Georgia school shooting: Man charged

Police at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy. Picture AP
Police at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy. Picture AP
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A man with an assault rifle and other weapons has been charged after he exchanged gunfire with officers at a school in Georgia before surrendering.

Dramatic overhead television footage showed the young pupils racing out of the building, being escorted by teachers and police to safety. No one was injured.

Just a week into the new school year, more than 800 students were evacuated from Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, a few miles east of Atlanta.

The suspect, identified later as 20-year-old Michael Brandon Hill, fired at least a half-dozen shots from the rifle from inside McNair at officers who were swarming the campus outside.

Officers returned fire when the man was alone and they had a clear shot.

Hill surrendered shortly after and several weapons were found.

Though the school has a system where visitors must be buzzed in by staff, police suspect the gunman may have slipped inside behind someone authorised to be there.

Shots heard

The suspect, who had no clear ties to the school, never got past the front office, where he held one or two employees captive for a time.

Hill is charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, terroristic threats and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

A woman in the office told a local TV station the gunman asked her to contact them and police. The station said during the call, shots were heard in the background.

Assignment editor Lacey Lecroy said she spoke to the woman who said she was alone with the man and his gun was visible.

“It didn’t take long to know that this woman was serious,” Ms Lecroy said. “Shots were one of the last things I heard. I was so worried for her.”

School clerk Antoinette Tuff said in an interview with a TV station that she worked to convince the gunman to put down his weapons and ammunition.

“He told me he was sorry for what he was doing. He was willing to die,” she said.

She asked the suspect to put his weapons down, empty his pockets and backpack on the floor.

“I told the police he was giving himself up. I just talked him through it,” she said.

All teachers and students made it out of the school unharmed.

Complicating the rescue, bomb-sniffing dogs alerted officers to something in the suspect’s car and investigators believe the man may have been carrying explosives.