PANAMA CITY — 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 stands about 10 feet directly in front of the board with the gun. 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 at 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 said.
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. 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.
School officials in the Panhandle city said late Tuesday that Husfelt and Jones would not be made available for comment.
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.
Reporter Daniel Carson of the Panama City News Herald told his paper that he had noticed the man during the meeting and he didn't appear agitated.
Witness Leon Walters said the gunman was a heavy, disheveled man who walked along the side of the room to the podium.
The man pulled out a can of spray paint and drew a red circle on the wall with a mark through it. Carson and other witnesses described it as the letter "V." The man then pulled out what looked like a pistol.
"What are you doing?" someone asked, Walters recalled. "What's going on?"
The gunman told everyone to leave "except these clowns behind the counter here," referring to the School Board members, Walters said. There are five board members, Littleton and four men.
Carson said the gunman told everyone to leave except the men on the board.
The gunman was in a heated discussion with board members, Walters said.
"I overheard some discussion about his wife needing a job," Walters said. "Or his wife had lost her job or wanting a job or something like that."
Walters heard one member say, "I'll get your wife a job or I'll see if I can't find her a job somewhere."
That's when Jones, who had been elsewhere in the building, entered and exchanged shots with Duke.
"The guy obviously had a death wish," district spokeswoman Karen Tucker said.