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75-year old army veteran saved kids from knife wielding attacker

James Vernon recuperating the lacerations he sustained to his left arm while thwarting a knife attack. Vernon, 75, disarmed Dustin Brown of the two knifes he intended to kill children with when he entered a classroom at Morton Public Library Tuesday. — ROBERT DOWNEN / PEKIN DAILY TIMES

James Vernon recuperating the lacerations he sustained to his left arm while thwarting a knife attack. Vernon, 75, disarmed Dustin Brown of the two knifes he intended to kill children with when he entered a classroom at Morton Public Library Tuesday. — ROBERT DOWNEN / PEKIN DAILY TIMES

Would you have had a clue how to handle a situation like the one James Vernon faced last Tuesday October 13th, when a knife wielding attacker blocked the only door to the library room holding sixteen children and a handful of mothers and chess teacher James Vernon.

He was volunteering his time as a chess teacher at the Morton Public Library when a man holding a hunting knive in each hand screamed, “I’m going to kill some people!”

Dustin Brown, 19, specifically wanted to kill children Tuesday at Morton Public Library, he said after the would-be victims escaped safely.

What follows came from an article in the Pekin Times

How did he handle the situation?

1. He remained calm and engaged the attacker verbally trying to calm him down by asking questions. Why risk injury if there is a non-violent alternative?

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, did he go to high school. I asked what his problem was. He said his life sucks. That’s a quote.

2. He continued to engage the attacker verbally as he moved closer to him, putting himself between the attacker and the children.

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.

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

3. Once the kids were clear he focused all his attention on the attacker looking for clues which might aid him should the situation turn violent.

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.”

4. He remembered the first rule of combat: Be fast and vigorous.

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.
First rule of combat: Be fast and vigorous,” said Vernon, who was trained but never served in combat.

5. When you get in a knife fight you are going to get cut and he was cut severly, but he limited his injuries to his left arm and closed with his attacker immediately.

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.

Thank you Mr. Vernon! You are a real hero!

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