- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 15, 2010

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) — Police said Wednesday that the ex-convict who held a Florida school board at gunpoint had been planning to do it for some time.

Panama City police Chief John Van Etten said Tuesday’s date was circled on a calendar found in the trailer where 56-year-old Clay A. Duke lived north of Panama City.

Chief Van Etten said the incident was not “spur of the moment.” Police also found anti-government paraphanelia in Mr. Duke’s home.

Mr. Duke shot himself after firing at school board members during a meeting Tuesday. No one else was hurt. Before opening fire, he painted a red V on a wall and talked about taxes and his wife being fired.

Bay District Schools Personnel Director Tommye Lou Richardson on Wednesday said Rebecca Crowder-Duke, Mr. Duke’s wife, was fired in February. The district hired her in September 2009 to teach students with special needs, but Mrs. Crowder-Duke didn’t pass probation.

Ms. Richardson said Mrs. Crowder-Duke had questioned her termination but never filed a lawsuit. Ms. Richardson couldn’t specify why the woman was fired.

Reporters were asked to leave the house where Mrs. Crowder-Duke is believed to be living.

Minutes before the shooting, the room was filled with students accepting awards, but no one was hurt except the gunman, who shot himself after exchanging fire with a security guard, police said.

“It could have been a monumental tragedy,” Bay District Schools Superintendent Bill Husfelt said. “God was standing in front of me, and I will go to my grave believing that.”

Video of the meeting showed Mr. Duke rising from his seat, spray-painting a red V on the wall, then waving a gun and ordering everyone to leave the room except the men on the board. They dove under the long desk they had been sitting behind as he fired at them.

Mr. Duke’s motivation was still murky Wednesday. He rambled to the board about tax increases and his wife, but also apparently created a Facebook page last week that refers to class warfare and is laced with images from the movie “V for Vendetta,” in which a mysterious figure battles a totalitarian government.

The school board was in the midst of a routine discussion when Mr. Duke walked to the front of the room.

“We could tell by the look in his eyes that this wasn’t going to end well,” Mr. Husfelt told the Associated Press.

Mr. Husfelt was calm as he tried to persuade Mr. Duke to drop the gun, but Mr. Duke just shook his head. The only woman on the board, Ginger Littleton, had been ordered out of the room, too, but she sneaked back in behind him and whacked his gun arm with her large brown purse.

“In my mind, that was the last attempt or opportunity to divert him,” Ms. Littleton said.

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