With a heavily armed ex-convict shooting directly at him, a Florida schools superintendent was prepared to die but said today he was saved when “God blocked the bullet.”
“I was very confident that I was going to get shot. I wasn’t pulling for it, but I was ready if that was going to happen,” Bay City Schools Superintendent Bill Husfelt said today on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “I knew where I would go if I were to pass away. I was very prepared for that.”
The gunman, Clay A. Duke, opened fire on 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, 56, then fatally shot himself with a 9 mm handgun, the only casualty of the violence caught on videotape.
“He was pointing right at me,” Husfelt recalled on CBS’ “The Early Show.” “God blocked the bullet. I really believe that.”
Duke was reportedly upset about a tax increase and claimed his wife was fired by the school district, although police haven’t commented on a motive.
“I think it’s just safe to say at this point that obviously Mr. Duke had some mental health issues,” Panama City Deputy Police Chief Robert Colbert said at a news conference.
Police said the attack was planned. Dec. 14, the date of the shooting, was circled on a calendar in Duke’s trailer, Panama City Police Chief John Van Etten told The Associated Press.
“The family was as shocked as everyone else that this had occurred,” Colbert told CNN.
He said Duke’s wife was a teacher in the district who was let go within the year, CNN reported. She was not identified.
Before the shooting, Duke spray-painted a red, circled “V” on a wall. The symbol, used in the book series and movie “V for Vendetta,” was also used for what’s believed to be Duke’s Facebook profile photo. Police said they were looking into the page.
Husfelt tried to calm Duke down and begged him not to shoot, but 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.”
Before opening fire, Duke ordered everyone but the men on the school board to leave the room, holding them at gunpoint, according to media reports. 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.
“I knew something bad was going to happen. I could leave and try to live with myself if it did, or go back and try to at least delay or divert until we could get some help,” Littleton said on CBS.