What started as a bizarre interruption evolved into a terrifying situation and ultimately ended in tragedy. But it didn’t end anywhere near as bad as it could have. Many contend it was miraculous that it didn’t.
According to Panama City police, 56 year old Clay Duke disrupted a Florida school board meeting with a “motion.” Once he had everyone’s attention, he spray painted a large red V on the wall with a circle around it, a symbol similar to the one featured in the movie “V for Vendetta.” Shortly after his bizarre gesture, Duke, indeed, would carry out that vendetta. And a camera used to record the meeting would capture every horrifying moment of it.
Duke calmly pulled out a gun before telling the women and children present that they could leave the room. Naturally, they all did just that. Except one brave woman felt compelled to come back. Ginger Littleton risked her life by reentering the room, then sneaking up on the gunman before attacking him with her purse in an unsuccessful attempt to jar the gun free from his hands.
“I had the choice of leaving,” Littleton told Good Morning America earlier this morning. “When I turned back around he was up on the level with my guys and they were all sitting there lined up like ducks in a pond … completely defenseless.
“So I could either walk away, thinking something bad was going to happen and try to live with myself, or I could try to do something to divert or delay. So my bag was what I had and so that’s what I did.”
Clearly surprised by the attack, Duke calmly wrestles the woman to the ground before demanding she leave yet again.
He then engaged the board in a nonsensical discussion. Duke’s primary gripe seemed to center around his contention that the board had fired his wife. It’s unclear in what capacity, if any, his wife worked for the school system. Toward the end of the drama, a dialogue emerged between the gunman and school board superintendent Bill Husfelt. Husfelt tried to talk Duke into letting the other board members go, citing the fact that it was Husfelt, himself, who would have signed any termination paperwork. But Duke refused, then shortly thereafter, pointed his weapon directly at the superintendent from point blank range.
Husfelt can be heard pleading, “Please don’t. Please don’t. Please.” Unaffected, Duke opened fire. Husfelt hit the floor, but incredibly, he wasn’t hit. He told GMA, “There was a miracle that I wasn’t shot. He literally had the gun pointed right at me. … God was standing in front of me. I believe that with all my heart.”
Once Duke opened fire, security officer Mike Jones fired back. Duke was hit twice, eventually falling to the floor before taking his own life. Police say all told, ten shots were fired, yet Duke was the only one struck.
It’s harrowing to think of such a confrontation happening in any context, much less one that involves schools that educate our youth.
Though many questions remain, a few things are clear. The school board members, along with Ginger Littleton, are lucky to be alive. They have their own collective calm in the face of danger to thank. Along with Mike Jones, of course, the heroic security guard who exchanged fire with Duke and ultimately prevented the tragic situation from become even worse.
The video below shows the entire exchange, yet stops just before Duke takes his own life. It should be noted that the footage is graphic. Should you watch it, you’ll no doubt be taken by Littleton’s bravery, as well as Husfelt’s command of the situation. Hero Mike Jones can not be seen, but the shots he fired were the ones which brought the gunman down.