Florida security officer Mike Jones has been called a hero for stopping a shooter at a school board meeting earlier this week, but he said he worried about what his community would think of him for shooting a man, even if he was armed and dangerous, in the back.
"The first time I shot him, he had his back to me ... and I was like I'm going to jail," Jones said. "I've been an investigator for 20 years and then a policeman for 35 years altogether, and it still ran through my mind. I couldn't help it."
On Dec. 14, 56-year-old Clay Duke disrupted a school board meeting in Panama City, Fla., by proclaiming he had "a motion" and spray-painted a large "V" with a circle around it on the wall. Apparently intent on avenging his wife's 2008 firing, Duke aimed his weapon at the board members and fired several times, telling them he was planning to die that day.
Duke's first shot, which school Superintendent Bill Husfelt said was aimed directly at him from no more than 15 feet away, missed. That's when Jones burst into the room and began firing, shooting Duke in the back three times.
"It was like being in a tunnel. I couldn't hear anything, I couldn't breathe, everything was like it was in a vapor lock or something,"Jones said.
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.
Duke was relieved when he saw that the shooter was down and that no one was seriously hurt, but he still didn't feel like a hero.
"I'm known in this community as Salvage Santa, a little toy program that I've got," Jones said. "I'm Santa Claus, and I've just taken a man's life. ... What would my fellow parishioners think."
Jones spent the day after the incident with his pastor, seeking counsel on how to handle his feelings. He and his pastor came to one conclusion.
"There's only one answer for while we're alive, and that's by the grace of God," Jones said.
Despite all the gunfire, Jones' only injury was to his kneewhen it hit the desk. 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 said that every time he sees Husfelt, he cries.
"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 at a press conference Thursday.
Duke's wife said Wednesday that Duke likely missed all the board members on purpose, but police contend his intent was to injure or kill.
"He didn't want anyone to get hurt but himself," Clay Duke's wife told reporters Wednesday. She called her husband a "gentle giant," saying 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, dumping on me," she said.