“And that’s when the gentleman just looked at the mayor and said, ‘I just want you to know that you’ve killed me.’ And about that time, he pulled the gun from his right pants pocket, stuck it in his mouth and pulled the trigger.”
— Charles Cureton to NewsChannel 5/Nashville
Cureton was in City Council Chambers when Clarksville businessman Bo Ward, owner of Bo’s Barber Shop on Fort Campbell Boulevard, committed suicide Thursday evening before the Council and an estimated fifty people attending the meeting after a zoning request he was seeking was denied a reading.
Few words can adequately describe the horror that unfolded in City Council chambers tonight as Clarksville businessman Bo Ward, proprietor of Bo’s Barber Shop on Fort Campbell Boulevard, pulled out a handgun and shot himself to death before the council and approximately 50 other people.
“People were screaming in disbelief. Horror. The room was pretty well packed and there were a lot of elderly people there. They were pretty shaken up.” — Cureton
The City Council councilors voted down Ward’s request for a zone change on his Madison Street property, a move that Ward felt would sink him financially. Last month the Council voted favorably on the first reading of the requested change, but apparently in further discussion shifted their decision out of Ward’s favor.
According to reports, Ward then pulled out a small silver gun from a pants pocket, placed the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger as onlookers watched in shock.
In addressing the Council Ward said his business “would go under” without a favorable ruling, implying that his business and finances may have been overburdened. Ward then approached the council members and Mayor Johnny Piper after the vote, saying he “was done” [Leaf Chronicle 10/4/07] and implying that his business would become insolvent.
The Bo’s sign, his slogan “Bo Knows Hair,” and the log cabin style building that housed his shop were a familiar site to commuters making the daily run along Fort Campbell Boulevard. The shop is located near Tobacco Road. His $9 haircuts were a bit pricier than some, but satisfied customers were the heart of his business.
The specifics of Ward’s financial issues and what might have driven him to suicide were not yet known.
The police detained people for questioning and to review the eyewitness accounts of the event. It is not known exactly how much of the event was recorded on Council cameras, but ward was reportedly within six feet of a microphone used by people addressing the Council when he committed suicide.
Unlike the city’s police station and courthouse, which have heavy security and metal detectors in place, the City Council Chambers does not have any such security measures, a situation which allowed Ward to carry a handgun into the building.