Most local news managers and assignment editors have asked themselves and their news colleagues this question at one time or another: should we really cover that school board meeting? What news will come out of it?
Well, this afteroon ABC affiliate WMBB and NBC affiliate WJHG in Panama City, Florida went to cover the twice-monthly Bay District school board meeting and what transpired — what they captured on tape — was a chilling display of desperation on the part of the gunman, heroism from one school board member and surprising calm from the others.
Clay Duke, whose wife had been employed by the district, came to the meeting armed with spray paint and a loaded gun. First he painted a big red “V” on the wall of the board room, then pulled out his gun. He allowed the female board members to leave then stood in front of the rest of the board, before this transpired:
CNN’s Anderson Cooper talked with the superintendent William Husfelt who spent several minutes trying to talk the gunman down all while a gun was aimed at him at point-blank range. “If you looked in his eyes, you knew somebody was going to do die,” Husfelt told Cooper. “I don’t have a death wish, but I know, if I were to die today, I know where I am going. But I did not want everybody in that room killed.”
The board room had been full just 45 minutes before. “We’re thankful those students and parents weren’t in there,” said Husfelt.
Mike Jones, a safety and security officer for the district, fired on the gunman several times. Police believe Duke then shot and killed himself. None of the other board members was hit.