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Dec 17 2010

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Police: Florida School Board Gunman Planned Attack

By David Lohr, AOL News

Clay Duke, the Florida gunman who opened fire at a school board, ranted against the rich in what appears to have been a final manifesto on Facebook.

Duke, a 56-year-old ex-convict, was mentally ill and had been planning the attack for some time, police said today.

Dec. 14, the date of the shooting, was circled on a calendar in Duke’s mobile home, Panama City Police Chief John Van Etten said, according to The Associated Press.

Duke opened fire on Bay City Schools Superintendent Bill Husfelt at a school board meeting Tuesday night in Panama City, but nobody was hit. A security officer, Mike Jones, exchanged fire with Duke, wounding him. Duke then fatally shot himself with a 9 mm handgun, the only casualty of the violence, which was caught on videotape.

Before the shooting, Duke painted a red circled “V” on a wall of the room where the meeting was taking place and talked about his wife having been fired.

According to police, Duke’s wife had been employed as a teacher by the school district, and her employment had recently been terminated. The couple had been living apart, but it remains unclear what prompted the separation or how long it had been going on, police said.

“I think it’s just safe to say at this point that, obviously, Mr. Duke had some mental health issues,” Deputy Police Chief Robert Colbert told reporters.

Colbert said authorities have talked to Duke’s family members, and that they are “as shocked as everyone else that this had occurred,” CNN reported.

The circled “V” Duke painted on a wall is a symbol that had been used in the 1980s book series and the 2006 movie “V for Vendetta.”

According to the Internet Movie Database, the film, which takes place in Britain, is about “a freedom fighter known as V [who] uses terrorist tactics to fight the oppressive society.”

The “V” image also appears on a Facebook profile believed to have belonged to Duke.

“I know that he had some posting on his Facebook site for ‘V for Vendetta,’ and, obviously, [there was a] ‘V’ that was spray-painted at the scene,” Colbert said.

Within the biography section of the Facebook page, he wrote a brief manifesto that reads like a suicide note:

“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.”

School officials have said they were unaware of the significance of the spray-painting and knew nothing about Duke’s grievances.

“He said his wife was fired, but we really don’t know what he was talking about,” Husfelt told the AP.

Husfelt tried to calm Duke down and begged him not to shoot, but he said he knew things wouldn’t end well.

“He decided he was going to die,” Husfelt said of Duke. “There’s no doubt looking in his eyes that somebody was going to get killed.”

Dr. Park Dietz, a psychiatrist and workplace violence expert, agrees with Husfelt’s take on the situation and says that Duke had probably been ready to die when he entered the school board meeting.

“Mass murders and attempted mass murders are best understood as angry suicide attempts,” Dietz, founder of the Threat Assessment Group, told AOL News. “They are often successful, and 50 percent are dead by the end of the day, either at their own hands or at hands of police in ‘suicide by cop.'”

Before opening fire, Duke ordered everyone to leave the room except the men on the school board, who he held at gunpoint. The sole woman on the board, Ginger Littleton, had been ordered to leave but sneaked back in, whacking Duke’s gun arm with her large purse. Duke then forced Littleton to the ground but did not shoot her.

“She probably wasn’t on his hit list,” Dietz said. “He had some specific people he blamed.”

Duke then opened fire twice, first at Husfelt, who pleaded, “Please don’t,” then at the floor. None of the bullets struck the school board members, and Jones, a former police detective, shot Duke in the leg. As Duke collapsed, he fired three more shots, and then fatally shot himself.

Duke was arrested in October 1999 for aggravated stalking, shooting or throwing a missile into a building or vehicle and obstructing justice, the St. Petersburg Times reported.

The charges stemmed from accusations that Duke had been stalking a former girlfriend, Ben Bollinger, the attorney who represented Duke, told The News Herald of Panama City.

Duke, dressed in a bulletproof vest and a mask, allegedly waited outside the girlfriend’s home and confronted her with a rifle when she came out. A confrontation ensued and, when she attempted to leave, he shot out the tires of her vehicle, the attorney said.

Duke pleaded no contest to the charges and was sentenced to five years in prison. He was paroled in 2004 but ordered to serve 10 years on probation and was required to complete counseling.

In January 2009, Duke wrote a letter to the judge who had sentenced him in the stalking case. He told Circuit Judge Dedee Costello he was “a mentally ill man who had committed crimes.”

He also said he had since been diagnosed with “adult-onset bipolar condition,” for which he had received treatment in prison. Duke went on to ask Costello to terminate his probation early, the News Herald reported. The newspaper does not indicate whether the request was granted.

During today’s news conference, Husfelt said that he did not believe there is anything that school officials could have done to prevent the confrontation.

“If you could’ve seen that gentleman’s eyes, this was going to happen,” Husfelt said. “We could’ve had this place like Fort Knox, and he would’ve shot us when we came out of the building. … There was nothing we could’ve done to stop him.”

Husfelt said he was certain he would be shot, and that he was ready to die.

“He was pointing right at me,” Husfelt recalled on CBS’ “The Early Show.” “God blocked the bullet. I really believe that.”

   
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