75yr old Army vet at the library when teen walks in & threatening to kill them—then things go wrong

"I can't let this happen"
December 18, 2017 9:56 am Last Updated: December 18, 2017 10:01 am

It’s amazing to see how instincts from something we might have learnt years back kick in once we know we’re in danger. No matter the situation, you’re never old enough to know how to save a life.

75-year-old Army veteran James Vernon was helping out at Morton Public Library, a local library in the town of Morton, Illinois, on October 13, 2015. Sixteen children filled the room, seated quietly around tables with their mothers, as Vernon helped all of them learn how to play the game of chess.

The chess lesson was going well until someone unexpected walked in.

Dustin Brown, a 19-year-old man, suddenly flung the library door open, abruptly interrupting the chess sessions.

But he wasn’t there to make friends. The first thing he said had Vernon in disbelief.

“I’m gonna kill some people!” Brown yelled.

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Armed with two knives, one in each hand, Brown was planning on causing serious damage to anyone in the room.

“This can’t be happening,” Vernon thought. But his next thought was, “I can’t let this happen.”

The situation looked bleak: there wasn’t enough time to call the police, and most of the people in the room were children, leaving options limited.

But Vernon knew he had to do something.

“I tried to talk to him. I tried to settle him down,” Vernon told the Pekin Times. Vernon knew that taking Brown head-on would be dangerous, so he wanted to talk him down. Also, he was stalling so that everyone else in the library could leave the room and escape the crazed young man.

All 16 children and their mothers found a way out while Brown was talking to Vernon.

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“I asked him a couple questions about his life,” Vernon told Fox News.

Vernon wanted to keep him talking to distract him so that everyone could get out. At the same time he slowly inched towards him, causing him to step back away from the door and give the kids a chance to escape. And Brown did talk to him for a bit. It seemed like Vernon might successfully diffuse the situation without incident.

Then, without warning, the teenager came at Vernon.

One would think this would be a major mismatch—a teen armed with two knives attacking a 75-year-old man doesn’t seem fair to the old man. But this is where Vernon’s Army skills came into play.

The teen stabbed Vernon on the hand, but it wasn’t enough to bring the veteran down. Instead, he grabbed Brown by a necklace he was wearing, and threw him down using his weight. He landed on a library table, trapping one arm underneath his body. Vernon repeatedly punched Brown in the shoulder until he dropped then knife, then subdued him until police arrived. The Army skills he had attained 50 years prior to this moment had come in handy.

He wasn’t without his battle scars, though.

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“I blocked the stab … but got a tendon cut on the back of this hand,” Vernon told Fox News. Luckily, that was the worst injury he sustained, and, after surgery, his arm was put in a sling to help it recover.

Vernon had repelled the attack, and not only saved children’s lives that day, but was able to come back home to his wife. Brown was later sentenced to 32 years in prison, according to the Associated Press.

What could’ve been one of the deadliest attacks in recent memory was stopped by a man who put his life in danger for the sake of others. And Vernon knew that despite the age difference, he was still capable of doing something to stop him.

“I delivered checkmate,” he told Fox News.

"After he burst into the room, I thought, 'This can't be real.' And then I thought, 'It is real. I can't let this happen.'"James Vernon, the 75-year-old veteran who saved a group of children from a knife-wielding attacker, told his story to "FOX & Friends Weekend." http://bit.ly/1LXvIT0

Posted by Fox News on Sunday, October 18, 2015