Tuesday, December 14, 2010
An armed gunman took hostages and fired shots during a school board meeting in Panama City, Florida at the Bay District Schools’ Nelson Building Tuesday. The gunman has been identified as Clay Duke, 56, whose wife had been fired by the school district. Duke fired at board members until he was shot and wounded by district security chief Mike Jones. Shortly afterwards Duke shot himself in the head.
Only Duke was injured in the fray even though he shot at Superintendent Bill Husfelt and other board members at close range. Duke opened fire, after rambling on about the firing of his wife and sales tax. Husfelt pleaded with Duke to let the others go as he was responsible for his wifes firing, however Duke raised the gun and began to fire. After firing on the board members, Duke was shot several times by former School Board member and district security chief Mike Jones. Jones was not in the room at the time, and was alerted of the situation. After being shot by Jones, Duke proceeded to place the gun to his head and shot himself. Duke was pronounced dead shortly after at a local hospital and an autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday. Jones, although not physically injured, was admitted to hospital for observation.
After the shooting Superintendent Husfelt admitted that he “really didn’t know what he [Duke] was talking about.” Husfelt believes that Duke used a combination of blanks and live rounds, however the police are adamant that Duke used only live rounds. Panama City police chief, John Van Etten, described the gun as a small caliber handgun, however superintendent Husfelt said, “It looked like a shotgun when it was pointed at me”
A spokesperson for the school board, Karen Tucker, described Duke as “a large guy” and reported that she had seen him sitting at the back of the room. A member of the board, Ginger Littleton, along with the other women and children, were sent out of the room, however she returned to the room as she could not leave the others behind. She tried to disarm Duke by hitting him with her heavy handbag, however it was not heavy enough as Duke knocked her down. She said that he aimed “directly at my [Littleton’s] brain”, but he did not fire at her and she eventually escaped the room unharmed.
A SWAT team burst into the meeting room and were initially thought to have shot Duke, but it was later determined that Duke had shot himself, according to police. The gunman was taken out of the meeting room on a stretcher.
Witness have said that shots were heard, however there are reports circulating that the gunman shot blanks instead of live rounds. A reporter who was in the room at the time thinks the weapon may have been a “cap gun”, but police say that the weapon was a pistol loaded with live rounds. The gunman allegedly spray painted the letter ‘V’ on the meeting room wall. The ‘V’ is the same symbol used in the movie V for Vendetta.