TOWNVILLE – Townville Fire Chief Billy McAdams and volunteer firefighter Jamie Brock were working on McAdams’ farm when the call came in Wednesday afternoon that there was an active shooter at the nearby elementary school.
While on the way, McAdams was told by Townville Elementary officials over the phone that the shooter was in the rear of the building and children had been shot near the playground.
“Firefighter Brock and I immediately left my nearby farm and raced to the school to try and help,” McAdams said. “When we drove into the rear parking lot, we immediately noticed the black pickup crashed into the playground fence and teachers yelling for help from an open classroom door.”
McAdams and Brock quickly discussed the need to split up to be able to cover both the inside and outside of the school. “After quickly checking the wrecked truck for injuries or gunman, I went into the school and Jamie proceeded along the sidewalk,” McAdams said.
Once inside, McAdams was led to a room where the school nurse had begun treating the two students and the teacher, he said. He realized that kindergartner Jacob Hall was the most severely injured and provided CPR and other medical care to him as other responders began to arrive, he said.
“All three injured were given the best possible care on the scene by our team of first responders,” he said.
“Over the next hour, school staff, firefighters, paramedics and law enforcement worked seamlessly to ensure the safety and security of those remaining in the school,” McAdams said. “They ensured that each child and teacher was safe and accounted for and moved to a safe location to be reunited with their family.”
While was McAdams was inside giving Hall CPR, Brock was on a solitary mission to find the gunman who had just shot two students and a teacher outside the school, McAdams said.
“As Brock made his way to the rear corner of the building, he observed the shooter a short distance away in the grass,” the chief said in a firehouse news conference Thursday. “Feeling it was imperative to the safety of students, teachers and responders already inside, he immediately confronted and subdued the shooter.”
McAdams isn’t denying that Brock, and other first responders were heroes in the way they helped the injured and secured the scene so no one else was hurt. But he said heroism was all around the school that afternoon. He too downplayed his role in the incident.
“We also believe the teachers and staff at Townville Elementary who protected the children in the moments following the gunshots are heroes as well,” he said. “We also believe the entire Townville community are heroes for the support they have shown to everyone involved during the toughest time imaginable.”
Brock didn’t appear at the news conference, but he gave McAdams a statement to read on his behalf that echoed the chief’s assessment.
“The true heroes of yesterday’s senseless tragedy are the teachers that put their lives on the line to protect their students, the principal who through fears of her own done what was right to ensure the safety of the school.
“They deserve to be called heroes, and to them I tip my hat.”
“My reaction to yesterday’s events was no different than any other fire or law enforcement personnel who put their lives on the line to protect their communities every day,” he said.
“God’s plan is bigger, and we are Crossville strong, and this will not take us down,” Brock’s statement said. “Brighter days are ahead as we begin to heal.”
McAdams said the reference to “Crossville strong” was because Brock is also a volunteer with the nearby Crossroads Fire Department, and the two departments frequently work together on emergencies.
Both Brock, in his statement, and McAdams in his called for prayer for Jacob, who remained in intensive care after being shot in the leg.
“I ask that your prayers continue to be with those involved, especially young Jacob, who continues to fight so hard,” the chief said.
He didn’t take any questions from the media and asked that firefighters’ privacy be respected.
“This incident occurred in a school that our children attend, that our family works at, with individuals that are members of our close-knit community, and we must have the time needed to begin the recovery process as well,” he said.
He did give a narrative of the incident, which began at 1:45 p.m. Wednesday when law enforcement, fire departments and EMS were dispatched from Anderson and Oconee counties to the school, which is near the boundary between the two counties.
The fire station Thursday in this normally quiet rural community was filled with TV crews, with satellite trucks parked outside. A woman and her two daughters waited at the back of the room during the news conference, clutching flowers for the the wounded.
And across the street from the fire station was a sign that read: “Pray for Jacob. Pray for Townville.”