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Rambling gunman dead after opening fire at Florida school meeting

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http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/12/14/florida.meeting.shooting/index.html

(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.

"The good Lord was standing in front of me," said the school chief, adding authorities found two bullet holes behind his desk.

Police have a solid lead on Duke's motive, Becker said, but were not prepared Tuesday night to release it.

The investigation includes Duke's assertions that his wife had been terminated by the school district. Police were talking with Duke's wife, Becker said.

School officials said they were unaware of the significance of the spray painting.

But a Facebook page belonging to a Clay Duke has a profile photo of a "V" in a red circle, a logo that is used in the movie "V for Vendetta."

According to the Internet Movie Database, the 2006 film is about "a shadowy freedom fighter known only as "V" uses terrorist tactics to fight against his totalitarian society. Upon rescuing a girl from the secret police, he also finds his best chance at having an ally."

CNN could not verify if the Facebook page belonged to the gunman, but it does list Duke, 56, as living in Panama City, Florida.

A biography on Duke's Facebook page reads: "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% of the population. Rich Republicans, Rich Democrats... same-same... rich... they take turns fleecing us... our few dollars... pyramiding the wealth for themselves. The 95%... the us, in US of A, are the neo slaves of the Global South. Our Masters, the Wealthy, do, as they like to us..."

Under "political views," Duke labels himself a "Freedom Fighter." Under religious views, he wrote, "Humanism."

Duke, who lived in Lynn Haven, a suburb of Panama City, has a previous record, Becker told CNN.

According to the website of the Florida Department of Corrections, Duke was sentenced in 2000 for aggravated stalking, obstructing justice and throwing or shooting into a vehicle.

According to the Panama City News Herald, after six months of stalking a former girlfriend, Duke confronted the woman outside her home on Oct. 20, 1999. He was wearing the mask and vest and holding two .22-caliber guns. He threatened to kill her, then kill several others and then himself, the newspaper said. When the woman tried to drive away, Duke shot out a rear tire.

The photo of Duke on the corrections page matches the Facebook page.

The News Herald reported that the gunman was taken out of the building on a stretcher. According to Panama City Police Chief John Van Etten, no one other than the suspect was injured, affiliate WJHG said.

School board spokeswoman Karen Tucker said the man "was a large guy" she had seen sitting in the back of the boardroom earlier, according to the News Herald.

Superintendent Husfelt will hold a press conference at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at the administration building in Panama City, police said.

CNN affiliate WMBB reported children and parents were at the meeting to be recognized for achievements, but were gone before the incident began.

"We are absolutely in state of shock," said Stafford. "I was in the third floor and we were watching the live feed, and first we thought it was a drill. But the more that you watched it, we realized this was an actual incident and emergency situation."

Duke's Facebook page listed him as a 1972 graduate of King High School in Tampa.

His favorite quotation: "You want the truth? You can't handle the truth," from the movie "A Few Good Men."

Hope no one here in the Florida crowd is affected. My heart goes out to all those involved and affected.

Warning for Violence. Mods please take down if need be

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I think the Superintendent acted heroically claiming he was responsible for signing the papers. d**n shame how that all fell out. I think he was suicidal, too.

On a more morbid note, that was one big dude and whatever he got shot with the first time barely made him flinch.

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Through that, the earth is rid of just one more person that makes people live in fear every day.

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He certainly wasn't there to play patty cake or get his wife's job back.  He was there for only one purpose, to kill the board members and himself.

The last thing you want to hear from a gunmen is for him to say "I'm going to die today."  Him saying that let's you know he has every intention of doing some damage.

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The girl who tried to take his gun is a hero.  Even though it didnt work, she still tried.

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The girl who tried to take his gun is a hero. Even though it didnt work, she still tried.

I think it was a heroic act, but I do think that she put everyone else's life at risk by that daring fail. If she would have gotten the gun, I would have called her a hero, but I dont know.

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maybe im wrong but all the way through the vid i was thinking this man has zero side arms training and makes a huge target.

im glad the man was a horrible shot.

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How many more unstable people are out there bearing arms?

Several months ago a man shoots his mother's doctor at John Hopkins Hospital as he was unhappy with his mother's medical care.  He then murders his mother , then shoots himself to death.

2008 a Texas man unhappy with wife's surgery shoots and kills wife's doctor.

I'd like to see better gun control not more guns, even the most rational people are capable of being highly irrational give the right stimulus.

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How many more unstable people are out there bearing arms?

Several months ago a man shoots his mother's doctor at John Hopkins Hospital as he was unhappy with his mother's medical care. He then murders his mother , then shoots himself to death.

2008 a Texas man unhappy with wife's surgery shoots and kills wife's doctor.

I'd like to see better gun control not more guns, even the most rational people are capable of being highly irrational give the right stimulus.

Same thing goes with cars, they kill more people than anything around, just not as graphic.  People tend to do really irrational things while driving on a daily basis and end up killing people due to irrational behavior.  I say we all become pedestrians  ;D to avoid people being killed by irrational car owners. 

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Through that, the earth is rid of just one more person that makes people live in fear every day.

Correct.  Thankfully,  he didn't hurt anyone else.  Another obvious case of severe mental illness.

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How many more unstable people are out there bearing arms?

Several months ago a man shoots his mother's doctor at John Hopkins Hospital as he was unhappy with his mother's medical care. He then murders his mother , then shoots himself to death.

2008 a Texas man unhappy with wife's surgery shoots and kills wife's doctor.

I'd like to see better gun control not more guns, even the most rational people are capable of being highly irrational give the right stimulus.

That's odd, I was thinking the exact opposite.  We need more guns.  If one of those school board members would have been carrying, they could have EASILY (as skunked pointed out) ended the matter without the big psycho ever getting a shot off.

Criminals and Psychos are always going to be able to get their hands on guns.  But, the laws that limit us law-abiding citizens from carrying in certain places are simply handicapping society from protecting itself.

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^ Agreed, I was thinking the same.  If this guy hadn't had access to a gun, a knife, a club, or a chair would work just as well.  Remember, when seconds count, the cops are only minutes away.

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I think the woman, although 'brave', was WAAAAAY stupid. Hitting a 400 lb'er with a purse?? really?

x2. That was moronic and pathetic. She's lucky he didn't shoot her in the face.

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I think the woman, although 'brave', was WAAAAAY stupid. Hitting a 400 lb'er with a purse?? really?

x2. That was moronic and pathetic. She's lucky he didn't shoot her in the face.

X3. She was lucky she didn't die !!!!!!

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i can't believe no one got shot but him. that first shot looked on target. he pointed, aimed directly at the man trying to talk him down, fired and missed from 5 feet away? either he's a terrible shot or he was only tryin to scare him

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i can't believe no one got shot but him. that first shot looked on target. he pointed, aimed directly at the man trying to talk him down, fired and missed from 5 feet away? either he's a terrible shot or he was only tryin to scare him

I saw an interview with his wife. She claimed he was an excellent marksman and missed on purpose.

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1. The lady was dumb trying to knock the gun out.

2. He looked like he has never handled a gun.

3. I do not know why they took so long to take him down.

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i can't believe no one got shot but him. that first shot looked on target. he pointed, aimed directly at the man trying to talk him down, fired and missed from 5 feet away? either he's a terrible shot or he was only tryin to scare him

I saw an interview with his wife. She claimed he was an excellent marksman and missed on purpose.

Sounds like his wife is just as crazy as him.

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i can't believe no one got shot but him. that first shot looked on target. he pointed, aimed directly at the man trying to talk him down, fired and missed from 5 feet away? either he's a terrible shot or he was only tryin to scare him

I saw an interview with his wife. She claimed he was an excellent marksman and missed on purpose.

Sounds like his wife is just as crazy as him.

You could be right

PANAMA CITY, Fla. Clay Duke was a troubled, broke ex-con with bipolar disorder, an interest in anarchy, a wife whose unemployment benefits had run out and frustrations that reached their boiling point on a day circled on his calendar at home.

The burly 56-year-old held a Florida school board at gunpoint Tuesday, saying he was prepared to die. He fired at board members, missing them by inches, then killed himself after exchanging gunfire with a security guard.

Duke's wife said Wednesday he was an excellent marksman and probably missed the five board members sitting steps away on purpose. One board member even crept up from behind and hit Duke with her purse but he only called her a name and didn't shoot.

"He didn't want anyone to get hurt but himself," Rebecca Duke said of the man she loved. She called him a "gentle giant."

"The economy and the world just got the better of him," she said.

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. The school superintendent begged Duke not to shoot, but he did.

No one but Duke was injured; a school security guard fired several shots and hit Duke three times in the back. In the end, Duke took his own life by shooting himself in the head.

Police said the attack wasn't some spur of the moment idea. At his mobile home in the woods, they found Dec. 14 circled on a calendar. And police said he had at least 25 more rounds of ammunition in his pocket.

The entire shooting was captured by local television stations, and the video was posted on the Internet and broadcast on TV throughout the day. His Facebook page, which was public until late Wednesday afternoon, revealed a man who was fascinated with the movie "V for Vendetta" which depicts the same symbol that Duke spray painted onto the wall just before he took out his gun.

As board members gave television interviews about the harrowing experience, a sad and troubling portrait of Duke emerged.

Born in Ocala, Fla., Duke graduated from high school in Tampa. Little is known about his early adult years family members claimed he was in the Air Force for eight years, but that could not be confirmed.

In the mid-1990s, Duke had drifted to the Florida Panhandle not the spring break-filled sugar sand beaches, but the remote and wooded inland.

The '90s were a blur of court hearings and personal conflicts.

He divorced a woman named Anita in 1995 and at some point, had a daughter. He was sued by a property management company in 1999. In 2000, he was convicted for waiting in the woods for his ex-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. His second wife, Rebecca, said the incident was a misunderstanding and that he went to his ex-wife's house because the ex-wife "wouldn't leave them alone."

Duke's attorney on the case, Ben Bollinger, remembered Duke as especially paranoid about the new millennium.

"He was one of these Y2k people," he said, referring to a computer bug that some people thought was going to cause massive problems and economic chaos Jan. 1, 2000. "He was one of those believers that the world was going to turn for worst and he was stockpiling weapons, assault weapons."

Bollinger said Duke took a plea agreement: Five years in prison followed by 10 years probation. A judge relieved him of the probation obligations in January after Duke said he was unemployed and his wife might soon be. He said he was looking to move to a better place to find a job, according to court documents posted on the Smoking Gun website.

He also sought psychiatric help and took his medications as ordered and completed his probation, his lawyer said.

"He was competent but he was one of those people had a mood disorder where they could be depressed one day and all excited another day. I just remember the doctor saying he had a personality disorder," Bollinger recalled.

While in prison, Duke filed for bankruptcy.

He was released in January 2004. About a year later, he sued the Social Security Administration, which had denied his application for disability benefits and health insurance.

"He couldn't work. He just mentally couldn't make the connection for eight hours a day," said David Evans, the attorney who represented Duke.

Evans said Duke had been diagnosed by several doctors as bipolar, but didn't have enough money to buy the needed medication. "He was clearly in need of help," Evans said.

They filed at least five appeals to the denials.

"The judges adjudicating the claims didn't feel the claim was significant enough," Evans said. "All he was asking for was $500 or $600 a month and medical insurance."

Duke withdrew the suit in 2006.

He and Rebecca had married in 1999, just before his prison sentence. She said Wednesday that Duke faithfully took his medication for his bipolar disorder, but that he was under a lot of stress she had been fired from the school district and her final unemployment check was due this week.

Tommye Lou Richardson, the executive director of human resources for the Bay District, said Rebecca Duke was hired in September 2009 as a primary school teacher for students with special needs. She was given a 97-day probationary period, and was terminated.

"She was not performing appropriately, we thought, the principal thought, and so she was let go," Richardson said.

She wasn't able to go into any further detail.

Richardson said Rebecca Duke had "indicated that she felt like there was a violation of her employment rights," though she never filed a lawsuit.

About a week ago, Clay Duke joined Facebook. Over the past several days, he added photo stills from the movie and graphic novel "V for Vendetta," a nihilistic account of a masked man who fights against a totalitarian government. The movie's predominant symbol a red "V" inside of a circle was posted several times on Duke's page.

He also quoted the final passage from Percy Shelley's "Masque of Anarchy": "Rise like lions after slumber/In unvanquishable number/Shake your chains to earth, like dew/Which in sleep had fall'n on you/Ye are many-they are few."

Duke had no Facebook friendsWhy doesn't this suprise me :o although by Wednesday afternoon, thousands of people responded to his earlier postings, many of them critical of Tuesday's shooting. Others were more sympathetic, saying that Duke was driven to madness because of the difficult economy.

Duke had written something of a suicide note in his "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."

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