School gunman was 'gentle giant'


This image released by WJHG-TV shows Clay Duke, a 56-year-old ex-convict (AP Photo/WJHG-TV)

The wife of the man who held a Florida school board at gunpoint said her husband was a gentle giant who was pushed over the edge by the economy and frustrated over her losing her teaching job.

“He wanted to get me an answer,” Rebecca Duke said a day after her husband, Clay Duke, killed himself.

He shot at school board members in Panama City, missing some by inches, before he exchanged gunfire with a security guard. As he lay on the floor in the boardroom, he shot himself in the head.

“The economy and the world just got the better of him,” Ms Duke said.

Police said Duke was a 56-year-old ex-convict who had circled December 14 on a calendar in a mobile home he kept in the woods, seen as evidence he had been planning the attack for some time.

Bay District officials confirmed his wife had been fired earlier this year from her job teaching special education. Video of the meeting showed Duke complaining about taxes and his wife being fired before shooting at close range as the superintendent begged, “Please don’t.”

The shooting was not “a spur of the moment thing”, Panama City Police Chief John Van Etten said.

Video shows Duke rising from his seat, spray-painting a red V on the wall, then waving a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun and ordering everyone to leave the room except the men on the board. They dived under the long desk they had been sitting behind as he fired at them.

Duke 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.

“We could tell by the look in his eyes that this wasn’t going to end well,” Superintendent Bill Husfelt said.

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