Rauner honors chess coach who subdued attacker trying to harm kids

MORTON, Ill. (FOX 32 News) — Gov. Bruce Rauner has honored a 75-year-old central Illinois chess instructor who fought off a man threatening to kill children at a library.

James Vernon of Morton, Illinois, protected his young chess class by fighting off 19-year-old Dustin Brown, who was wielding two knives.

“I was afraid for myself and for those kids, I figured they are going to be alright because I’m gonna take the hit," Vernon said.

He is also an Army veteran.

Earlier this month, Vernon said his quiet class was abruptly interrupted.

“This guy comes running into the room man, with a knife in each hand, and he was shouting he was here and he was going to kill somebody," said Vernon.

At first, Vernon said he thought it was a Halloween prank, but quickly realized he needed to protect the 16 kids in his class.

"My plan was let’s see if we can talk to him, calm him down some, diffuse it a little bit, so I tried that, and walked towards him as I did so," said Vernon.

Vernon moved Brown away from the class and hinted to a student's mother to move everyone out.

“She picked up the cue up right away and said, ‘C’mon let's go,’ soft quick like that and up they went out of the room no chatter no pushing, no shoving, no nothing," said Vernon.

Brown and Vernon then started to fight, with the 19-year-old slashing at the 75-year-old.

“I blocked it with my left hand, which is something they taught us to do a long time, 50 years ago in the Army,” he said.

Vernon eventually got the knives away from the man and walked away with two slashed arteries in his hand and a damaged tendon in his finger.

“It was really amazing the calm that God put over that room, that God put into Mr. Vernon as well as into the kids,” said Sandra Rassi, the mother who was able to get the kids out of the room.

“I had some calmness there that was due to, due to my belief in God, so for what it's worth in this day and age, we've got to stand up for ourselves because otherwise things like this are going to ruin the country for us, if they haven't already,” Vernon said.

Governor Bruce Rauner declared Monday James Vernon Day, honoring the veteran for his heroic effort.

More good has come out of this as well, as two families have joined the chess club in the past two weeks.

This incident is not stopping the chess club, who have met twice since then at the same library.

Police say Brown has been charged with attempted murder, armed violence and aggravated battery.