DECATUR, Ga. — A suspect was in custody after reports of gunfire at an Atlanta-area elementary school today, the school chief said, with television footage showing young students running out the school being escorted by teachers and police. Michael Thurmond told The Associated Press he had no reports of injuries and that all students and teachers are accounted for and safe.
Television footage showed students being evacuated from Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, a few miles east of Atlanta, and sitting outside in a field about 1:30 p.m. School buses were being brought in to take children to their parents at a nearby Wal-Mart.
According to WSB-TV’s Web site, a woman in the school office called to say a gunman asked her to contact the Atlanta station and police. WSB said during the call, shots could be heard in the background.
Numerous police are at the school and SWAT was there for a time. Thurmond said the suspect is a man in his mid-20s and didn’t have an obvious connection to the school.
DeKalb County School Board Chairman Melvin Johnson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution there were reports of shots being fired inside the building that houses students from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade.
“We’re in the process of reuniting the children with their parents,” said Mekka Parish, spokeswoman for the DeKalb County Police Department. “We’re just trying to calm the nerves of parents.”
Jonessia White, the mother of a kindergartner at the school, told AP she talked to her son’s teacher shortly after most students were evacuated. White said the teacher told her they were still inside the building shortly after 2 p.m.
“When I hear he’s safely out of the building, I’ll be OK,” White said, adding that she learned of the shooting when a friend called to say helicopters were hovering over the school.
Police had strung yellow tape up blocking intersections near the school while children waited to be taken to Wal-Mart.
The school has about 870 children enrolled. The academy is named after McNair, an astronaut who died when the space shuttle Challenger exploded on Jan. 28, 1986, according to the school’s Web site.