Friday, December 24, 2010

Florida Shooter—Story of A Man Failed By Our System

Clay Duke, an ex-con with bipolar disorder, who was described as a person with an interest in anarchy, held hostage five board members of Bay City Schools district in Florida at gun point. The saga ended when a guard shoot Duke at his leg, and he ended his life shooting himself.

It appeared to me that the media gave much more credence to Ginger Littleton part of the story than the anguish and desperateness that pushed Duke over the cliff. Don't get me wrong, Ginger Littleton is my hero, as she demonstrated the courage and utter selfishness in her attempt to protect innocent people, which is so rear in our time. She was totally oblivious of for her own safety when she hit Duke with her purse, in an attempt to dislodge the gun from his hand.

Echoing Littleton's children's feeling, I also wonder, what was she thinking? How could Littleton put her own life in danger like she had? As it followed, the burly Duke easily pinned her on the floor and threatened to shoot her at the point blank range. Yet, he did not shoot and let her go—why did he not?

The school district had hired Duke's wife Rebecca Crowder-Duke in September 2009 to teach students with special needs. She was nonetheless fired in February for not passing her probation. Duke was upset that his wife had been fired and according to Panama City Police Chief John Van Etten, had been planning the shooting for some time.

Duke's opportunity for his vendetta came when he walked into a board meeting and sat with the audience, listening to proceedings. In the middle of discussion, Duke walked to the front of the room, spray painted a red "V" with a circle around it on the white wall, and charged the audience asking everyone but the board members to leave.

Bill Husfelt, the Bay City Schools Superintendent tried to sway Duke to drop his gun, Duke refused and shoot a few rounds around the board members. No one was hit. When a security guard arrived, they exchanged shots and Duke was hit on his leg (or side). Then he turned the gun on himself and took his own life.

A video showed Duke firing several shots but hitting no one. Was he a bad shooter? Crowder-Duke said that her husband was an excellent marksman—then why did Duke miss the five board members who were sitting just a few feet away?

Crowder-Duke described her husband a "gentle giant," adding, "the economy and the world just got the better of him." She also thought, "He didn't want anyone to get hurt but himself."

Duke's life is a sad tale of how our society fails to help the most vulnerable. Born in Ocala, Fla., Duke graduated from high school in Tampa. In the late 1990s, Duke's trouble with the law began and he was convicted for shooting at the tires of his his ex-wife's car.

Duke had taken a plea agreement and a judge awarded him five years in prison followed by 10 years probation. He took psychiatric help, used his medications regularly, and completed his probation. Duke's attorney, Bollinger, said, "He was competent but he was one of those people (who) had a mood disorder where they could be depressed one day and all excited another day. I just remember the doctor saying he had a personality disorder.”

About a year after his release in January 2004, he sued the Social Security Administration for disability benefits and health insurance. David Evans, the attorney who represented Duke said, "He couldn't work. He just mentally couldn't make the connection for eight hours a day." Evans maintained that Duke had been diagnosed by several doctors as bipolar, but didn't have enough money to buy the needed medication, "He was clearly in need of help."

The judge in the case nevertheless did not feel that duke's claim was justified. Evans said. "All he was asking for was $500 or $600 a month and medical insurance." After several failed attempts Duke withdrew his suit in 2006.

On a Face book page Duke left a message on Dec. 7, “My testament: Some people (the government sponsored media) will say I was evil, a monster (V) ... no ... I was just born poor in a country where the Wealthy manipulate, use, abuse, and economically enslave 95 percent of the population. Rich Republicans, Rich Democrats ... same-same ... rich ... they take turns fleecing us ... our few dollars ... pyramiding the wealth for themselves."

The ink on President Obama's signature is yet to dry on the bill which our Democratic lawmakers helped to pass, joining hands with the Republicans, to give away $600 billion to wealthiest of Americans, at a time when unemployment level is hovering at the depression level figures. Nothing stopped our millionaire law makers from awarding that gift. Regardless, our country cannot accord $500 a month to help keep people like Clay Duke senile and functioning as a normal healthy human being.

I picture a vivid scenario, on my way to airport when I was leaving India, the car had stopped at a red light, and a visibly mentally deranged man approached and stretched his hand for alms, my friend who was accompanying me to the airport said, “You are going to the richest country where they take care of their disadvantaged people, you would not experience this anymore.” How wrong my friend was!

In deed it is a sordid testimony to our nation and us, we who are the fortunate members of this society.

Article first published as Florida Shooter—Story of A Man Failed By Our System on Technorati.