76-Year-Old Hero Saves 16 Children From Knife-Wielding Assailant

Woman killer with knife behind her victim. Edited image with vintage effectA 19-year-old man charged into a library this week intending to kill as many children as possible, and he failed because of two things: 1. He did not have a gun. 2. He encountered hero chess coach and Army veteran James Vernon.

According to CI News Now, the 19-year-old assailant was armed with two hunting knives with five-inch blades when he attacked the Morton Public Library in Morton, Ill., on Monday. He charged into a room where an afternoon chess club was meeting and blocked the only door. Witnesses say the young man shouted that he was going to kill people.

In the room were about 20 people–16 kids between the ages of 7 and 13 years old, and a few mothers. Luckily the young man did not have a gun, and the chess club was being taught by 76-year-old Army veteran James Vernon, who kept his cool and managed to give his students an avenue for escape while distracting the would-be murderer.

”I tried to talk to him. I tried to settle him down,” Vernon said to the Pekin Times. ”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.”

The young man was trying to keep clear of Vernon, which meant Vernon was able to approach him enough to put himself between the attacker and the door, which left an opening for the children to escape.

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

When the attacker realized the children were gone, he was enraged and launched himself at Vernon. He managed to slash Vernon in the hand and wrist, but Vernon was larger and able to overpower the 19-year-old and pin him against a table with the knife under him.

Vernon had Army training from about 50 years ago, but had never actually seen combat. Still, the training was useful. He said he noticed that the assailant was right-handed, so Vernon knew which hand an attack would come from.

”I should have hit his wrist. That’s how you’re trained, but it’s been half a century,” Vernon said.

Vernon pinned the would-be murderer in place until the police arrived.

The young man later told police that he had been plotting a murderous rampage in which he would kill as many children as possible, then himself, for two weeks. According to CI News, the attacker said his “life sucks,” and was out on bond for child pornography charges.

”I failed my mission to kill everyone,” the attacker later told police. He also reportedly said that if he had a gun, things would have turned out differently. He is probably 100-percent correct about that.

Vernon had surgery to repair sliced tendons and a cut artery in his wrist. The assailant is being charged with attempted murder, armed violence, aggravated battery to a person older than 60 and burglary, on top of the 22 charges of child pornography he was already facing.

(Photo: Antonis Liokouras/iStockPhoto/Getty Images)

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