Sixteen children and a handful of their mothers found the only door to their library room in Morton Public Library blocked by a man who held hunting knives in each hand as he screamed, “I’m going to kill some people!”
That may have happened had it not been for this hero: 75 year-old Army veteran, James Vernon.
Vernon won his “90 seconds of combat” with 19 year-old Dustin Brown, “but I felt like I lost the war,” he chuckled. Brown cut two arteries and a tendon on Vernon’s left hand as Vernon blocked Brown’s knife swipe.
Brown said he’d been planning to kill people and then himself for two weeks, Pekin Daily Times reports. With two knives in his backpack, their handles wrapped in tape for better grip, he entered the library.
Brown, free on bond while facing prosecution charges of possessing child pornography, said he wanted the children to die.
“I tried to talk to him. I tried to settle him down,” Vernon said. “I didn’t, but I did deflect his attention 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 Vernon spoke, he stepped closer to Brown. “He backed away when I’d get closer.”
With a few steps, Vernon put himself between Brown and the room’s door, with the children under the tables behind him.
Vernon said he remembered the knife-fight training the Army gave him five decades ago, although this was the first time he’s had to use it.
“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.”
“First rule of combat: Be fast and vigorous,” said Vernon, who was trained but never served in combat. Vernon’s medium build was enough to overcome 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, Vernon said. “I hit him on the (right) collarbone with my closed hand” until Brown, his arm numbed by the blows, dropped that knife.
Vernon, “bleeding pretty good,” held him until a library employee arrived to remove the knives and help keep Brown pinned until police officers and paramedics arrived.
Vernon is currently recovering at his Morton, Illinois home from surgery for his wounds.