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School security chief details gun battle at board meeting

By the CNN Wire Staff
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School security officer: 'I'm not a hero'
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Security chief said he was afraid gunman killed superintendent
  • Gunman's wife: Mike Jones did what he was "trained to do"
  • School security officer recounts gun battle at a school board meeting
  • Jones is known as "Salvage Santa" for his charitable work

(CNN) -- A school security chief gave an emotional account Thursday of his shootout with a Florida man who held school board members hostage before opening fire.

Mikes Jones with Bay District Schools in Panama City told HLN "Prime News" he was afraid the system's superintendent was dead after Clay Duke, 56, pointed a handgun at the leader and opened fire Tuesday afternoon.

Everything around me was just silent. It was in slow motion," said Jones, a former school board member and a retired Panama City police officer.

Superintendent Bill Husfelt then raised his head above the counter after the shooting incident, in which at least 15 shots were fired.

"I couldn't believe he was alive," Jones told HLN.

After a day spending time with his pastor and family, Jones talked with the media about the gun battle that took place during a routine school board meeting.

"When he fired the first shot, I had no recourse. It was a gun battle," Mike Jones told reporters about his encounter with Duke. "I'm not a hero. I had just done my job."

Jones, who is known as the affable "Salvage Santa" for his charity work, said his "heart goes out" to the family of Duke, who his wife described as having bipolar disorder.

"I just want to get right with God about this and right with my church about what had happened," said Jones.

Duke's widow, Rebecca Crowder-Duke, apologized for her husband's actions and said she understood that Jones was doing what he was "trained to do."

Jones wasn't supposed to be at the routine meeting, but swung by in case there were questions about a remodeling matter related to his job.

"I wasn't in the building five minutes that I got into the gunfight."

He said he got a call about the dramatic confrontation and went downstairs.

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  • Panama City
  • Florida
  • Crime

Inside, Duke had approached the front of the room, spray-painted a red "V" with a circle around it on the wall and brandished a handgun. He ordered the room cleared of everyone but six men and got into a discourse with board members and Husfelt about several issues, including the termination of Duke's wife.

Jones did a "peeka-boo" look into the room, hoping Duke would come out. The officer, who recently received rapid response training, went to his vehicle to get a protective vest and more ammunition and returned.

"I was peeking through the crack of the door and when I saw his back and he was squared up with both hands I knew that the fight was fixing to happen," said Jones.

But the officer said he could not get a clear line of fire on Duke.

A chilling video of the meeting, from a live internet feed provided by CNN affiliates WJHG and WMBB, shows Husfelt attempting to reason with Duke.

Husfelt pleaded with Duke to allow the other members to leave the room. "Will you let them go? You're obviously upset at me, so why are they here?" he asked on the video.

At one point, Husfelt told Duke, "I don't want anybody to get hurt. I've got a feeling that's 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."

Duke then pointed the pistol at Husfelt, who said, "Please don't. Please don't. Please." But Duke pulled the trigger as Husfelt and the others hit the floor. The gunman fired several times, missing everyone.

Crowder-Duke told WJHG on Wednesday that her husband, who she described as having bipolar disorder and unable to get work recently because of his prior criminal record, intentionally fired over the people and did not intend to harm them.

"If he really wanted to shoot anybody, they (would have) already been dead," said Crowder-Duke, who police say was terminated as a teacher this year. She said she had received praise from her principal.

Jones said he believed the superintendent had been shot. He opened the door with one hand and opened fire with the other, wounding Duke three times in a gunfire exchange. The suspect fell to the floor and fatally shot himself in the head, police said.

WJHG reported that Jones was taken to a hospital with chest pains after the incident. The officer said he first struck Duke in the back and was worried he might go to jail. "There's just so many things that go through your mind. It was instinct and training."

Jones told reporters he feels Husfelt deserved the accolades for asking Duke to let the other school board members go.

"Mike and his timing saved our lives," Husfelt said.

But it was evident at Thursday's press conference the incident took a toll on Jones.

"The first thing that came to mind (was) what is this community going to think of me?" he said. "I'm known as Salvage Santa, this nice guy. Now I've taken somebody's life."

Crowder-Duke said she has no animosity toward Jones.

"I don't fault you for (the shooting). I know you were just doing what you were trained to do, and I'm sorry that God had to choose you to do that because you are a very kind, sweet, generous man," Crowder-Duke told WJHG.

Husfelt said the district would re-evaluate security in the wake of the incident but said he doubted security would have made a difference. "We could have had this place like Fort Knox. ... There was nothing we could have done to stop him."

For 27 years, Jones has restored bicycles, raised money and collected toys to be given away to needy children, according to the Panama City News Herald. The officer said he would be at a local store Thursday night to further the effort.

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