WCTV | Tallahassee, Thomasville, Valdosta | News, Weather, Sports

[UPDATE] Gunman Opens Fire During Fla. School Board Meeting

By: CBS; AP
By: CBS; AP

[UPDATE] 12-23 10:00AM

(CBS) On December 14, Clay Duke, a troubled ex-con, drew a gun during a Panama City, Fla. school board meeting and took six people hostage. The harrowing drama ended with his death.

Yesterday, Clay Duke's widow, Rebecca Duke, sat down with "Early Show" co-anchor Erica Hill to explain who her husband was and to try to shed light on the reasons for his violent attack.

Rebecca Duke told Hill she was among those shocked as she watched her husband on the surveillance tape.

"I had to watch it because I didn't believe it," she told Hill. "And I watched it and watched it and watched it. You see what everyone else sees -- the shock, the horror."

For Rebecca Duke, Hill said, the scene is still unimaginable. Rebecca Duke says her husband of more than a decade was a gentle, compassionate man with a great sense of humor.

"He always wanted to do the right thing," she said. "He was a family man."

Hill asked, "He was not a violent man to you?"

Rebecca Duke replied, "Absolutely not."

In the months leading up to the shooting, Duke faced mounting pressures. According to his former attorney, he had trouble keeping a job and could not afford his medication for a bipolar disorder.

Rebecca Duke had also been laid off from her job with the Panama City schools.

Hill said, "Your unemployment was to run out that week. Clay was having a hard time, like so many Americans right now, finding a job. Had you two discussed at all what was going to happen next?"

"I told him," she answered, "I said, 'You know, we just get through, you know, Christmas, it'll all work out somehow.' He was -- I guess -- just too much, I reckon for everybody, I mean, just like everyone's struggling right now. It's really a hard, hard, hard time."

Rebecca Duke says her husband's frustration with society was reaching a breaking point.

Clay Duke could be heard in the video of the school board shooting saying, "Our benefits have run out. We're broke. You see what I'm saying."

Rebecca Duke told Hill, "Time after time, we've asked for help, and you just slammed the door in our face."

Hill said, "It must have been difficult for you. And as people speculate as to what may have been going through his mind, what do you think happened that day?"

"Honestly, I don't know what triggered it that day," Rebecca Duke said. "And that's going to be a question that I'm going to be asking myself for the rest of my life."

What we do know is that, soon after pulling out his gun, Clay Duke announced he was prepared to die.

In the video of the shooting, someone tells Clay Duke, "I got a feeling that what you want is for the cops to come in and kill you because you're mad. Because you said you're gonna die today."

Clay Duke can then be seen aiming his gun at the school board and firing shots at close range.

But he didn't hit anyone. Rebecca Duke says that was no accident.

"He was in the Air Force," she said. "He did two separate, different tours. And he was trained in guns. And he was a good shot."

Hill asked, "Do you believe that he was trying to hit anyone with those bullets?"

"He was not trying to hit anybody," Rebecca Duke said. "He was just trying, in my opinion, he wanted to scare them. From what I can tell, he wanted them to get down, I mean just from his body language alone. He honestly didn't want -- didn't want to hurt, anybody. You know?"

Just seconds after Clay Duke fired his gun, security guard Mike Jones stormed into the room.

Jones hit Clay Duke three times in the back. Then, lying on the floor wounded, Clay Duke turned the gun on himself, and took his own life.

"I feel for everyone in that school board. I feel for Mike Jones," Rebecca Duke said. "That's why I actually came out and spoke, because I felt I needed, Mike of all people, to know how I felt."

"How is the rest of your family, and the rest of Clay's family holding up right now?" Hill asked.

"They're overwhelmed and devastated, as well," Rebecca Duke said. "And they're trying to cope the best way that they can. The reason I agreed to do this is to -- to give my husband and his family some dignity and respect, because this was an honorable man. And he deserves it, cause he was a man and a father, a grandfather, a son, and a husband before he was a gunman."

Understandably relieved that no one was hurt, Rebecca Duke says she will spend the rest of her life trying to understand what happened -- and will never stop missing the Clay Duke she knew -- the man who was her soulmate.

"I am really numb. I feel like I died that day," Rebecca Duke said. "To love someone and to get that kind of connection in life is very rare and it is a gift from God. And that's why I'll cherish this. And that's why this is so hard for me, because I feel my soul's been ripped out, and I don't know how to get it back or even deal with it."

_________________________________

[UPDATE] 12-16 12:30PM --

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) --

By the time a 911 call to alert authorities about a gunman holding school board members hostage was completed, the incident was over and the perpetrator was dead.

It took roughly six minutes.

Nancy Boyd, assistant superintendent of Bay County schools,
calmly described the events leading up to Clay Duke taking his own
life after firing at several school board members. Authorities said
56-year-old Duke was distraught that his wife had been fired by the
school district earlier this year.

Boyd told the 911 dispatcher "there's some man here with a
gun." She described the scene as Duke began firing at school board
members.

Duke killed himself after exchanging gunfire with a security
guard. No one else was injured.

WCTV has included some of the audio of that 911 call.
___________________________

[UPDATE] 12-16 10:30AM --

LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (AP) --

The wife of the man who held a Florida school board at gunpoint calls her husband a "gentle giant" who was frustrated over her losing her teaching job.

Clay Duke killed himself Tuesday, December 14 after he shot at school board members in Panama City. A day later, his wife gave a rambling news conference to talk about the man she loved. Rebecca Duke says they were frustrated over how and why she lost her job with the school district.

Rebecca Duke says she regrets that her husband's life ended the
way it did.

Police say Clay Duke was a 56-year-old ex-convict who had
circled Dec. 14 on a calendar in a mobile home he kept in the
woods, evidence he had been planning the attack for some time.

A link has been added to Fla. Dept. of Corrections listing for Clay Duke at the bottom of the page.

__________________________

UPDATE 12-15 11:39pm by Angela Howard

It was a harrowing experience for members of the Panama City School Board as they were held captive by a man with a gun.

It started out just like every other meeting, but quickly turned into a hostage-like situation once the gunman walked to the front of the room.

And the whole ordeal was caught on tape.

"Just listen to me for a minute!"

What began as an ordinary meeting took a terrifying turn as 56-year-old Clay Duke walked to the front of the Panama City School Board Meeting room Tuesday night (12-14) ... and brandished a gun.

Nadeen Yanes, a reporter inside the board meeting, says, "I saw him come out, spray-paint a big circle with a line or a V through it, it wasn't nice, and then he said, 'I have a motion for you', and like pulled out his gun."

Duke ordered everyone out of the room except for 6 male board members ... to whom he rambled on about taxes and his wife - who was a special education teacher - losing her job.

At one point, you can see Board Member Ginger Littleton, sneak back inside and hit Duke with her purse, attempting to knock away the gun.

Littleton says, "I looked at my colleagues who were at that point lined up like birds on a wire, one chair after the other, and he was sitting there with his gun"

But her plan only infuriated Duke further ... and he turned and fired shot after shot at the men at point-blank range.

Finally, Security guard and former board member Mike Jones shot and wounded Duke. The gunman then took his own life with a bullet to the head. Amazingly, none of the board members were injured. But they say it is surely a day they won't soon forget.

Bill Husfelt says, "It was so surreal when it first started we didn;t realize what was going on."

Clay Duke was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Authorities are still investigating the shooting ...
-------------------------------------------------

UPDATE 12-15

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) -- The burly, bipolar man who held a
Florida school board at gunpoint was frustrated and broke.

Clay Duke was a troubled ex-con with an interest in anarchy, and
when his wife was fired from her teaching job and their benefits
ran out, he went to the board meeting and said he was prepared to
die.

He killed himself Tuesday after firing at the board members,
missing them by mere inches, and exchanging a volley of gunfire
with a security guard.

A day later, his wife tearfully talked about the man she loved,
calling the 56-year-old father a "gentle giant."

In the moments prior to the shooting, Duke spray painted a
circle and a large, red V inside of it on the meeting room wall and
muttered about rising taxes and how his wife was fired from the
school district.

---------------------------------------------------------------

UPDATE 12-15-2010 4:28 p.m.

LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (AP) -- The wife of the man who held a Florida
school board at gunpoint is saying he was a gentle giant who was
frustrated over her losing her teaching job.

Clay Duke killed himself Tuesday after he shot at school board
members in Panama City. A day later, his wife gave a rambling press
conference to talk about the man she loved. Rebecca Duke says they
were frustrated over how and why she lost her job with the school
district.

Rebecca Duke says she regrets that her husband's life ended the
way it did.

Police say Clay Duke was a 56-year-old ex-convict who had
circled Dec. 14 on a calendar in a mobile home he kept in the
woods, evidence he had been planning the attack for some time.

-------------------------------------------------------

[UPDATE] 12-15 2:00PM --

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) --

School officials say the wife of the ex-convict who held a Florida school board at gunpoint had been fired from her job as a teacher.

Bay District personnel director Tommye Lou Richardson says
Rebecca Crowder-Duke was fired in February. The district hired her
in September 2009 to teach students with special needs, but didn't
pass probation.

Richardson says Crowder-Duke had questioned her termination but
never filed a lawsuit.

She couldn't specify why the woman was fired.

Reporters were asked to leave the house where Crowder-Duke is
believed to be living.

Clay Duke complained about his wife being fired by the district
before shooting at close range. He exchanged gunfire with the
district's security chief before fatally shooting himself.

______________________________

[UPDATE] 12-15 11:10AM --

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) --

Police say the ex-convict who held a Florida school board at gunpoint had been planning to do it for some time.

Panama City Police Chief John Van Etten says Tuesday's date was
circled on a calendar found in the trailer where 56-year-old Clay
Duke lived north of Panama City.

Duke shot himself after firing at school board members during a
meeting Tuesday. No one else was hurt. Before opening fire, he
painted a red V on a wall and talked about his wife being fired.

Officials say she worked for the schools, but it wasn't clear
whether she resigned or had been fired or what her job was. She was
apparently living with her mother in a nearby town.

Van Etten says the shooting was not "spur of the moment."
Police also found anti-government paraphernalia in Duke's home.
___________________________

[UPDATE] 12-15 9:30AM --

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) --

The Florida school board member who used her large purse to try to disarm a gunman at a board meeting yesterday now admits it was a "pretty stupid" thing for her to do.

She had been allowed to leave the board room, but sneaked back
in behind the gunman. Littleton has said she saw it as the last
opportunity to "divert him." Her effort failed, and the gunman cursed at her and pointed his gun at her, but didn't shoot her.

Clay Duke -- who had been complaining about taxes and about his
wife being fired -- then shot from close range at the school
superintendent.

No bullets hit anyone before a security guard shot the gunman,
who then killed himself.

The superintendent, Bill Husfelt, says he could "tell by the
look in his eyes that this wasn't going to end well."
______________________

[UPDATE] 12-15 7:45AM --

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) --

The red "V" inside a circle that a man painted on a wall before firing at a Florida school board and then killing himself is the same symbol used in the graphic novel series and movie "V for Vendetta."

Clay Duke left a cryptic message under the "About me" section
on a Facebook page. It reads in part: "I was just born poor in a
country where the Wealthy manipulate, use, abuse and economically
enslave 95 percent of the population."

The Facebook page's profile picture shows the same red V symbol
that was spray-painted on the wall during yesterday's school board
meeting. It also shows photos from the film "V for Vendetta," in
which a mysterious figure battles a totalitarian government.

The 56-year-old ex-convict blamed officials for his wife being
fired.

_____________________________

UPDATE - WCTV is including raw video from this afternoon's incident. The scene might be disturbing to some since shots are fired and you can hear more shots as well. There is no blood shown in the video though.

----------------------------------------------------
UPDATE
Panama City, FL (AP) - Video of a shooting at a Florida school
board meeting shows the superintendent begging the gunman to let
board members go before the man fires a shot at him that misses.

In video from Tuesday's clash posted by WMBB television on its
website, gunman Clay Duke is shown calmly confronting the board.

Duke stands about 10 feet in front of the board with the gun at
his side. Superintendent Bill Husfelt asks Duke to let the others
go.

After some back and forth, Duke points the gun at Husfelt, who
pleads "Please don't, please don't." Duke fires a shot that
misses.

What happens next isn't shown. Police say district security
chief Mike Jones entered the room and exchanged fire with Duke,
wounding him. Police say Duke then fatally shot himself.

-------------------------------------------------

UPDATE

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) -- Police say they have identified the
gunman who killed himself after he opened fire at a Florida
Panhandle school board meeting.

Officials said 56-year-old Clay A. Duke shot himself to death
after exchanging gunfire Tuesday with Bay District's security
chief. Witnesses say Duke may have been complaining that his wife
had lost her job.

Panama City Police Sgt. Jeff Becker says after reviewing video
footage of the shooting, it was determined that the gunman fatally
shot himself.

Witnesses tell The Associated Press that the gunman walked up to
a podium at the meeting, spray painted a red "V" with a circle
around it on a wall and began firing.

There were no other injuries.

-----------------------------------------------------------
UPDATE

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) -- Police are now saying a gunman shot
himself to death at a Florida school board meeting and that he was
not killed by a security guard as initially reported.

Panama City Police Sgt. Jeff Becker says after reviewing video
footage of Tuesday's shooting, it was determined that the gunman
fatally shot himself.

Witnesses tell The Associated Press that the gunman walked up to
a podium at the meeting, spray painted a red "V" with a circle
around it on a wall and began firing.

There were no other injuries. The gunman's name has not been
released.

------------------------------------------------------------

UPDATE 12-14-2010 6:08 p.m.

Panama City, FL (AP) - A school official says a gunman was
shot to death by a security guard at a school board meeting Tuesday
after he walked up to a podium, spray painted a red "V" with a
circle around it and began firing.

Bay District spokeswoman Karen Tucker says former police officer
Mike Jones, the head of the school district's security, shot the
gunman as he confronted board members.

She says Jones is also a former board member.

There were no other injuries. The gunman's name has not been
released.

A man who was in attendance said about a dozen spectators were
in the room as the board was getting ready to discuss different
subjects on the agenda when a heavy, disheveled man pulled out a
can of spray paint and drew a red circle on the wall with a mark
through it.

------------------------------------------------------------

UPDATE 12-14-2010 5;29 p.m.

Panama City, FL (AP) - School officials say a gunman who
opened fire during a Florida Panhandle school board was fatally
shot by the district's safety manager.

District spokeswoman Karen Tucker says former police officer
Mike Jones shot the man as he confronted the Bay District School
board members during Tuesday's meeting in Panama City. She says
Jones is also a former board member.

She says there were no other injuries.

-------------------------------------------------------

UPDATE 12-14-2010 5:06 p.m.

School official: Gunman shot, killed at Florida school board meeting; no one else injured.

--------------------------------------------------

UPDATE 12-14-2010 4:24 p.m.

Panama City, FL - A man used a pistol to take hostages at a Bay County School Board meeting.

Starting a little after 2 p.m., the man addressed the school board briefly, before using a can of red spray paint to paint a large "V" with a circle around it on the wall of the building.

The man pulled out a gun, and released the women and children from the room, taking the others hostage. Tensions built while the man questioned the school board.

Shots were fired, and SWAT teams responded and burst in. At this time, it's believed the man fired blanks at school board members, and was then shot by authorities, or may have shot himself, though that is unclear at this time.

As of 2:30 p.m., streets in the area of the Nelson building have been shut down.

It's being reported that school board members were not injured.

------------------------------------------------------

Panama City, FL (AP) - A gunman has opened fire during a
Florida Panhandle school board meeting. It's not immediately known
if there were fatalities or injuries.

A WMBB television reporter at Tuesday's meeting says the man
came up to the podium at the Bay District School Board meeting and
said he had a motion. He then pulled out a can of red spray paint
and painted a "V" with a circle around it.

Reporter Nadeen Yanes tells her station he then pulled out a
handgun and started talking.

Yanes says a school board member hit the gunman with her purse
and he pushed her to the ground and started firing randomly.

Yanes and others ran outside. Police confirmed a shooting but
had no further information.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
powered by Disqus
WCTV 1801 Halstead Blvd. Tallahassee, FL 32309
Gray Television, Inc. - Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 111873684 - wctv.tv/a?a=111873684