Florida man opens fires at school meeting - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Florida man opens fires at school meeting

(photo courtesy CNN/WMBB-TV) (photo courtesy CNN/WMBB-TV)

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) - A gunman calmly walked up to a podium, spray painted a red "V" with a circle around it on a wall and opened fire at school board members Tuesday, sending people scrambling and diving for cover. A security guard soon ran in, exchanged shots with and wounded the man who then killed himself, police said.

No one else was injured. In video of portions of the clash that lasted several minutes, the gunman, Clay A. Duke, is shown calmly confronting the Bay District school board, telling everyone in the room to leave except the men on the board. Duke, who was wearing a dark pullover coat, stands about 8 feet directly in front of the board with the gun at his side.

Superintendent Bill Husfelt tries to persuade him to drop the gun. Duke suggests that his wife had been fired from the district, but won't tell Husfelt or the board who she is or her job. Members promise to help her find a new job, but Duke just shakes his head. Husfelt tells Duke he would be ultimately responsible, so the board members should be allowed to leave.

"I've got a feeling you want the cops to come in and kill you because you said you are going to die today," Husfelt tells Duke. He then tells Duke that this isn't worth it. The 56-year-old slowly and deliberately raises the gun and levels it Husfelt, who pleads "Please don't, please don't." Duke then fires a shot that misses, followed by several others that didn't hit anyone.

Before he fired the shots, member Ginger Littleton, who had left the room as ordered, is shown sneaking up behind Duke as he stands next to the board and whacking him on the arm with her large, brown purse made of an alligator-like material.

"In my mind, that was the last attempt or opportunity to divert him," she told The Associated Press.

Duke, a large, heavyset man, got angry, turned around, and she fell to the floor and board members pleaded with her to stop. Duke pointed the gun at her head and said, "You stupid b----" but he didn't shoot her, she said. She's not sure why.

"He had every opportunity to take me out," she said.

After Duke, an ex-convict, fired and missed Husfelt, district security chief and former police officer Mike Jones ran in and shot Duke, it appears in the video in the leg or side.

Duke then fatally shot himself, police Sgt. Jeff Becker said. The video shows a distraught Jones, with his gun at his side, being comforted by colleagues as he says he had never shot anyone before. SWAT officers then storm the room and order everyone onto the ground. School officials tell them that Duke is shot and appears dead. His feet can be seen near the board's seats.

School officials in the Panhandle city said late Tuesday that Husfelt and Jones, who also had served on the board, would not be made available for comment. Husfelt said on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 that because of the look in Duke's eye, "you knew somebody was going to die." He said he was trying to do everything he could to keep Duke talking.

"It was very surreal," he said.

As for the V inside a circle that Duke painted, it's the same symbol used in the graphic novel series and movie "V for Vendetta."

After everything stopped with Duke lying shot on the floor, some board members speculated that the bullets weren't real. But police say Duke's gun was real - and the video shows papers flying up on Husfelt's desk. He told Cooper two bullet holes were found in the wall behind his seat.

State prison records show Duke was charged in October 1999 with aggravated stalking, shooting or throwing a missile into a building or vehicle and obstructing justice. He was convicted and sentenced in January 2000 to five years in prison but was released in January 2004. They also show that Duke was a licensed massage therapist before his arrest.

Attorney Ben Bollinger, who represented Duke during his trial, told The News Herald of Panama City that Duke was waiting in the woods for his wife with a rifle, wearing a mask and a bulletproof vest. She confronted him and then tried to leave in a vehicle, and Duke shot the tires. He said that as part of his sentence, Duke was required to complete psychological counseling. Bollinger did not immediately return a phone message from the AP.

News Herald reporter Daniel Carson told his paper that he had noticed the man during the meeting and he didn't appear agitated.

"The guy obviously had a death wish," district spokeswoman Karen Tucker said.

Tommye Lou Richardson, the school district's personnel director, who was at the meeting, called Jones a hero for his actions.

Online:
http://www.panhandleparade.com/

     
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.

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