PANAMA CITY, Fla. — A gunman walked up to a podium, spray painted a red “V” with a circle around it then opened fire at a school board meeting Tuesday, sending audience members scrambling, then exchanged shots with a security guard before killing himself, police said. No one else was injured.
In video of portions of the clash, the gunman, Clay A. Duke, is shown calmly confronting the Bay District school board. Duke, who was wearing a dark pullover coat, stands about 10 feet directly in front of the board with the gun at his side. Superintendent Bill Husfelt tries to persuade him to drop the gun and let board members go.
“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. Duke slowly raises the gun and levels it Husfelt, who pleads “Please don’t, please don’t.” Duke then fires a shot that misses.
Earlier, member Ginger Littleton is shown coming up from behind Duke as he stands next to the board and hitting him on the arm with her purse.
“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. He 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, fires the shot that missed Husfelt, district security chief Mike Jones, a former police officer and board member, entered and exchanged fire with Duke, wounding him, police Sgt. Jeff Becker said.
Duke then fatally shot himself, 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 team officers then storm in 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.
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.
Editor’s note: A reporter for Freedom Communication’s Northwest Daily News Herald was covering the meeting
Here’s Daniel Carson’s account:
“They had just got into the action item portion of the agenda, having a discussion about a revision to school board policy. This guy had been sitting in the back of room, not acting erratically or anything. He got up and walked to podium, but I couldn’t see that he had a gun.
“He pulls out a can of red spray paint, muttered something like ‘you’re a bunch of assholes’ to school board … and draws on the wall a red circle with ‘v’ through it. He pulls out this gun that turned out to be a cap gun, I think, and he started talking to the school board and told everyone to clear the room except the men on the school board.
“Then Ginger Littleton, I think, swung her purse at him. Nobody knew it was a cap gun. I couldn’t tell if he hit her or not, but looked like she kind of went down. She’s not injured by the way.”
Carson was outside the back door of the room with two others, including Bay Defense Alliance representative Leon Walters and teacher Dianne Wishart, and they cracked the door to see what was happening inside.
“We kept peeking in to make sure he hadn’t killed the entire school board. We closed the door, and I heard two pops. Mike Jones must have entered from another door inside the building and shot the guy.
“I went back in there, the guy is on the floor, blood coming out of his head. Bill Husfelt is consoling Mike Jones, they led Mike Jones back to that conference room adjacent to the main board room, all of them counseling him, and then the police came in.”