Three people are dead after a gunman opened fire at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida over the weekend, eventually turning the gun on himself.
Authorities say the attack was racially motivated. The accused shooter intentionally sought out black people.
“The shooter had authored several manifestos, one to his parents, one to the media, and one to federal agents. Portions of these manifestos detailed the shooter’s disgusting ideology of hate,” Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters said during a press conference.
Investigators say video surveillance shows 21-year-old Ryan Christopher Palmeter, a white man, shot one victim in her car, and then went inside the Dollar General and murdered two more people.
“Despite the fact that the shooter is dead, they will continue to investigate this until we have a complete understanding of what happened and even why he did it,” Sheriff Waters said.
Images shared on the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Facebook page show white letters and symbols painted on Palmeter’s AR-15. A close-up of the image revealed at least two swastikas. Waters says the shooter’s guns were purchased legally, and he had no criminal history.
The Justice Department says the attack is being investigated as a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism.
The community gathered over the weekend to honor the victims, identified as 52-year-old Angela Michelle Carr, 19-year-old AJ Laguerre, and 29-year-old Jerrald De’Shuan Gallion, who was the father of a four-year-old daughter.
“Active in her life since day one. Never missed a beat. Now we got to find the words to tell her that her dad is with God,” said Gallion’s daughter’s maternal grandmother Sabrina Rozier.
After news broke of the shooting, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis canceled a day of presidential campaign events to return to his home state, but a tense moment ensued when he attended one of the vigils, and some mourners in the crowd booed him.
DeSantis has been sharply criticized by black leaders for what they see as attacking black history. He’s also significantly reduced gun restrictions in the state. The governor pledged financial support for additional security at a nearby historically black university, and to go towards helping the victims’ families.
“Just know that the state of Florida stands with the community. Help is on the way. God bless you all,” DeSantis said.
In a statement from the White House, President Biden condemned the attack, writing, “White Supremacy has no place in America.”
Recent data from the FBI shows hate crimes went up 12 percent between 2020 and 2021, reaching the highest level since tracking began in the early 1990s.
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