* 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.
“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.
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?’”