NBC's Mark Potter writes: In Panama City, Florida, today, we were honored to meet a man long beloved in his community and now hailed there as a genuine hero.
Mike Jones is the school board security chief who is credited with saving many lives in that horrible incident earlier this week in which a man named Clay Duke opened fire with a 9mm handgun on the school superintendent, four board members and their attorney. Because of Mike's quick actions in confronting the gunman, diverting his attention and shooting straight, no was injured except the gunman, who took his own life. This humble and sometimes tearful former policeman tried to convince a crowd at a news conference today that he's not a hero, that he was only doing his job, but no one was buying it, underscored by their cheers and applause.
What makes his story even more compelling is that for nearly three decades Mike has also been known there as Salvage Santa for his efforts to fix used bicycles and provide gifts for needy children. Every year there are stories about him in the newspapers and on TV. It's one of the many reasons we deeply regret an error we made last night. Through a mix-up in video tape, we aired the wrong picture in a story about Mike and other heroes of that shootout. Instead of showing Mike, we showed someone else.
We fixed it quickly, and having met Mike today are scratching our heads over how we could ever get it wrong.
With his white hair and beard, Mike's the hero who looks a lot like Santa Claus. You'll see the resemblance in our story on NBC Nightly News tonight—you can't miss it.