for drug-dealers.
posted by mumimor at 2:16 PM on August 21, 2013 [13 favorites]


Echoing orme above, except that I did cry.

I think this situation might also point to a weakness of medicating psychological disorders starting at very young ages... the idea that non-medicated = out of control and out of control = mass-murdering gunman at an elementary school, it's just a very stark and way of looking at what isn't always such a black and white situation.

Maybe whatever Michael Tuff has is so severe that this is literally true, but I think it can also become a self-fulfilling truth, is all I'm saying. I'm not anti-medication by any means. Anyway, it's a sad situation... the would-be mass-murdering gunman is only 20 years old. I hope the publicity from this case helps him find a better path and a less indiscriminately destructive way to be.

Antoinette Tuff is a hero and I hope her example gets more people talking about compassion, not just as a pie-in-the-sky moral stance, but as an actual real force for good in the world.
posted by subdee at 2:21 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


And now for the Fox News headline: Freedom Patriot protests school's wasteful spending
posted by TrialByMedia at 2:23 PM on August 21, 2013


That's terrible and all but I don't understand how feeling this way leads people to "well I guess it's time to go shoot a bunch of random children!" It's bizarre and terrifying.

Disclaimer: I am not a psychiatrist. However, I have a pretty good guess as to why this happens. When men become suicidal (and yes, it's almost always men, especially young men) they may feel like they need to "make extra sure" they can go through with ending their life. One way to do that is to do something so horrible that there's no way you'll chicken out, or provoke the police into shooting you. I also suspect the examples of other young men doing this leads to a strong "copycat" effect.
posted by quincunx at 2:32 PM on August 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


> "I just tried to fill out the Carnegie Medal form, but it required all sorts of information that I didn't have, like Tuff's email address. Boo."

Yeah, I looked at that long form full of questions I couldn't answer and decided to try just emailing them a link to the article instead. Seems to have worked:
Dear Ms. Mason:

Thank you for bringing to our attention the August 20, 2013 actions of
Antoinette Tuff in behalf of students and staff at Ronald E. McNair
Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Georgia.

The Commission is pleased to take the case under consideration.

Best regards,

Jeffrey A. Dooley
Investigations Manager
CARNEGIE HERO FUND COMMISSION
436 Seventh Avenue; Suite 1101
Pittsburgh, PA 15219-1841
412-281-5751-fax
800-447-8900
www.carnegiehero.org
So, they're on it. Thanks, griphus and longdaysjourney, for the great idea.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:01 PM on August 21, 2013 [59 favorites]


That's terrible and all but I don't understand how feeling this way leads people to "well I guess it's time to go shoot a bunch of random children!" It's bizarre and terrifying.

I wonder the same thing. It's almost become a culture-bound syndrome, similar to 'running amok,' at this point. It's like there's this model of "How young men lose their shit," and that's the only model some people have access to that reflects their identity (as a young white male, or whatever.)

There aren't a lot of portrayals in the media of young men feeling desperate and then NOT doing destructive or violent things, which is a real damn shame, so I think the syndrome kind of reproduces itself.

Rank amateur speculation, of course.
posted by Ouisch at 3:02 PM on August 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


Guns don't save people, people do.
posted by Annika Cicada at 3:19 PM on August 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


Just offering a random NRA members take on Tuff.

"If she had been carrying (armed with a concealed weapon) she could have offed this guy and saved the state a lot of money."

He is a friend ( neighbor/acquaintance) and quite serious.

Just trying to give an insight to some of the mentality beyond metafilter.
posted by notreally at 3:23 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


NRA is basically pro murder in all cases.
posted by Artw at 3:28 PM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I hope the locals help make her new business, whatever it may be, a success.

I hope it involves kids.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 3:30 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Disclaimer: I am not a psychiatrist. However, I have a pretty good guess as to why this happens. When men become suicidal (and yes, it's almost always men, especially young men) they may feel like they need to "make extra sure" they can go through with ending their life. One way to do that is to do something so horrible that there's no way you'll chicken out, or provoke the police into shooting you. I also suspect the examples of other young men doing this leads to a strong "copycat" effect.

Uh, cite, please? That's a little offensive.
posted by InsanePenguin at 3:45 PM on August 21, 2013


[Folks we don't need to turn this into a thread where we argue with people outside of MeFi, feel free not to bring other people's shitty comments over here. I know you mean well, but don't.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:45 PM on August 21, 2013


Just trying to give an insight to some of the mentality beyond metafilter.

Every problem can be solved if only you shoot enough bullets at it!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:47 PM on August 21, 2013


I feel so torn about this.

Because while this woman is amazing and brave and makes me choke up with her courageousness, I really would rather not that our society head in the direction of expecting good people (or any people) to put their lives in danger because we refuse to enact sensible gun laws.

She is a hero. We shouldn't have to rely upon heroic acts.
posted by triggerfinger at 3:55 PM on August 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


A brave, wonderful woman. I hope the gunman gets the help he so obviously needs.
posted by arcticseal at 4:00 PM on August 21, 2013


Uh, cite, please? That's a little offensive.

Sorry, what's offensive? That men disproportionately commit this sort of violence? Well, I assure you, that does not fill me with glee, nor do I enjoy keeping score, it's simply a fact. It may be an uncomfortable one, but there it is. I am sorry if that offended you, but I'm reasonably confident this has been established by enough studies and data over the years. Yeah, it's Wikipedia, but this is a good start:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_differences_in_suicide

Also you might google "gender differences in murder-suicide."
posted by quincunx at 4:14 PM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


longdaysjourney: "I have to ask: do we still give out medals? Like, can someone give Tuff a medal? She deserves a medal.

The Carnegie Medal for Heroism.

Get those nominations in, folks.
"

I tried. They wanted more information than I could supply. I figured a half-ass nomination would be worse than none.
posted by Samizdata at 4:46 PM on August 21, 2013


Uh, cite, please? That's a little offensive.

I cannot recall a young woman around twenty years old planning or committing such an assault. On the other hand, there are at least 3 (maybe 4) of the incidents over the past 12 months involving young men. All around the same age.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:04 PM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I really hope she goes on a speaking tour. This is how you respond to violence.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 5:24 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have bipolar and ADHD. I know well the mix of depression, paranoia and impulsivity that can result. I've never tried to do anything like shoot up a school, but I've also never doubted that people love me very much. Experiencing the complexities of mental illness while believing yourself unloveable must lead to excruciating pain. I feel deeply sorry for this young man and grateful that he met Ms Tuff and her generosity.
posted by Biblio at 5:31 PM on August 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


Damn, this story. So close to home, and I watched it breaking on the news yesterday and they try to downplay everything, because they have no details, and then wow. THE DETAILS. So happy that no one died -- and that this made the news anyway. What a woman. What a human.
posted by polly_dactyl at 5:35 PM on August 21, 2013


He said that he didn't have any reason to live and that he knew he was going to die today," Tuff said, adding that Hill told her he was sure he'd be killed because he'd shot at police officers.

Based on that, I think the overarching motivation might've been suicide-by-cop. Speculation, of course, but that's my basic read on it.

I'm glad that she was there. I'm glad that she was able to get through to him. But like Thorzdad points out, it's not a solution to the basic problem (dude with a friggin gun in a school), anymore than it would be if she'd pulled out a gun and shot him. We don't give a shit about mental health in this country. That's the problem.

I cannot recall a young woman around twenty years old planning or committing such an assault.

The one famous example that I know of is Brenda Ann Spencer, in the incident that inspired I Don't Like Mondays. But yeah, gun crime and violent crime are predominantly committed by men
posted by kagredon at 6:17 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is Brenda Ann Spencer even part of the same pathology of these boy-men, though?
posted by KokuRyu at 7:32 PM on August 21, 2013


What an amazing story. And yes, her pastor teaches wonderful lessons.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:25 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


has anyone proposed the idea that middle names be called "notorious crime name" yet? that seems to be the purpose of them now.

Apparently proactively in some cases.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:36 PM on August 21, 2013


A lot of people commit suicide without murdering children. Women commit suicide too. Go look up some statistics. The idea that mass murder is best understood as a commitment device for suicidal men is frankly stupid.
posted by leopard at 5:17 AM on August 22, 2013


It's frustrating to me because I've used this technique with bad guys with a lot of success but once it works- without evidence they are going NUTZO you avoided disaster and just set yourself up as a crutch for this person who is crazy pants and talking about killing themselves and others regularly.

I wish we had a support system- and not just for people we label "mentally ill" but for people who need support PERIOD (it's seriously wrong to call anyone who needs emotional support mentally ill).

It's more common than not that people carrying the heaviest emotional loads get the most cut off from society, DELIBERATELY because people don't like being around suffering or emotionally needy people.

Saying the problem is that such people are mentally ill is pressuming there is something uniquely malformed about people who need love and acknowledgement and witness when their family and society failed them and they've been needing a hug, a smile, someone to listen and be there FOR SO MANY YEARS OF HELL that their insides are twisted and deformed and aching in a way that having a nice therapist can't exactly fix.

Families fail to understand and provide for their children all the time even with good intentions. Often the good intentions that drive people to work more than spend time with their kids are things people believe are about loving their kids, but if that particular child is drowing in the abyss you won't notice because you're too busy giving them a great life by working all the time. Yes many of us are slaves to our jobs and "we have no choice" and all, but seriously the cries for help happen right in front of us and it's our own culture that tells us our children don't need us.

There ARE belief systems that drive parents obstinately refusing their children could be needing what they are needing.

And it makes meso angry because I see SO MANY OF THESE MEN who are insane with rage and loneliness and pain- and no one is trying to reach their humanity--- no one was trying long ago when their families were failing and they needed it most.

And then I get shamed because I learned that kindness works better than anything else trying to interact with people like this. Because I'm an enabler.

Well I don't HAVE a team of good guys with guns to come in and save the day once I survive one crazy incident, they just keep coming. And when you work shit jobs and have disabilities, you're never safe from this shit. People are fucked up and suffering as a way of life and people's very belief system about human needs "people who need love and suffer without it are mentally ill" precludes using some of the most simple solutions that need to be in place for any of the other solutions to work. But love is more complicated than a thing you say-- it involves actually seeing a person's needs and working to help meet them.

Part of recovery fro trauma or poor environments in development IS knowing that you're a normal person with an abnormal environment. Your emotions DO make sense and if they are telling you something is wrong something is, whether that's you nutritional intake, toxic load, emotional load, knowledge of how fucked up your life is... etc...

But then again I get so frustrated with the medical model of understanding negative emotional states- and labelling of the person as unhealthy in all conditions of long term negative states that our culture does to people instead of realizing we have a lot of bad conditions in the world and we need to start making a world that matches human needs if we really care about human emotional well being more than just doing it lip service when mentally ill people annoy us or their suffering becomes to unbearable they act out.

It's a further complicated thing to label all bad behavior mental illness- but yet, people are just animals. We really can use understanding of human behavior patterns to link up poor envornmental variables with the worst human behavior and there are patterns there. Lack of nurturing, lack of place in a tribe, lack of strong emotional connections, lack of adequate sun or warmth or protection from heat or clean air, or healthy home, or quality food and water.... these variables shape how we need to function and how we feel.

There are so many things we already know we need to be doing for our families and our communities-- we know people are slipping through the cracks--- individuals are limited but we can do more when we organize and create stronger structures to help families provide for and spend timewith their children, to help with caregiving for differently abled, to find a place and purpose for people who are floundering.

What's more when we have no safety net at all for people at the bottom, when people who are used to having power lose their power, they are more likely to lose it because they aren't prepared to survive the hell that is being poor in america-- that is both the resources available to live on and the cultural dehumanizing and blame and inferior existance people who struggle to succeed are treated with.

All of that said, people make choices and I do not think it should be assumed every selfish are horrific act is "mental illness", that's much to simplistic, but it's always worth exploring and if we addressed human needs before people got ill from the lack-- we would certainly address the crimes that happen from that root.
posted by xarnop at 6:47 AM on August 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


This is a partly redacted copy of a witness statement I gave to the Franklin County Municipal Court system,
Friday Nov 11, 2011

I was traveling north on High Street, on my way home from my lab, after dark on my bicycle when, as I reached the intersection of Hudson and High, I noticed what looked like a distressed motorist in the Rally's drive-through. I dismounted and walked up to the driver side window to see if there was anything I could do to render aid. The driver, who later identified himself as "COMMON FIRST NAME," informed me that his car was working just fine but that he was simply waiting for a larger order of fries. His speech was slurred and his movements were delayed and exaggerated as if he were drunk, and he also seemed to have trouble staying upright in the drivers seat. Concerned, I asked him to explain what had happened with the fries and he eagerly related to me how had ordered and paid for a larger size of fries than he received from the Rally's. From both his behavior and total lack of judgment it became apparent to me that he was dangerously intoxicated and in absolutely no condition to drive. I then walked a short distance behind the car to the sidewalk and called 911 where I confirmed for the dispatcher the color of the car and license plate, XXX####, and was informed that there were officers already on the way. I then placed my bicycle and myself in the path of the drive-through in case the employees of the Rally's were unable to stall him long enough for the police to arrive.

Around five to ten minutes later he started up his car and attempted to leave the drive-through area when he argued with the Rally's employees at the pick up window some more before encountering me again. As he pulled up to where my bicycle was stopping him, I went to the driver side window where I smelled the strong scent of stale alcohol and acetaldehyde wafting out. He remembered me from earlier but clearly lacked the judgment to discern why I might want to keep him from leaving. I did my best to ask as many questions about the fries as I could, keenly aware that if he really wanted to leave that my bicycle and I couldn't stop him. During this time he repeatedly communicated his intention to drive home so he could "sleep off the party" that he was returning from, and recalled for me the various "generous" mixed drinks he had consumed there. When I ran out of plausible ways to continue the conversation but did not step away from the car, he then broke the resulting extended silence by asking me non-sequitor questions about Occupy Wall Street, assuming me to be a participant, and related his feelings about how the ideas of Ron Paul were a better alternative. I was able to continue this conversation until two officers arrived and pulled into the drive-through, interrupting us.

The driver became very agitated at their appearance, but seemed to calm down when I suggested that he could complain to the officers about the fries, and perhaps get the larger size after all. Just as the police car pulled up behind his vehicle, the driver then related to me how concerned he was to be pulled over and said, in perfectly audible sotto voce, "I'm totally drunk right now!" He said so in a way that made it clear that he understood that driving in his condition was a crime and that he would rather the officers behind him not find out. Concerned that he might attempt to run, and likely hurt someone, I assured him as an 'Occupy Wall Street participant' that these cops are likely to be as stupid as all cops, and that they'd never suspect him of drinking. He seemed relieved at the notion that I thought he might be able to fool the officers and so waited while I got out of the way for one of the two officers to approach the driver side window. The second officer then took down a brief statement from me as well as my contact information and I went on my way home to immediately take the detailed notes.

The driver was plainly dangerously impaired by drunkenness from the party he mentioned, he admitted to driving to the Rally's drive-through where I found him in this condition, he communicated his understanding that his attempt to drive in this condition was wrong through his desire to hide it, and he repeatedly communicated his desire to drive home as soon as I got out of the way despite his drunkenness.
Never underestimate the power of a little love, a bit more WTF and and some heavy bafflegab to keep people from hurting themselves or others.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:03 AM on August 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


Unbeliveable and just so sad. I was shopping at my local store recently and noticed the back of the cashier's employee tag. It had all the 'codes' and what it meant. I noticed "code brown" meant shooting. Code Adam was missing child.

As a mother of a 4 year old, both codes just hit me like a sledgehammer. I can't believe this is where we've come to in America.
posted by stormpooper at 7:42 AM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


A lot of people commit suicide without murdering children. Women commit suicide too. Go look up some statistics. The idea that mass murder is best understood as a commitment device for suicidal men is frankly stupid.

Of course women commit suicide too. Of course many people commit suicide without committing murder-suicide. Different people commit suicide in different ways for different reasons. In this case, the man made it very clear in his own words that he was suicidal, and it does seem that "suicide by cop" should therefore be given consideration as a motive. I did not at all imply that there is a one-size-fits-all motive for everything, merely that in some cases, it does apply, an in this case it can't be ruled out.

I understand it's a horrible and upsetting thing to think about, and it makes me angry, too, but people's minds can sometimes work that way.
posted by quincunx at 8:23 AM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


The audio of the 911 call is the most awful and most amazing thing all at once.

Her talking him through telling him where to put the weapons down "so they won't see it" -- and her telling the authorities to hold on a minute so he can get on the floor (about 17-18 minutes in) is somehow both chilling and touching.

"We're not going to hate you baby, it's a good thing you're giving up, we're not going to hate you... But let's do it before the helicopters and stuff come."

Fucking amazing.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:28 AM on August 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


Pater Aletheias:
"Jeffrey A. Dooley
Investigations Manager
CARNEGIE HERO FUND COMMISSION
"

Can I just say in some ways this must be the best job ever. You get to hear stories about absolutely selfless people doing great things for other people. And then you get to publicly recognize and reward them for their good deeds. What a great feeling.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:30 AM on August 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


She is a hero. We shouldn't have to rely upon heroic acts.

On the other hand, people are imperfect, and society is imperfect. So be grateful for the true heroes who save us from ourselves.
posted by aught at 11:07 AM on August 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'll bet you almost anything that she visits him in prison every week that she is able to do so.
posted by double block and bleed at 3:45 PM on August 22, 2013


A lot of people commit suicide without murdering children. Women commit suicide too. Go look up some statistics. The idea that mass murder is best understood as a commitment device for suicidal men is frankly stupid.

It's also stupid to suggest that gender should be disregarded in the case of mass shootings and subsequent suicide. Or maybe you are missing the point?
posted by KokuRyu at 5:03 PM on August 22, 2013


Obviously men are more likely to do this than women. And age-18-25 white men in America seem especially more likely to do this than other groups. But there's literally no evidence supporting the guess that [w]hen men become suicidal (and yes, it's almost always men, especially young men) they may feel like they need to "make extra sure" they can go through with ending their life. One way to do that is to do something so horrible that there's no way you'll chicken out, or provoke the police into shooting you. I mean, this is a pseudo-explanation of the highest order.
posted by leopard at 10:20 AM on August 23, 2013


We keep telling people in AskMe that depression is a big fat liar, distorting the relationship between causes and effects, as well as their magnitude and proportionality to each other.

So I think that what chain of thoughts led him to think killing little children would solve or ameliorate his troubles is anybody's guess.

But, as many have pointed out, the insight we have been given - through his interaction with Tuff and her account of it, and the fact that we may safely extrapolate it to other similar, less happy events - suggests there is a very scary relationship between poor access to mental health services in a health system and such unimaginable acts of violence.
posted by ipsative at 1:41 PM on August 24, 2013


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