The security officer hailed as a hero for taking down a shooter in a vicious gun battle in a Florida school board meeting said today that he opened fire after he thought his friend had been killed, and then cried when he saw his friend alive.
"I thought, 'I let him down.' I love him and the school system... That was the only thing going through my mind," school security officer Mike Jones told reporters in his first public statement since Tuesday's shootout. "I could hear the sirens coming. I was waiting on that backup... but once he shot the superindentent, the gunfight was on."
The incident began Tuesday when police said 56-year-old Clay Duke disrupted the school board meeting by proclaiming he had "a motion" and spray-painted a large V with a circle around it on the wall and threatening the room with a gun. Apparently intent on avenging his wife's 2008 firing, Duke aimed his weapon at the board members several times and told them he was planning to die that day.
Duke's first shot, which school superindentent Bill Husfelt said was aimed directly at him from no more than 15 feet away, somehow missed. That's when Jones burst into the room and began firing, shooting Duke in the back three times.
When Duke hit the ground still firing, Jones hit the ground too, crawling behind the desks as gunfire erupted around him. By the time he crawled into a position to fire on Duke again, Jones said he saw Duke raise his gun to his own head and pull the trigger.
Despite all the gunfire, Jones' only injury was hurting his knee from hitting the deck. But Jones said he didn't feel relieved until Husfelt, his friend and boss, stood up from where he had fallen behind his desk.
"To see him coming from behind that desk and see that he's OK... When he came around from that desk, it was like seeing a new born baby for the first time," Jones said.
Jones, trying to choke back tears at the memory, said he broke down crying at the sight of his friend.
"I can't get that out of my mind. It's the picture that I see the most. I don't see the shots being fired, I don't see the bullets. I see him and them coming from behind that desk and I knew it was ok," he said.
Since the incident, Husfelt and just about everyone involved or that's even heard the story has called Jones a hero, but it's not a title he accepts.
"I'm not a hero, folks," he said. "I was just doing my job."
Duke's wife said Wednesday that he likely missed all the board members on purpose, but police today contend there's no doubt his intent was to injure or kill.
"He didn't want anyone to get hurt but himself," Clay Duke's wife, Rebecca Duke, told reporters Wednesday. Rebecca Duke, who called her husband a "gentle giant," said he was trying to stand up for her after she lost her job as a special education teacher in 2008.
"Basically ...he loved me, he loved his family, and he was just trying to have people stop as he would say dump on me," she said.
But police aren't buying it and say that while Duke's motive may never fully be known, there's little doubt he went into that school board meeting Tuesday with anything but mayhem on his mind.