A mass murderer, targeting children, was stopped by this heroic, 75-year-old veteran in a central Illinois town. Michael Smothers of the Pekin Daily Times reports:
19-year-old Dustin Brown had convinced himself that he wanted to kill children at the Morton Public Library, he confessed after the would-be victims safely escaped.
Fortunately, Dustin did not have a firearm. If he would have been armed with a firearm, “It would’ve been a different story,” James Vernon said.
Blood was shed, but mostly Vernon’s, because the retired chess club teacher kept his cool, gave his class an avenue of flight and remembered the knife-fight training the Army gave him five decades ago.
James Vernon, a 75-year-old veteran of the United States Army, won his “90 seconds of combat” with Dustin, “but I felt like I lost the war,” James chuckled. He cut two arteries and a tendon on my left hand, as I blocked a knife swipe.
“I failed my mission to kill everyone,” Dustin told police, according to a prosecutor’s court affidavit that accompanied formal charges that included attempted murder.
Dustin Brown, of 300 Fernwood St., said he’d been planning to kill people and then himself for two weeks, the affidavit stated. With two knives in his backpack, their handles wrapped in tape for better grip, he entered the library at about 3:25 p.m.
The roomful of children enjoying a home school chess club meeting drew the focus of his focus and anger, he said. Dustin, free on bond while facing prosecution charges of possessing child pornography, said he wanted the children to die.
James, who retired in 2002 from his information technology career at Caterpillar Inc., is recovering at his Morton home from surgery for his wounds.
He recalled Thursday how he thwarted Brown’s alleged plans for mass murder and suicide.
“He actually ran into the room yelling, ‘I’m going to kill some people!’ He was holding two knives” that Vernon described as “hunting types” with “fixed blades about 5 inches” long.
The children, ages 7 to 13, scurried under tables in the library’s Hauter Conference Room as James stood before Dustin.
I tried to talk to him. I tried to settle him down,” he said. “I didn’t, but I did deflect his attention” from the children “and calmed him a bit. I asked him if he was from Morton, and if he had attended high school there. I asked Dustin what his problem was and his response was simply, “his life sucks.”
As James spoke, he stepped closer to Dustin. “He backed away when I’d get closer.” With a few steps, James put himself between Dustin and the room’s door, with the children under the tables behind him.
“I gave them the cue to get the heck out of there, and, boy, they did that! Quick, like rabbits,” James said.
“When there were no more potential victims in the room, James focused his attention on me. There was no more talking,” but James watched what Dustin 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 Dustin attacked, “I knew which hand it was coming from.”
Suddenly Dustin slashed from the right towards James, 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.
“First rule of combat: Be fast and vigorous,” said James, who was trained but never served in combat. James has a medium size build that was just enough to overcome Dustin, his smaller attacker.
“I grabbed him and threw… Somehow he wound up on a table” with the knife in his left hand pinned under his body, James said. “I hit him on the [right] collarbone with my closed hand” until Dustin’s arm was numbed by the blows, and he dropped that knife.
James, “bleeding pretty good,” held him until a library employee arrived to remove the knives and help keep Dustin pinned until police officers and paramedics arrived.
Dustin was ordered held on $800,000 bond, pending his court appearance on charges of attempted murder, armed violence, aggravated battery to a person over age 60 and burglary for entering the library with intent to commit a crime.
He also has an upcoming court hearing for 22 child pornography charges previously filed against him.
Outstanding job Soldier!
Any officer can get by on his sergeants. To be a sergeant you have to know your stuff. I’d rather be an outstanding sergeant than just another officer.
—SgtMaj Daniel Daly 1873-1937