CLARKSVILLE, Tennessee – A barber with strong ties to the military community pulled out a gun and shot himself in the head at a City Council meeting after his request for a rezoning measure was rejected.
Ronald "Bo" Ward sought the rezoning to increase the property value of his home, allowing him to secure a loan to offset debt he incurred when he expanded his barber shop.
After the 5-7 vote Thursday night, Ward stood and walked toward the council.
"Ya'll have put me under. ... I'm out of here," he said before killing himself with a small handgun.
Fire and police officials attending the meeting immediately ushered the audience of about 50 into the hallway, where several people were sobbing.
At least one police officer is always on duty during council meetings, officials said. However, visitors are not required to go through a metal detector or any other screening.
"When a gun gets whipped out like that, someone is going to get shot, but I didn't know who," Councilman Bill Summers said. "You could've been right next to him, and I don't think you could have stopped that."
Mayor Johnny Piper said Thursday's council meeting would be the last held in that room.
Ward was well known for supporting soldiers from the nearby Fort Campbell Army post and was once recognized by its former commander, Gen. David Petraeus. His barber shop was often visited by media reporting on the local economic impact of thousands of soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division being deployed to Iraq.
"He treated soldiers like his own children," said George Heath, a longtime patron of Bo's Barber Shop and the Fort Campbell public affairs officer.
"If a soldier came in and said he needed a haircut but didn't have any money, Bo would cut his hair and tell him to pay him when he could."
In 2004, former Fort Campbell base commander Gen. David Petraeus, said Ward a postcard during the division's first deployment to Iraq, thanking him for keeping his shop open during the deployment and "giving haircuts to children of our families."
The current commander of the 101st, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, said Ward was well known by soldiers from generals to privates.
"When a soldier got their hair cut by Bo, you got more than just a haircut — you got a story, a pat on the back, and words of encouragement from a patriotic citizen who genuinely cared about soldiers," he said.