Rambling gunman dead after opening fire at Florida school meeting
Get the local report from WJHG.
(CNN) — Clay Duke sat quietly through the first portion of the Bay District Schools, Florida, school board meeting Tuesday afternoon as local children were honored for their achievements.
When it came time for citizens to bring up issues, the 56-year-old resident calmly approached the front.
He spray painted a red “V” with a circle around it on the wall, brandished a small-caliber handgun and ordered the room cleared at a Panama City schools building.
“Six men stay. Everyone else leave,” the burly gunman said.
Moments later, Ginger Littleton, a board member, returned to the room and swung a purse at him. She ended up on the ground after the two struggled. The gunman cursed her, but did not open fire and he let her leave the room.
Someone was going to die, he said.
At that point, Duke, as seen on the dramatic live internet feed provided by CNN affiliates WJHG and WMBB, began a rambling discourse that included the apparent firing of his wife and sales taxes.
The confrontation ended in the gunman identified as Duke calmly firing at the school officials, being wounded and, according to police, taking his own life.
At first, school board members and Superintendent Bill Husfelt tried to reason with Duke, who had a criminal record. They talked about possibly finding a job for Duke’s wife or looking into the case.
Husfelt told the gunman that he likely signed the termination papers, but didn’t recall the circumstances.
“I’m the one who signed the papers,” Husfelt. “Let them go,” he said referring to the school board members.
At one point, Husfelt said, “I don’t want anybody to get hurt. I’ve got a feeling that what you want, is you want the cops to come in and kill you because you are mad. Because you said you are going to die.”
“But why? This isn’t worth it,” the superintendent told him. “This is a problem.”
The gunman then pointed the pistol at the official.
“Please don’t. Please don’t. Please,” Husfelt said.
The gunman opened fire at Husfelt and school board members. He missed them all, even though he was at close range, said Lee Stafford, director of student services of Bay District Schools. Duke said, “I’m going to kill [unintelligible],” while he fired.
Mike Jones, chief of security for the school system and a retired police officer, exchanged fire with Duke, who was wounded and rolled to the ground. Duke turned his gun on himself, dying of a fatal gunshot to the head, authorities said. Husfelt called Jones a “hero.”
The gunman was declared dead at a local hospital. An autopsy is expected Wednesday.
Police and school officials were left to piece together what happened.
“I’m sure they never expected this kind of event to occur,” Sgt. Jeffrey Becker of the Panama City Police Department.
The superintendent later related the event as being “surreal,” Becker said.
Husfelt told reporters that Duke had almost a smile on his face. “He made up his mind. You could tell he was going to die.”
The superintendent said he believes the gunman used a combination of live bullets and blanks. But police said live bullets were used.
Husfelt told “AC360” Tuesday night that the gunman was “just mixed up” and that he tried to calm him down. “I knew the police were on their way.”
“You knew he had something in mind he was going to do and it would not end well,” Husfelt said.
The superintendent said he wanted to protect the school board members, but Duke did not want to talk.