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Episode 55: Antoinette Tuff 911 Call

On Monday Aug. 20, 2013, a young man with a AK47 and close to 500 rounds of ammunition briefly took control of the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy just east of Atlanta. Michael Hill had not been taking his medication and was not mentally stable.

The students were evacuated and the school went into lockdown mode. When police arrived, Hill repeatedly fired shots at them. The intermediary between Hill and the police was a school bookkeeper named Antoinette Tuff, who was left alone in the front office with the shooter. In between negotiating with the police on Hill’s behalf, Tuff told him about her life struggles, including the collapse of her marriage after 30 years, and her struggles with opening her own business. She eventually convinced Hill to surrender, put his weapons aside, and allow the police come in to take him to the hospital.

“I just want you to know that I love you, though, O.K.?” she tells him as he prepares to give himself up. “And I’m proud of you.” Ms. Tuff sounds completely calm, poised, articulate and in control all the way through the call, maintaining a good rapport with both Hill (whom she refers to, before she knows his name, as “the gentleman,” and then “Michael”), and the 911 operator. Yet when the police finally arrive to arrest Hill, she breaks down in  relief

Listen to the episode here.