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Woman who walloped gunman: 'I was concerned about my guys'

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Bagging the shooter
  • Ginger Littleton says she was worried security guard wouldn't arrive in time
  • Man took hostages at school board meeting in Panama City, Florida, Tuesday
  • Littleton, after she was told she could leave, tried to knock weapon from gunman
  • Gunman killed himself after guard wounded him

(CNN) -- Ginger Littleton took about 30 seconds to decide she was going to use her hand-me-down purse to try to knock a gun out of the hands of the man threatening her colleagues on Tuesday.

In the hours afterward, she'd concede it probably wasn't the best idea. But at the time, she worried she was the only person in position to stop a slaughter at the Bay District School Board meeting in Panama City, Florida.

So Littleton -- the one board member the gunman had released, because she was a woman -- re-entered the room, sneaked up from behind and swung.

"I was concerned about my guys," Littleton told CNN's "American Morning" on Wednesday.

The incident began when Clay Duke, 56, stood up during a public-comment portion of the meeting, spray-painted a red "V" with a circle around it on the wall and brandished a handgun, police said. He ordered the room cleared except for the six men on the board, and said he was upset that the district had fired his wife.

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  • Panama City
  • Florida
  • Crime

Eventually Duke would fire his gun but hit no one, and a security guard would arrive and shoot Duke, who ended up fatally shooting himself in the head, police said.

But Littleton tried to end the incident earlier, almost right after it began.

Littleton obeyed Duke's initial dismissal, but stayed in a hallway. Duke, with his back to the hallway, stepped up to the dais where the six male board members remained seated.

Video shows that less than a minute after she left, Littleton re-entered the room, steeled her jaw, wheeled her purse over her shoulder and swung it at Duke's gun hand.

Why? Because security had not yet arrived, and it looked like the only chance to stop him, she said.

"My guys were actually lined up like pigeons on a wire (in front of Duke), one after the other, and it would have taken two seconds for him to take every one of them out. And they had three-ring binders and pencils for defenses," Littleton told "CNN Newsroom" Wednesday afternoon.

The move didn't work. Duke held onto the gun and Littleton took one last swipe at the weapon with her hand, yelling. He fended her off, and she fell to the ground.

Now Duke was aiming at her.

"He points the gun at my head and says, 'You stupid (expletive),' " Littleton told reporters Wednesday.

But for reasons she doesn't know, he didn't pull the trigger. She was allowed to leave the room a second time, not to return before Duke killed himself.

Video shows that after conversing with the six male board members, Duke pointed his gun at Superintendent Bill Husfelt and fired, but missed. Security officer Mike Jones arrived and shot Duke, who fired some more until eventually killing himself, police said.

Littleton, as did the other board members, hailed Jones as a hero. "Hadn't he (done) what he did when he did, many of us would not be here today," Husfelt told reporters Wednesday.

But Husfelt also lifted up Littleton.

"What she did was try to help us, because she knew we couldn't help ourselves, and so anybody that says anything to the contrary, you get into that situation and then you tell me how you'd deal with it," Husfelt said.

Littleton said Wednesday that her move was "probably not one of the smartest things I ever did." Her three daughters, she said, asked the question many must have been wondering.

"The first comment by all three was, 'Mom, what were you thinking?' And then the second one was, 'Were you just crazy?' Probably the answer to those is, no, I wasn't thinking, and yes, I was just crazy."

But Littleton and her purse have shot to fame, with TV stations across the country airing the video. The faux crocodile leather handbag -- which contained a "lot of keys," a compact, a wallet, a cellphone and "bills I should be paying" when she swung it at Duke -- was handed down to her because it was too heavy for her 89-year-old mother-in-law.

It wasn't heavy enough to knock the gun from Duke on Tuesday.

"Was it a smart move and was I successful? Well, probably not. But maybe it took enough time so we could get the troops in," Littleton said.

CNN's Jason Hanna, John Roberts, Brooke Baldwin and Jeanne Moos contributed to this report.