Nashville, TN – A Tennessee kindergarten teacher and two school staff members tackled an intruder and held him down after the man forced his way into Inglewood Elementary School earlier this month.
Inglewood Elementary School kindergarten teacher Rachel Davis said students were wrapping up recess and heading back into the school building at approximately 10 a.m. on May 11 when she spotted a man jumping over the fence of the playground, WSMV reported.
The man, later identified as Onreka Gray, then ran over towards the children.
“I was trying to explain to him, ‘Sir, you cannot come in this door. This is not the front door. You’re not allowed in this building,’” Davis told WSMV.
But Gray was so determined to get into the school, he started “lunging towards the kids,” the teacher said.
She said she yelled for help and tried to block Gray from getting through the doorway.
School secretary Katrina Thomas said she heard Davis alerting her fellow employees of the impending threat, WTVF reported.
“I hear Miss Davis yelling, ‘he’s trying to get in the building! He’s trying to get in the building!’” Thomas recounted.
The secretary quickly told the students to run to safety.
School bookkeeper Shay Patton said the school went into lockdown as soon as she received a call from a teacher telling her that “a guy was on the playground that did not belong,” WTVF reported.
Davis told WSMV she struggled with Gray “for a while” before he ultimately forced his way past her and managed to get inside the school.
That’s when the teacher suddenly charged at the intruder and tackled him, WSMV reported.
“Miss Davis — she jumped right on his neck from behind and she fell into that corner,” Patton told WTVF.
“These children feel like my children and just that strong desire that I was going to do anything I could do to make sure they were safe,” Davis said, according to WSMV. “We both fell backward, and he fell on top of me.”
Thomas and Patton jumped into the brawl a moment later and helped pin Gray into a corner, WSMV reported.
“He was just wild,” Thomas told WTVF. “You know, he was just over the top, fighting, scuffling, trying to get away.”
The three women were ultimately able to stop the suspect from heading down the hallway where the students were located.
“I got him in a headlock, put his arm behind his back, and put my legs across him so he wouldn’t get free,” Thomas told WSMV.
They held the combative suspect down for approximately 10 minutes until police arrived at the scene.
“We didn’t even think about weapons. He could have had anything. I didn’t even think about that until hours later,” Patton said. “I don’t know what he was trying to do, but I’m grateful that he barely got into the door and that was it.”
Patton said they were terrified that Gray could potentially hurt the kids or staff members inside the school, WTVF reported.
“You know, we didn’t want that,” she said.
All three women suffered injuries during the fight with Gray, WSMV reported.
“We are stronger together,” Thomas told the news outlet. “I’m thankful for the procedure in place for lockdown. Everybody acted immediately, and that also kept the kids safe.”
“It could have been a different story on that day…I think in situations like that, I mean, you just don’t think about putting your life on the line,” she added, according to WTVF. “You just step in and do what you need to do.”
Gray was arrested on charges of resisting arrest, assault, and aggravated criminal trespassing, WKRN reported.
Metro Nashville Public School District staff went to the school less than 24 hours to develop a plan to replace the fence in a way to prevent a similar situation from happening in the future.