ALBANY, GA (WALB) – Dougherty County School Police and Board Members are speaking out about that frightening school board meeting shootout in Panama City, Florida.
A man upset over the firing of his wife pulled a gun, took hostages, shot at board members and traded fire with a security guard before taking his own life. Officials in Albany want you to feel safe at government meetings here.
The Assistant Chief of School Police told me they always have at least one officer inside every school board meeting. If the board is discussing something controversial they will have two or more officers present. They say they are as prepared as they can be to keep anyone from getting hurt.
A terrified woman talked dispatchers through everything that happened inside a Florida School board room as 56-year-old Clay Duke fired multiple gunshots.
"I was shocked to be honest," said Assistant School Police Chief J.C. Phillips and Dougherty County School Board Chairman David Maschke both watched the video that sent chills up their spines.
"It was upsetting to see the video but not completely surprising," said David Maschke.
Maschke says there is little anyone can do to prevent something like this from happening in Albany because board meetings are open to the public and full body searches are not conducted.
"If someone is bent on doing this and is crazy enough to, they will figure out a way," he said.
But in the ten years he's been attending meetings there has always been a strong police presence, and he feels he cant count on the security.
"I think the board feels very safe," said Maschke.
"At every board meeting we have at least one certified and experienced police officer there," said J.C. Phillips.
Phillips says if a shooter took hostages in Dougherty County officers would be prepared. He wants the public to feel safe.
"We are ready for it and I think we'd have even a quicker response seeing as how we always have someone in the meetings," said Phillips.
We talked to Sheriff Kevin Sproul on the phone about the incident. He said in life-threatening events such as Tuesday's shooting, it's important never to try to play the hero, like board member Ginger Littleton did when she attacked the intruder with her purse..
The Sheriff also says staying calm, following the gunman's instructions, and getting out of the room as quickly as possible will help avoid injury or death when terror strikes unexpectedly.
Law enforcers didn't indicate starting full body pat downs or anything of that nature. They did say though that school board meetings are held on what is still considered school property and guns are not allowed inside for any reason.
The gunman's wife told reporters that her husband was bi-polar and upset over the economy and their financial situation. No one else was hurt but bullets missed some of the board members by only inches.