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Gunman wielded AK-47 inside Georgia school; no one injured

Shooter said “he was not afraid to die”

CNN News Wire | 8/21/2013, midnight
A gunman who opened fire at a Georgia elementary school on Tuesday was armed with an AK-47 “and a number ...
At least one gunshot was reported fired at a charter elementary school in suburban Atlanta Tuesday, August 20, 2013, but no students were injured, a school spokesman said. One person who fired a shot at or near Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy is in custody, said Quinn Hudson, a spokesman for the DeKalb County School District. It wasn't clear whether the shot was fired inside or outside the school, located about seven miles east of downtown Atlanta.

A gunman who opened fire at a Georgia elementary school on Tuesday was armed with an AK-47 “and a number of other weapons,” police said.

The shooter barricaded himself in the school’s front office with employees before eventually surrendering to police, DeKalb County Police Chief Cedric Alexander told reporters.

No one was injured, authorities said.

Suspected shooter Michael Brandon Hill, 20, faces charges including aggravated assault on a police officer, terroristic threats and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, police spokeswoman Mekka Parish said.

The shooter fired approximately six shots from inside the school toward officers as they approached outside, Alexander said, and police returned fire.

Police said it is unclear whether the suspect had any connection with the school, the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, which is about seven miles east of downtown Atlanta. Investigators believe the gunman entered the school behind someone, Alexander said.

As the standoff unfolded, a caller told CNN affiliate WSB’s assignment desk that she was in the school office with a gunman.

The man had a message he wanted the woman to share with the local television station, assignment editor Lacey LeCroy said, describing the conversation during WSB’s newscast Tuesday evening.

“She said he told her to tell me he was not afraid to die,” LeCroy said.

The gunman also threatened to harm police, the woman said, according to LeCroy.

Later, LeCroy heard gunshots crack over the television station’s phone line. The woman in the school office wasn’t sure who had fired, LeCroy said.

Investigators initially suspected there could be explosives in a vehicle the shooter parked outside the school, but police found no explosives inside, Parish said.

Teachers and administrators had guided the students out to a lawn outside the school’s gym, where they remained while investigators combed the school to make sure no other threat remained. Concerns about explosives forced SWAT teams to cut a hole in a fence by the school and evacuate students through the yard of a neighboring home, Alexander said. On a nearby street, school buses waited to take them to safety.

“This was a very unusual situation where we had to get the kids away from any possible explosives,” Alexander said.

Students were reunited with their parents at a nearby shopping center Tuesday afternoon. The children smiled and waved and parents cheered as each school bus arrived with students aboard.

“Everybody’s safe,” DeKalb County Schools Superintendent Michael Thurmond said.

“This thing came out for the best,” said Dale Holmes, DeKalb County’s assistant police chief. “Thank God no one was hurt — not even the suspect.”

CNN’s David Mattingly contributed to this report.

Catherine E. Shoichet and Tristan Smith | CNN