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Our very own hero

Wednesday, Oct 28, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I’m probably excerpting too much from this story and I’ll take it down if requested, but wow

A 75-year-old Army veteran is recovering from stab wounds after saving 16 terrified children from a knife-wielding teen who had reportedly planned a mass murder.

James Vernon was leading a chess club meeting with children at a public library in Morton, Illinois, Tuesday afternoon when Dustin Brown, 19, burst into the room wielding two knives and threatening the children, Fox News reported.

“He actually ran into the room yelling, ‘I’m going to kill some people!’ ” Mr. Vernon told the Pekin Daily Times Thursday.

The 16 children — ranging in age from 7 to 13 — hid under tables in the library’s conference room as Mr. Vernon tried to distract the teen.

“I tried to talk to him. I tried to settle him down,” Mr. Vernon told the Pekin Daily Times. “I didn’t, but I did deflect his attention” from the kids “and calmed him a bit. I asked him if he was from Morton, did he go to high school. I asked what his problem was. He said his life sucks. That’s a quote.”

As Mr. Vernon inched closer to Mr. Brown, Mr. Brown started to back up, giving the children room to escape. […]

Mr. Brown slashed the knife at the Army vet, who blocked the blade with his left hand.

“I grabbed him and threw. … Somehow he wound up on a table” with the knife in his left hand pinned under his body, Mr. Vernon told the Times. “I hit him on the (right) collarbone with my closed hand” until Mr. Brown dropped that knife.

Mr. Vernon was able to keep the teen pinned down until police and paramedics arrived. […]

“I failed my mission to kill everyone,” Mr. Brown later told police, according to an affidavit. […]

Mr. Vernon underwent surgery for his injuries, which included two cut arteries and a tendon on his left hand from blocking the knife.

* More

“I gave them the cue to get the heck out of there, and, boy, they did that! Quick, like rabbits,” Vernon said.

“There were no more potential victims in the room. He focused on me. There was no more talking,” but Vernon watched what Brown did with his knives and learned.

“I knew he was right-handed. He was whittling on his left arm” with the one in that hand, “making small cuts. He was trying to scare me, and he did.” But if Brown attacked, “I knew which hand it was coming from.”

Brown slashed from the right towards Vernon, who blocked the blade with his left hand. “I should have hit his wrist. That’s how you’re trained, but it’s been half a century,” he said.

* More

After all the children fled, the knife-fight training Vernon learned in the Army five decades ago kicked in. Brown slashed from the right towards Vernon, who blocked the blade with his left hand.

“I should have hit his wrist. That’s how you’re trained, but it’s been half a century,” Vernon recalled. “First rule of combat: Be fast and vigorous,” said Vernon, who never served in combat. […]

Vernon said he was “bleeding pretty good,” but managed to hold Brown until a library employee removed the knives and helped to keep Brown pinned until police and paramedics arrived.

At the time of the incident, Brown was free on bond while facing prosecution charges of possessing child pornography. He told police he’d been planning for two weeks to kill people and then himself, according to an affidavit.

Had he brought a gun instead, “It would’ve been a different story,” Vernon said.

* The governor held a ceremony with Vernon this week

A 76-year-old Army veteran is being hailed a hero by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

The Governor declared [Monday] James Vernon Day. […]

“He in a threatening moment with families’ lives on the line, stepped forward, risked his own life to protect you,” Gov. Rauner said.

* But, in true hero fashion, Mr. Vernon is as modest as the day is long

“I was hoping this would died down a bit,” he said before Rauner’s visit Monday, “but I recognize it’s important to the community not to let it go so quickly and do what they think they should do. Its part of the healing process.”

He’s done his own healing too. The bandages that once immobilized his right arm are gone, now replaced by a light sling and splint. Scribbled across the thumb: “I love you” and a heart. […]

“It’s an interesting circus that I’ll be glad to step down from in a week of two,” he said. “The kids ask about it, and then say, ‘OK, now can we play chess?’”

“And that’s exactly what I want to hear: ‘Thank you Mr. Vernon. Can we play chess now?’”


  1. - Mouthy - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 1:48 pm:

    Great story of a modest man’s heroism…

  2. - Mason born - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 1:49 pm:

    Well done Mr. Vernon.

  3. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 1:50 pm:

    Mr Vernon is a remarkable guy. His life is full of service according to many stories about him.

    Let this guy lead the budget and reform talks.

  4. - Prairiestatedem - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 1:52 pm:

    Congrats Mr. Vernon! Thank you for the service to our nation and your heroic actions in the very best traditions of Illinois, coming forward with determination in time of crisis to help your community.

  5. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 1:53 pm:

    You never know who will be “a hero”.

    A hero is really an ordinary person willing to do something for others, doing the extraordinary to those paying attention.

    Stories like these are important. Character, and looking out for your fellow man… We all need to remind ourselves heroes exist, and when we can, however we can, we all should be a hero to others.

    When we ignore heroics, or gloss over the good when man shows it, what can we as a society point to when we need heroes to step forward?

    Thanks for this Post, Rich. It warms my heart, because in life ubderstandubg our better sides are celebrated might bring out more of our better sides, especially when we need those sides most.

    James Vernon, you are a hero, well beyond the moment you chose to show your better side and did an extraordinary thing.

    Thank you.

  6. - Wordslinger - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 1:58 pm:

    Love this story. A good and humble regular guy just doing what he had to do, with no thought of himself.

    And the baddest 75-year-old library chess club leader on the planet!

    Call them nerds — I dare you.

  7. - Anon221 - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 2:03 pm:

    The day of the presentation by Rauner. Mr. Vernon is a very humble man-

  8. - CCP Hostage - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 2:05 pm:

    Thanks for posting this story. We need examples of what we are all called on to do for each other in front of us, as often as possible.

  9. - FormerParatrooper - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 2:10 pm:

    OW well said. I second your thoughts.

  10. - 5th Generation Chicagoan - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 2:18 pm:

    Why would you offer to take this story down? We don’t seem to have too many IL / CH heroes these days: I, frankly, would appreciate one good story a day here. Thanks for today’s fix.

  11. - Cook County Commoner - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 2:20 pm:

    Besides his courage, it’s worth noting that veterans are very generous with their time when it comes to volunteer activities.

  12. - illini - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 2:21 pm:

    Great story - I had heard and read of this previously. Thank you Mr. Vernon.

    We do not hear of these inspiring stories often enough, and Wordslinger got it right when he said “And the baddest 75-year-old library chess club leader on the planet! Call them nerds — I dare you.”

    Last time I was moved like this was when Rich posted the story of the young lady in Auburn who rescued a wheelchair bound man from an oncoming train.

    There are local heroes that do not get enough recognition!

  13. - 4 percent - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 2:25 pm:

    Let’s now ban knives… snark.

    Great story.

  14. - siriusly - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 2:26 pm:

    God bless you James Vernon! A true hero.

    Thank you for saving those children and at the same time you taught us all what true bravery and heroism means.

  15. - Keyser Soze - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 2:31 pm:

    I’ll say it again. God Bless James Vernon.

  16. - G'Kar - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 2:32 pm:

    I met Mr. Vernon once a few years ago. He seemed like a straight up kind of guy then and he proved it that day in the library.

  17. - Hero - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 2:42 pm:

    You never hear the story of the Hero who saved the day, only about the attacker. The Media should refuse to put any attackers name in print or on the air. All we need to hear is about Hero’s

  18. - OneMan - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 2:46 pm:

    ““And that’s exactly what I want to hear: ‘Thank you Mr. Vernon. Can we play chess now?’” “

  19. - Amalia - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 3:05 pm:

    James Vernon, tower of strength, hero!

  20. - JoanP - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 3:11 pm:

    @5th Generation Chicagoan - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 2:18 pm:

    “Why would you offer to take this story down?”

    Copyright issues?

  21. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 3:15 pm:

    - FormerParatrooper -,

    Thanks. I’d love to hear more stories about heroes. I hope this is a trend in the media, and not just a random fill for newspapers or TV.

    He’s a heck of a guy.

  22. - Slick Willy - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 3:15 pm:

    This story is truly heartwarming. I hope Mr. Vernon recovers fully and that the assailant gets the help that he needs.

  23. - CrookCounty60827 - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 3:24 pm:

    Somebody please nominate him for a Carnegie Medal; I submitted the girl who pulled the wheelchair-bound man out of the path of the Amtrak train.

  24. - vinron - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 3:30 pm:

    “I told my wife that before, I was old, then I was news, then old news, and now I can go back to just being old,” he said.

    One of many great quotes from Mr. Vernon.

  25. - Precinct Captain - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 3:30 pm:

    There are a lot of lessons in this story.

  26. - Century Club - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 3:31 pm:

    Thanks for posting this - what a hero Mr. Vernon is!

  27. - x ace - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 3:32 pm:

    Outstanding Individual on Many Levels

  28. - The Muse - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 3:49 pm:

    What a guy! Thanks for sharing, Rich!

  29. - downstate commissioner - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 3:56 pm:

    We as a society seem to need heroes, even if they do something that is not really that heroic. A lead story this week on the news helicopter that landed and aided persons in a crashed airplane called them “heroes”. I myself don’t really consider them to be heroes-just people doing what they could to help people, with little risk to themselves. Newsworthy and commendable, yes. Heroic, no.
    Mr. Vernon put his life at risk to save others. That is a HERO…

  30. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 3:57 pm:

    Good guy. Badass. Can’t wait to step out of spotlight. Now that is remarkable. Kudo’s, Sir!

  31. - Way South of I-80 - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 4:00 pm:

    Thanks for posting this Rich! A true American Hero - and a humble one at that. Love it!

  32. - Muscular - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 4:00 pm:

    Libraries are prohibited places for concealed carry. If James Vernon were able to fully exercise his second amendment rights and carry a loaded handgun into this library, he would likely not have been severely stabbed. Brown would have been shot and the threat from Brown would have been eliminated. Thanks to idealistic Democrats, this selfless veteran was needlessly hurt and badly cut.

  33. - JS Mill - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 4:02 pm:

    James Vernon is a real hero and, like real hero’s, he was very matter of fact about it, humble. He was interviewed here on local TV, he is the real deal.

  34. - JS Mill - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 4:03 pm:

    @Muscular- Your comment is the antithesis of what James Vernon is about. Just so you know.

  35. - Interested - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 4:04 pm:

    Please can James Vernon be our Governor? Pleeeeese???????

  36. - Anon221 - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 4:15 pm:

    vinron- When I heard that on the radio, I smiled and chuckled. One of the top quotes of the year!

  37. - Chicago Cynic - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 4:15 pm:

    Wonderful story of heroism. Really amazing that he kept his wits about him. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if he had had a gun instead of a knife. Just goes to show the difference in potential carnage and response.

  38. - Freezeup - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 4:37 pm:

    Everything about this story makes me smile! Great job Mr. Vernon, you did well!

  39. - walker - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 5:10 pm:

    Please remember veterans’ service every day, and that Nov 11 is a special day for us all.

  40. - burbanite - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 5:49 pm:

    What a wonderful story, what an amazing man. Thank you for sharing.

  41. - FormerParatrooper - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 6:39 pm:

    Oswego Willy,

    I agree, Mr Vernon is a heck of a guy. My Granddaughter has been to this library, so for me it hits close. I am glad to know there are still some who would risk themselves for others.

    Gives us all something to think about, how would we react in the same situation. I would hope the majority would do as Mr Vernon.

  42. - FormerParatrooper - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 6:48 pm:

    Muscular, the situation Mr Vernon faced did not require him to use a firearm. And as a FYI, I have CCW, I am very pro gun as some here can attest and a combat infantry veteran in several theaters and several tours. And in the situation, I would not have used my firearm. The firearm is the last option, the very last.

  43. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 6:48 pm:

    - FormerParatrooper -

    Well said. Thanks for your shating your own connection too.

  44. - illini - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 7:45 pm:

    Former Paratrooper - there are times that what might initially appear as as polar opposites can actually agree - my hats off for your pointed and pertinent comments. Well said.

  45. - Will - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 7:46 pm:

    Former Paratrooper-So if you had a gun, you would have disregarded it to go Chuck Norris with a guy wielding a knife? That’s admirable but just silly. Mr. Vernon was one slash or stab from dying. There would be no reason not to use a gun in this situation.

  46. - FormerParatrooper - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 8:32 pm:

    Will… reading how Mr Vernon stated how the situation unfolded, he would not have been able to draw his firearm if he had one. That is my critique of the situation with all the factors in olved and my knowledge of where he was.

    A few things in this particular incident would hve been different, a different critique would have occured. I stand by my critique.

    Would I have gone Chuck Norris? I would have done whatever it took to protect the children even if it cost my life.

  47. - DonaldTrump - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 8:45 pm:

    Once a hero always a hero. Good work Mr. Vernon.
    Now, obviously, we have to ban all knives.
    I have to get back to the debate now. Three members of the Democratic Party are asking me questions.

  48. - Muscular - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 9:45 pm:

    Former Paratrooper,

    Robert Farago from “The Truth About guns” insists, “It should have been a defensive gun use” in a headline. He explains, “…if Vernon had been carrying a defensive firearm, he could have shot the young man who was bummed that “I failed my mission to kill everyone.”
    A ballistic solution would have saved taxpayers considerable cash, removed a threat to innocent life (hopefully forever), limited Vernon’s medical bills,
    served as a warning to other mass killers and kept ServPro at bay.”

    The entire post with reader comments can be read at:

  49. - Pot calling kettle - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 11:13 pm:

    Former Paratrooper understands what Muscular and other do not: “The firearm is the last option, the very last.”

    Why? When bullets fly, innocent people can be hurt. If you can solve the problem without a gun, that is always the best option.

    ==A ballistic solution would have saved taxpayers considerable cash, removed a threat to innocent life (hopefully forever)==

    Vigilante justice is not a solution. You have no idea what kind of issues the young man was dealing with. It is disturbing how readily some people are willing to cast away a life. Mr. Vernon’s heroism is enhanced by the fact that he did not take the young man’s life, and instead left it for the criminal justice system to decide the young man’s fate.

  50. - FormerParatrooper - Wednesday, Oct 28, 15 @ 11:57 pm:

    This thread is meant to be about Mr Vernons heroic action. Hero is not a word I use often and reserve its use for only those things I find fit my definition.

    The situation described by Mr Vernon ws not where he could have used a firearm if he one. That has been my point all along. Yet he acted without one with no regard for himself but for the children who he was protecting.

    Lets end the political debate and learn the lesson presented here. You do with what you have, not what you wish you had and protect innocent life.

    God bless Mr Vernon. He is my hero.

  51. - Pot calling kettle - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 9:03 am:


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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