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School Clerk Bravely Talks Down Georgia Gunman

ABC News interviews Antoinette Tuff about her experience with Georgia school gunman.

While much of the country waited with bated breath yesterday, news of yet another school shooting swept the media and lit up the Twitter-verse.

Another elementary school. Another troubled 20-year-old gunman. But this time, a different ending to the story. The shooter, identified later as Michael Brandon Hill, entered the doors of Georgia's Ronald E. McNair Learning Academy School, which was packed with over 800 elementary schoolers. Instead of heading toward the classrooms, though, Hill made a beeline for the front office. There, he came face to face with Antoinette Tuff, a school clerk, and made a hasty demand: He wanted her to call the local news.

Tuff immediately dialed WSB-TV, where assignment editor, Lacey Lecroy picked up. "It didn't take long to know that this woman was serious," Lecroy told The Huffington Post. "Shots were one of the last things I heard. I was so worried for her."

But as Tuff later told ABC News, what happened next was more than a little unexpected. "[Hill] told me he was sorry for what he was doing. He was willing to die," said Tuff.

That's when she took the opportunity to sway his actions and appeal to his conscience. She told him her life story—how she had been married for 33 years and how it had all fallen apart. She spoke of the "roller-coaster" ride of opening her first business. And then she said, "OK, we all have [difficult] situations in our lives. It['s] going to be OK." If she could recover, Tuffs said, so could Hill. She even told him that she loved him.

Something in her words must have touched Hill, because in the next moment she was telling police he was going to surrender and was talking him through it all. But he wouldn't totally give up without a fight—as officers approached, gunfire was exchanged. Miraculously, though, no one was injured and Hill was taken into custody.

Hill was later questioned and charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, terrorist threats and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. While details are still emerging, there don't seem to be any answers yet as to why this all happened—particularly because Hill had no ties to the school itself and had to drive 90 miles from his home just to reach it.

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