James Vernon, aka “Rambo Grandfather,” is being hailed a hero after the 75-year-old saved 16 children from a 19-year-old man with two knives in his hands who had stormed into a library in Morton, Illinois. As reported by USA Today, Vernon, a U.S. military veteran, managed to stop the knife-wielding teen’s attack thanks to fighting techniques he learned in the Army.
“He actually ran into the room yelling, ‘I’m going to kill some people!’ He was holding two knives,” Vernon told the Pekin Daily Times.
James described the knives as “hunting types” with “fixed blades about 5 inches” long.
“I tried to talk to him. I tried to settle him down,” Vernon, who is also a retired Caterpillar technology worker, 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.”
The attack took place in a room in the library where Vernon was giving chess lessons to 16 children, aged between 7 and 13 years. James Vernon spoke about the incident to The Washington Post on Friday afternoon, and he admitted that he was definitely scared as the attack unfolded, but his main priority was making sure the children didn’t get harmed.
“This can’t happen here and I’m not going to let it happen,” he remembered thinking at the time. “These kids are my responsibility right now.
The attacker, 19-year-old Dustin Brown, allegedly came in with a hunting knife in each hand screaming that he was going to kill people, the report states. Fearing for the children’s safety, Vernon put himself between Brown and the door, which enabled the children to make their escape.
“I gave them the cue to get the heck out of there, and, boy, they did that! Quick, like rabbits,” Vernon expressed.
Brown then launched his attack, slashing at Vernon while the elderly man valiantly defended himself from his much younger opponent. Vernon was able to block most of the teen’s blows, however, he suffered a few cut arteries and a damaged tendon in his finger.
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“I should have hit his wrist. That’s how you’re trained, but it’s been half a century,” he explained. “First rule of combat: Be fast and vigorous.”
“I grabbed him and threw him… 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 he dropped that knife.”
The veteran was seriously wounded in his left hand, but managed to immobilize the assailant by throwing him on the table and striking him until he let go of the knife. Vernon and a library employee disarmed Brown and kept him pinned until police officers and paramedics arrived.
“I failed my mission to kill everyone,” Brown reportedly told police.
“If he had a gun, the story would have been different,” Vernon said.
When asked by The Associated Press what he wants people to learn from the incident, the septuagenarian gave the following response.
“Sometimes old guys aren’t as easy of a target as you may think.”
[Image via Mat Hayward/Getty Images News]