DECATUR, Ga. — A teen opened fire with an assault rifle Tuesday at officers who shot back at an Atlanta-area elementary school, the police chief said, with dramatic overhead television footage capturing the young students 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 in pre-kindergarten to fifth grade were evacuated from Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, a few miles east of Atlanta. They sat outside along a fence in a field for a time until school buses came to take them to their waiting parents and other relatives at a nearby Wal-Mart. When the first bus arrived about three hours after the shooting, cheers erupted in the store parking lot.
The suspect, a 19-year-old with no clear ties to the school, fired at least a half-dozen shots from inside McNair at police who were swarming the scene outside, the chief said. Officers returned fire when the man was alone and they had a clear shot, DeKalb County Police Chief Cedric L. Alexander said at a news conference. The suspect surrendered shortly after and he had other weapons, Alexander said. Police had no motive.
Though the school has a system where people must be buzzed in by staff, the gunman may have slipped inside behind someone authorized to be there, Alexander said. The suspect, whose identity was not released, never got past the front office, where he held one or two employees captive for a time, the chief said. The man was being questioned and no charges had been filed as of early evening.
A woman in the school office called WSB-TV as it was happening to say the gunman asked her to contact the Atlanta station and police. WSB said during the call, shots were heard in the background. Assignment editor Lacey Lecroy said she spoke with the woman who said she was alone with the man and his gun was visible.