Casually scrolling through her Facebook feed, sitting alone in her bed, coffee cup in hand, Koeberle Bull was stunned.
A stranger from Kentucky had sent the Lumberton resident a threatening message. A menacing, expletive-laden screed that attacked her interracial family and said her children should be hanged.
She called Lumberton police, then reached out to Kentucky authorities. Unknowingly, she averted shootings in two Kentucky schools, police announced two days later.
Kentucky State Police arrested Dylan Jarrell, 20, of Lawrenceburg, in his driveway last week as he was leaving his house. They found a gun, 200 rounds of ammunition, a 100-round high-capacity magazine, and a bulletproof vest in his car. In his house, police said they found detailed plans for attacking a high school and another public school in Anderson and Shelby Counties.
The stranger from Kentucky had messaged Bull, who is white, around 3 in the morning on Oct. 17. He apparently saw the photograph she had posted of herself and her three biracial children. Her husband, Braheim, who died seven years ago, was African American.
"I had promised my husband that I would protect them, and if I didn't follow through after receiving the message, I wasn't keeping my promise," she said Tuesday night in the home she lived in since she was 3. "It's not easy raising black children. It's definitely scary."
She didn't anticipate that her determination to keep them safe would end up keeping hundreds of other schoolchildren safe, too.
The stranger from Kentucky had messaged her and taunted her for having black children.
"Act your race," he warned.
Bull, 40, an office clerk, showed a reporter for the Inquirer and Daily News the message. It called her a "wannabe" N-word.
Her 16-year-old daughter, Olivia, said she was "speechless" when she saw it. But she said it didn't shock her.
"It was kind of expected for some people to feel like that now. That's how the world is right now," Olivia said.
Bull began sobbing. "That breaks my heart to hear you say that," she said gently.
Another daughter, Sophia, 11, said she was "amazed at how rude it was."
She said her teachers and friends at school made a fuss when the news broke and an article about her mom was posted on her school cafeteria's bulletin board. Her son, Isaiah, 8, was not home during Tuesday night's interview.
At an Oct. 19 news conference in Frankfort, Kentucky's capital, to announce Jarrell's arrest, Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rick Sanders credited Bull, whom he did not name at the time, with making the call that prompted the investigation.
The Kentucky State Police said it received Bull's complaint on Oct. 17 and Trooper Josh Satterly was asked to call Bull. Jarrell was arrested the next day.
"This young man had it in his mind to go to schools and create havoc," Sanders said during the news conference. Jarrell, Sanders added, "was caught backing out of his driveway with the tools he needed to commit this heinous act."
Sanders praised Satterly in particular for his work in the case. Sanders declined to elaborate on any details, including which schools were targeted.
Jarrell lived in a modest one-story house adjacent to the athletic fields of Anderson County High School. He reportedly attended school in Shelby County, but did not graduate, and later obtained a GED in Anderson County.
Trooper Satterly graduated from Anderson County High School and served with the Lawrenceburg Police Department before joining state police, the Anderson County News reported in a 2014 profile of the trooper.
"Our Heroes!" the newspaper proclaimed this week in a front-page headline featuring photos of Bull and her children, and Satterly.
Parents of students in those schools, more than 700 miles away, are also calling Bull a hero.
Someone told her that Lawrenceburg might have to organize a parade for her if she came to visit, she said with a laugh. She said she now has hundreds of new Facebook friends from Kentucky, a state she has never been to.
"I was angry, but now I have hope," she said. "Kentucky gave me hope. The people that reached out to me and said that Dylan Jarrell is not who this community is. We think your children are beautiful and amazing and we don't think like him."
Bull said she "did the right thing and I want people to know how important it is to report these things."
"I also want people to know there's no room for hate in this world," she said, adding that it was the first time she had personally encountered racism.
Reporting the racist message required a bit of an effort. When she tried to find out who the sender was — all she could see was his name and a thumbnail of his photograph — she noticed he had blocked her from accessing his Facebook page. She then cut and pasted the message, posted it to her own Facebook page, and asked if anyone could see his page and provide more detailed information about him.
Soon, she learned his identity and was told his Facebook page showed him holding an assault-type weapon.
Bull said she didn't mention anything to the children until later that day. Driving to work, she called Lumberton police, but was "disappointed with their response." She was told they would make a report.
Lumberton police on Wednesday did not respond to a request for comment.
Bull said a nagging worry compelled her to take the matter a step further. She wanted Jarrell arrested so he would stop making racist threats.
The next day, Satterly called her while she was at work to say that police had arrested Jarrell and that he had confessed he sent her "racially motivated messages."
She said Satterly had acted with compassion and investigated her report "as if it was his own children" who had been threatened. He did not tell her that police also found the guns and the detailed plans for a school shooting.
"He said, 'Go home and hug your babies a little bit tighter,' and that was when I finally told them," she said, tearing up. "That's when I knew they were safe."
Staff writer Robert Moran contributed to this article.