«Mr. Mike Jones dedicates this book to: His mom Dot, son Chris, daughter Stephanie, Carl Woodall and Sylvia Payne Mr. David Angier dedicates this book ...»
Mr. Mike Jones dedicates this book to:
His mom Dot, son Chris, daughter Stephanie, Carl Woodall and Sylvia Payne
Mr. David Angier dedicates this book to:
His mom Helen, who never got enough credit
Mr. Greg Wilson dedicates this book to:
His Savior Jesus, his children Jessica & Miranda Wilson, his mom Darla, grandmother Nita,
Dad Glen and sister Beth
“Come on in.”
Chapter 1 1 Chapter 2 The Father and the Son 5 Chapter 3 Detective Mike Jones 10 Chapter 4 The Death of Gene Jones 15 Chapter 5 Love and Parenthood 18 Chapter 6 Police Stories 22 Chapter 7 Oprah Winfrey Hosts Salvage Santa 27 Chapter 8 Final Investigation 30 Chapter 9 Turning Point 34 Chapter 10 Salvation 39 Chapter 11 School Board Years 1996-2004 43 Sheriff’s Race Chapter 12 54 Chapter 13 Boot Camp 70 Chapter 14 Security Chief 74 Chapter 15 Police Powers 85 Chapter 16 Lost Soul 87 Chapter 17 Y2K 92 Chapter 18 V 99 Chapter 19 The Stage is Set 102 Path’s Converge Chapter 20 107 Chapter 21 Perspectives 123 Chapter 22 Not a Hero 137 Chapter 23 A New Year, A New Direction 143 Chapter 24 Good Enough? 145 Acknowledgments 146 Preface Very rarely are people given the opportunity to see God’s path for them while they are walking on it. Few of us can look at the most painful moments in our lives and appreciate what God is trying to do for us.
For Mike Jones, the subject of this book, and his friend Greg Wilson, one of its authors, they found themselves standing on the same step-stone at the same moment, but at very different times in their lives.
Mike was in considerable pain and questioning everything about his life. He’d just been in a ferocious gun battle with a stranger, who was now dead. Even though Jones had saved the lives of six men, he was miserable thinking of the life that was lost and the fallout from his participation in that gunfight. For decades, Mike Jones had been “Salvage Santa”, the man known throughout Florida and the United States for refurbishing thousands of toys and bicycles every year for Christmas presents to needy children.
How would it look, he agonized, that Santa had killed a man?
Greg, however, was looking at the lives that had been saved, including Mike Jones’.
He’d been friends with Mike long enough to have seen the trials he’d been put through, but also the remarkable chain of events that put Jones in that room that day.
It was the quiet calm of a December evening that brought the clarity home for Greg Wilson. He could see the path behind them and the path ahead.
People should know the complexity of God’s plan for Mike Jones. They should know not to despair in the painful moments of their own lives, because in the end those moments will be a part of a bigger puzzle put together piece by piece by a loving God.
A few days after New Years 2011, Greg Wilson brought his epiphany to Mike Jones’ door. The two men met, hugged, prayed and cried. Wilson was bursting with joy, while Jones was bogged down with despair. It was Wilson’s words that day that began the process of lifting him out of the morass.
There could be meaning in this, purpose. Mike Jones’ entire life was built around purpose, it was a word that he connected with deeply.
His purpose from this point forward would be to help others in despair. Maybe they could find encouragement from his story: the abuse he suffered as a child, the crushing political loss that, while incomprehensible at the time, was crucial in putting him in place to save lives years later.
Wilson wanted to tell people that their lives were more than just a series of random events. There was a plan for all of us, just look at Mike Jones. But the most important thing was to live your life in Christ, because without that even Salvage Santa couldn’t expect to find salvation.
This book is a combination of three factors: Mike Jones’ life, Greg Wilson’s vision and my story telling.
My own part in all this, while small, is another example of finding a plan. I left a steady job as a newspaper reporter in 2009 after 12 years because I thought I was about to experience the final chapter in a story I had been following, that I’d been writing up as a book, and I would be able to finally finish after five years. But that ending was delayed another year and I was left to fend for myself, doing freelance writing and working for the State Attorney’s Office writing press releases in order to make ends meet.
But if I hadn’t left The News Herald when I did, I wouldn’t have had the time nor the book-writing experience to take on this project.
God works wonders even when, especially when, we’re not looking.
God’s plan for Mike Jones, Salvage Santa, has been a work in refurbishing a deeply troubled, well-meaning man, into a whole person; a Christian. This book is more than just the story of two paths that intersected violently on Dec. 14, 2010. It is about the salvaging of a good man’s life into a Godly life.
David Angier Chapter 1 “Come on in.” Isaiah 54:16 “No weapon formed against you shall prosper.” Chairman Ryan Neves called the December 14, 2010, Bay District School Board meeting to order at 1 p.m. He told the audience that the meeting was being streamed live through the district’s website and would be replayed on Friday, Dec. 17, “so set your DVRs.” What ensued was broadcast to the world.
He also told the audience that if they wanted to address the board, there were yellow forms which should be filled out and presented in advance with specifics as to what was on the person’s mind. Clay Duke did not reach for a yellow form.
After the pledge of allegiance, the board got down to the long business of presenting certificates to outstanding students, teachers and faculty. Neves and School Superintendent Bill Husfelt posed with each recipient in the space created by the half-moon shaped raised meeting desk the board members sat behind. Husfelt wore a blue tie with green Christmas trees at the bottom against a field of snow.
Board member Jerry Register wore a red blazer and matching red tie.
Once the certificates were distributed and the pictures taken, they took a 10-minute break and the majority of the people in the room, including most of the kids, left.
At 1:45 p.m., the meeting resumed with discussions on two topics of the day -- lice and technology. They debated the importance of keeping children with lice at home and away from other kids until the parasites were eliminated. Husfelt, however, was concerned because too much time away from school made it harder for these kids to graduate. They agreed on a plan that would give the individual principals more freedom in dealing with the problem.
They then went into a series of house- keeping motions.
At 2:13 p.m., Neves brought up a motion to advertise revisions to the district’s organizational chart in relation to the technology plan. As he was talking, Clay Duke stood and walked to the podium at the end of the desk.
“I have a motion,” he said, shaking a spray can of red paint. He then drew a circle on the white wall and finishing it with a V in the middle. “My motion is for everybody in this room, except the assholes behind that counter, to hit the road.” He turned from the wall and took his gun out. The murmur that had gone through the crowd as he was spraying the symbol on the wall, turned to shouts and a scream. One man jumped out, held out his hands and ran from the room. Two women dropped to the floor between the rows and started crawling away.
“Leave,” Duke said. He didn’t raise his voice, but his tone left no room for discussion.
“You may leave,” he said, pointing with the gun at district workers behind the board desk. “You may leave.” Pointed again. “The six men stay, everyone else leaves.” Board member Ginger Littleton calmly stood and walked into a hallway to the side of the desk. Clay Duke came around behind the desk and set his feet apart, anchored in a position within inches of Register. Duke squared his shoulders and his prodigious belly extended toward Register.
“Hey sir!” a shout from the back of the room.
“John, John,” Husfelt said. “Just let him talk. He’s talkin’. John, just go ahead.” Duke begins to say something in a low tone, focused on Register and Husfelt, the two men closest to him. Within a minute, Littleton peeked around the hallway corner at Duke’s back.
She picked up an oversized handbag and crept up behind Duke, raising the bag higher with each step until it’s at shoulder height. When she’s directly behind him, she swings the purse onto his right forearm.
The bag grazed the gun and Duke spun around, obviously surprised, and jerked the gun up. Littleton loses her balance swinging the bag and tumbles into Duke’s chest. She hung on to his gun arm for balance and let out a yell that sounded nearly like a scream. She thrashed around before she fell to the ground at Duke’s feet.
He stood over her, lorded over her, but didn’t point the gun at her.
“Ginger, no. Ginger,” Husfelt said.
“Get outta here,” Duke said, his voice low and menacing. “I’ll shoot you.” Littleton moaned a little as the realization of what she’d done hit her. She got to her feet and took a tentative step toward the hallway. A woman came from the back of the room, walking toward Duke and Littleton, “May I help her?” she asked Duke.
Duke turned from them both and ignored the woman as she inched past him to go to Littleton. They both left out through the hallway.
Duke resumed his slightly slumped gunslinger stance and pointed to Husfelt and the other board members, “You fired my wife.” “Sir, I don’t know who you are,” Husfelt said.
“You fired her back in June.” “Still don’t know.” Duke took a step back, his shoulders slumping now, unable to maintain the tough-guy posture. He paced toward the podium and then back.
“You see,” Duke said, “I’m gonna die today.” He stepped away from Register and moved toward the podium again. Husfelt took a close look at Duke and was struck by how resolved he appeared, but he also saw something else. This guy isn’t well, Husfelt thought.
“You fired my wife.” “Can we talk for a minute?” Husfelt asked.
“No,” Duke said, slowly shaking his head and smirking. He let out a small laugh and continued to shake his head. These guys just don’t know what’s gonna happen here. “I’ve already been to prison.” “May I ask you a question?” “I’ve already been to prison.” Still shaking his head slowly from side to side with a slight smile on his lips.
“Can I ask you a question?” Husfelt asked again.
“No.” “Sir, I don’t know her. Does she work at this building?” “She worked at an elementary.” Duke walked toward the podium, his belly extended and his weight on his heels. He looked like he was waddling, but that gun still swung at the end of his right arm.
Husfelt looked at the back of the room and saw John sneaking in.
“John get out,” he said.
Duke ignored John and came around the podium to stand in the half-moon space in front of the desk. His left hand was in his pocket. His right hand clutched the gun.
“You see, our benefits have run out. We’re broke,” Duke said.
“Just explain to us sir,” Register said. “Just explain …” “I’m either going to the grave or I’m going to prison.” Duke walked over to Register and leaned against the desk in front of him.
“I’m a good guy,” Register said.
“I know you are,” Duke said.
“I’ve got a lot, with my wife and family, I don’t need to die in the school board here. We just try to do what’s best for children. I’ve been in the system, I was a principal for eleven and a half years. I’ve got a great wife. I’ve been married to her for 40 years. I’ve got two great boys.
Please, just talk to us. If I can help your wife get a job somewhere else, I’ll be glad … “ Duke, who had listened to Register with his head cocked to the right, suddenly leaned back and started shaking his head again.
“What did she do?” Husfelt asked. “I really don’t know who you’re talking about. To be very honest with you, I have no idea who you’re talking about.” “She was fired,” Duke said.
“I believe that because you say that, but what did she do?” Duke heard someone coming in the room behind him and he looked over his shoulder.
“Mike,” Husfelt said.
“Hey, how ya doin?” Mike Jones said, sounding like he was greeting an old acquaintance.
Duke was standing at Husfelt’s desk, his upper body weight on his arms. He looked back at Jones over his shoulder without moving anything but his head.
“I guess you’re one of the cops, so come on in.” “No, I’m just the school safety officer.” “Well come on in.” Duke straightened and turned toward Jones.
“You got a real gun there?” “Come in.” Duke said, raising his voice for the first time and walking toward Jones.
“Nah, I think I’ll wait for just a minute,” Jones said, then backed out of the room.
Duke walked to the podium and went around behind the desk again to tower over Register.
“I’m just asking, what did she do?” Husfelt said again.
“They’re calling the police as we speak,” Duke said, his voice back to calm and low.
“I know that, but tell me what your wife did.” “I’m gonna die,” Duke said. Husfelt’s questions were making him uncomfortable. He was losing control of the conversation. He stayed in motion, too, walking back around to the front of the desk.
“Tell me what your wife did. If you’re gonna kill yourself or kill us or whatever, at least let us know what’s going on because I’ll be very honest with you, I swear I don’t know who your wife is or what she did.” Duke stood, slumped shoulders and head down, looking at Husfelt.
“I don’t want to die, like anybody else does,” Husfelt said.
“Mr. Husfelt signed the papers, I’m sure, but he doesn’t know her,” Register spoke up.
The papers were the termination papers for Duke’s wife. Duke continued to silently stare at the board.
“I’m just asking you, what did she do? Was she a teacher? Was she a paraprofessional?
Did she work in the classroom? Did she work in the cafeteria? Was she a bus driver?” Husfelt asked. He was starting to sound a little exasperated.