Community Gathers to Mourn Victims of Jacksonville Shooting Investigated as Hate Crime

Crowds assembled this past Sunday at various church services and prayer vigils held in Jacksonville, Florida, to mourn the tragic shooting deaths of three victims over the weekend. The incident, currently under investigation by the Justice Department, is being treated as a hate crime.

In an evening vigil close to the Dollar General store where the attack took place, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis faced a chorus of boos from the crowd as he approached the microphone. As a Republican presidential nominee and the state’s governor, DeSantis has faced criticism for his relaxation of gun laws and his stance on diversity initiatives and what he terms “woke indoctrination” within schools. Stepping in to address the protesters, Ju’Coby Pittman, a city councilwoman from Jacksonville, urged unity, saying, “Today is not about political parties; a bullet doesn’t discriminate.”

Governor DeSantis revealed that on Monday, the state would announce financial aid to support security at Edward Waters University and to assist the families of the victims. He expressed strong disapproval of the gunman’s actions, stating, “The actions of the shooter are absolutely unacceptable in the state of Florida. We will not tolerate targeting individuals based on their race.”

Earlier, authorities identified the victims of the Saturday shooting at the Dollar General store as Anolt “AJ” Laguerre Jr., 19; Jerrald De’Shaun Gallon, 29; and Angela Michelle Carr, 52 — all of whom were Black. Officials confirmed that no other individuals were harmed in the shooting.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office identified the shooter as Ryan Palmeter, 21, who left behind written materials suggesting a racial motivation behind the attack. Sheriff T.K. Waters declared during a press conference that the shooting was unequivocally driven by racial hatred and that this hateful aspect deepened the tragedy’s impact.

In response, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a statement affirming that the Department of Justice was pursuing the shooting as a hate crime and an instance of racially motivated violent extremism.

The shooter, identified as Ryan Palmeter, 21, was believed to reside in Clay County and had driven about 40 miles to Jacksonville before the attack. Prior to targeting the Dollar General store, the gunman had attempted to enter Edward Waters University, a nearby historically Black university. Campus security intervened and escorted him off the premises. The school’s president, A. Zachary Faison Jr., emphasized that these were not isolated incidents but rather part of a pattern of targeted attacks on Black institutions.

Armed with an assault-style rifle and a handgun, the gunman wore a tactical vest and attacked the store. Pictures shared during a press conference showed disturbing symbols, including swastikas, painted on the rifle.

Reports indicate that the shooter had messaged his father before the attack, sharing the locations of three manifesto documents. One was addressed to his parents, one to the media, and the third to federal agents. However, by the time the local sheriff’s office was alerted about the situation, the attack was already underway.

Sheriff Waters emphasized that the gunman acted alone and that there is no evidence to suggest he was part of a larger group. FBI agents are present at the scene and are conducting a federal civil rights investigation with the intention of treating this as a hate crime.

Police records show that the shooter had been involved in a domestic incident in 2016 but was not arrested. He was subjected to the Baker Act in 2017, a Florida statute allowing for involuntary commitment for mental health treatment.

Local news sources reported a significant police presence at the Dollar General store on Kings Road in the College Gardens neighborhood. Edward Waters University students were advised to remain in their residence halls while authorities cleared the scene.

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