Anti-government gunman had Dec. 14 marked

Clay Duke had circled his calendar for Tuesday school board attack, in which he was the only casualty

Topics: Crime, School Violence,

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 paraphanelia in Duke’s home.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) — An ex-convict calmly held a school board at gunpoint, complaining about taxes and his wife being fired before shooting at close range as the superintendent begged, “Please don’t.”

Minutes earlier, the room had been filled with students accepting awards, but no one was hurt except the gunman, who shot himself Tuesday after exchanging fire with a security guard, police said.

“It could have been a monumental tragedy,” Bay District Schools Superintendent Bill Husfelt said. “God was standing in front of me and I will go to my grave believing that.”

Video of meeting shows 56-year-old Clay A. Duke rising from his seat, spray-painting a red V on the wall, then waving a gun and ordering everyone to leave the room except the men on the board. They dove under the long desk they had been sitting behind as he fired at them.

Duke’s motivation was still murky Wednesday. He rambled to the board about tax increases and his wife, but also apparently created a Facebook page last week that refers to class warfare and is laced with images from the movie “V for Vendetta,” in which a mysterious figure battles a totalitarian government.

The school board was in the midst of a routine discussion when Duke walked to the front of the room.

“We could tell by the look in his eyes that this wasn’t going to end well,” Husfelt told The Associated Press.

Husfelt was calm as he tried to persuade Duke to drop the gun, but Duke just shook his head. The only woman on the board, Ginger Littleton, had been ordered out of the room too, but she sneaked back in behind him and whacked his gun arm with her large brown purse.

You Might Also Like

“In my mind, that was the last attempt or opportunity to divert him,” Littleton said.

Duke, a large, heavyset man in a dark pullover coat got angry and turned around. She fell to the floor as 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’s not sure why.

“I think the ‘you stupid’ part, I thought at that point, probably, you’re right. I was pretty stupid,” Littleton told NBC’s “Today” show early Wednesday.

After several minutes, video showed Duke slowly raising the gun and leveling it at Husfelt, who pleaded “Please don’t, please don’t.”

Duke shot twice at Husfelt from about 8 feet away and squeezed off several more rounds before district security chief Mike Jones, a former police officer, bolted in. He exchanged gunfire with Duke and wounded him in the leg or side before Duke fatally shot himself, police Sgt. Jeff Becker said.

Somehow, no one else in the small board room was injured in the clash that lasted several minutes. Husfelt said at least two rounds lodged in the wall behind him.

In Duke’s brief exchange with the board, he said his wife had been fired from the northern Florida district, but never told Husfelt or the board who she was or what she did. Members promised to help her find a new job, but Duke just shook his head. Husfelt told Duke he didn’t remember his wife but would have be responsible for her dismissal, so the board members should be allowed to leave.

“He said his wife was fired, but we really don’t know what he was talking about,” Husfelt told the AP at his Panama City home. “I don’t think he knew what he was talking about.”

Video of the meeting shows Husfelt telling Duke: “I’ve got a feeling you want the cops to come in and kill you because you said you are going to die today.” Later, the head of more than 30 schools in the district that includes the beach tourism and Air Force town of Panama City said he was sure someone was going to be killed.

Tommye Lou Richardson, the school district’s personnel director, was at the meeting and called Jones a hero. As Duke lay on the floor, colleagues comforted the shaken man, who said he had never shot anyone before.

SWAT officers then stormed the room and ordered everyone onto the ground. School officials told them that Duke was shot and appeared dead. His feet could be seen near the board’s seats.

People gathered at Duke’s home Tuesday night asked reporters to leave. On a Facebook page under his name, the only dated entries are from Dec. 7 and 8. The page shows a cryptic message in the “About Me” section.

“My testament: Some people (the government sponsored media) will say I was evil, a monster (V) … no … I was just born poor in a country where the Wealthy manipulate, use, abuse, and economically enslave 95 percent of the population. Rich Republicans, Rich Democrats … same-same … rich … they take turns fleecing us … our few dollars … pyramiding the wealth for themselves.”

His Facebook profile picture is the red V symbol he spray-painted on the wall during the meeting, and his page includes photos from the film version “V for Vendetta,” which was also a graphic novel.

He quotes billionaire Warren Buffett, who told the New York Times in 2006: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class that’s making war and we’re winning.”

Duke was charged in October 1999 with aggravated stalking, shooting or throwing a missile into a building or vehicle and obstructing justice, according to state records. He was convicted and sentenced in January 2000 to five years in prison and was released in January 2004. Records show Duke was a licensed massage therapist before his arrest but it wasn’t clear if he was employed.

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.

“The guy obviously had a death wish,” district spokeswoman Karen Tucker said of Duke.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>