A mother picks up her child from a school bus after she was bused to a local Walmart following an shooting incident at McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Georgia, Tuesday. Tami Chappell/Reuters
A man dressed in black carrying an assault rifle walked into an Atlanta-area elementary school Tuesday afternoon, telling a clerk to call police and a television station before firing off rounds in a shootout with authorities, DeKalb County Sheriff's Office told Al Jazeera.
No students or teachers were hurt in the incident, and all are accounted for. Authorities put the students on buses and drove them to a nearby Wal-Mart, where family members picked them up.
DeKalb County Police identified the suspect Tuesday evening as 20-year-old Michael Brandon Hill. He faces charges of aggravated assault on a police officer, terroristic threats and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Police are questioning him.
DeKalb County Police Chief Cedric L. Alexander said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon the suspect fired at least a half-dozen shots from an AK-47 inside the school at officers, who returned fire but did not hit him.
The Sheriff's office told Al Jazeera they don't know why the suspect allegedly fired the weapon.
Television footage of Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur showed hundreds of children streaming out of the school, conjuring memories of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December in Newtown, Conn., when 20-year-old Adam Lanza took the lives of 20 children and six teachers using an AR-15 assault weapon.
Eight hundred students, from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade, attend the school.
According to WSB-TV's website, a woman in the McNair office called to say a gunman asked her to contact the Atlanta station and police. WSB-TV said shots were heard in the background during the call.
WSB-TV assignment editor Lacey Lecroy said she spoke with the woman in the school's front office, who told the station she was alone with the suspect and the man's weapon was visible.
"It didn't take long to know that this woman was serious," Lecroy said. "Shots were one of the last things I heard. I was so worried for her."
The suspect does not have an obvious connection to the school, DeKalb County schools superintendent Michael Thurmond told The Associated Press.
Police put up yellow tape to block intersections near the school while children waited to be taken to the Wal-Mart, where hundreds of people were waiting. The crowd waved from behind yellow police tape as buses packed with children drove along the road in front of them.
Jackie Zamora, 61, of Decatur, was waiting at the Wal-Mart and said that her 6-year-old grandson was inside the school when the shooting was reported and that she panicked for more than an hour because she hadn't heard whether anyone had been injured.
She said the school has a set of double doors where visitors must be buzzed in before showing a form of identification to a camera to be allowed in.
"I don't know how this could happen at this school," Zamora said. "There's so much security."
The gunman may have slipped inside behind someone authorized to be there, DeKalb County Police Chief Alexander said.
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press