PANAMA CITY, Fla. - A sad and troubling portrait emerged Wednesday of the burly gunman who terrorized a Florida school board before taking his life the day before, a harrowing event captured on video.
Clay Duke was a troubled ex-con who, according to some who knew him, had mental issues and an interest in anarchy. When his wife was fired from her teaching job and with her benefits about to run out, he went to the board meeting and said he was prepared to die.
Duke killed himself Tuesday after firing at board members, missing them by inches, and then being struck by gunfire from a security guard.
On Wednesday, his wife tearfully talked of the man she loved, calling the 56-year-old father a "gentle giant."
"The economy and the world just got the better of him," Rebecca Duke said in a rambling news conference.
In the moments before the shooting, Duke spray-painted a circle and a large, red V inside of it on a wall and muttered about rising taxes and how his wife was fired from the Bay school district.
The school superintendent begged Duke not to open fire, but he did. A school board member crept up from behind and hit Duke with her purse. Duke responded to her with an expletive.
Rebecca Duke said her husband was an excellent marksman who probably intentionally missed the five board members just steps away. "He didn't want anyone to get hurt but himself," she said.
Police said that at his mobile home in the woods, they found Dec. 14 circled on a calendar and that he had at least 25 more rounds of ammunition in his pocket.
The entire shooting was captured by local television stations, and the video was posted on the Internet and broadcast throughout the day.
His Facebook page, which was public until Wednesday afternoon, revealed a man fascinated with the movie V for Vendetta - a nihilistic account of a masked man fighting a totalitarian government.
At some point he had a daughter and he divorced a woman named Anita in 1995. In 2000, he was convicted for waiting in the woods for his ex-wife with a rifle, wearing a mask and bulletproof vest. Duke shot out her car tires.
Duke's attorney on the case, Ben Bollinger, said he took a plea agreement in the case, serving five years in prison and taking psychiatric help, as ordered. He remembered Duke as especially fearful of the new millennium.
"He was one of these Y2K people," he said, referring to a computer bug that some people believed was going to cause massive problems and economic chaos Jan. 1, 2000. "He was one of those believers that the world was going to turn for the worst and he was stockpiling weapons, assault weapons."
While in prison, Duke filed for bankruptcy.
He was released in January 2004. About a year later, he sued the Social Security Administration, which had denied his application for disability benefits.
David Evans, Duke's disability attorney, said Duke had been diagnosed by doctors as bipolar but didn't have money to buy the needed medication. "He was clearly in need of help," Evans said.
They filed at least five appeals to the denials.
"The judges adjudicating the claims didn't feel the claim was significant enough," Evans said. "All he was asking for was $500 or $600 a month and medical insurance." Duke withdrew the suit in 2006.
His wife said Wednesday that Duke faithfully took medication for bipolar disorder but that he was under a lot of stress. She was fired from the school district after failing probation. Her final unemployment check was due this week.