Speakers at a Sunday vigil proclaimed Jacksonville, Florida a city intolerant of racial violence, while mourning the victims of a mass shooting by a man a county official described as a “maniacal racist.
“That doesn’t define Jacksonville, Florida,” that official, Sheriff TK Waters, said Sunday at the event. “A wicked man…cannot shake our resolve.”
Council member Ju’Coby Pittman, who organized the vigil, said she was heartbroken.
“I’m sick of being sick and tired,” she said. “These residents did not deserve what happened. They didn’t deserve this.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, initially booed but ultimately granted a hearing, pointed out that the shooter was not from Jacksonville, the state’s most populous city.
“You had a major league bastard come over from Clay County,” he said, “and what he did is totally unacceptable in the state of Florida.”
With defiance typically shown to reporters or his political enemies as he seeks Republican nomination for president, DeSantis has pledged to protect Jacksonville, its black community, and Florida’s historically black colleges and universities from racial violence. .
“We are not going to allow people to be targeted based on their race,” the governor said. “We will rise up and do what it takes to ensure that evil does not triumph in the State of Florida. »
On Saturday afternoon, the shooter, identified by the sheriff as Ryan Palmeter, 21, of Orange Park, pulled up to HBCU Edward Waters University in Jacksonville, got out of his vehicle behind a bookcase and was quickly confronted campus security, who told him to leave, according to Waters and a statement from the institution.
He drove to a nearby Dollar General store, where he opened fire, killing Angela Michelle Carr, 52; Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr., 19; and Jarrald De’Shaun Gallion, 29, the Waters said.
All of the victims were black, and the sheriff said the shooter left behind messages indicating a belief in white superiority.
On Saturday, Waters described the man as “frankly, a maniac who decided he wanted to take lives.”
The sheriff confirmed Sunday that the shooter was wearing a tactical body armor and was armed with a Palmetto PA-15 semi-automatic rifle, which is a clone of an AR-15. He also owned a semi-automatic Glock handgun, Waters said.
The man committed suicide after being cornered by law enforcement, authorities said.
“I spent 32 years in this career,” the sheriff, who is black, said at the vigil held next to the crime scene. “And I saw horrible and horrible things. But there’s not much that compares to what I saw yesterday.
Walking away from the gathering, two women whose lives are linked to victim Gallion, through his daughter, shared memories of a great father and friend.
“Jarrald was a very loving and caring father,” said Sabrina Rozier, the Gallion child’s grandmother. “From the moment my daughter became pregnant until yesterday, Jarrald has never missed a beat. … Every weekend when they separated, he still had his daughter.
“He was supposed to be with her yesterday. We’re still trying to find the words to tell her that her daddy is gone. I don’t have the words to tell her, to break her heart. … This man saw worthy of breaking my granddaughter’s heart and take her daddy.”
Rozier’s daughter, Tyesha Jones, is the mother of Gallion’s daughter.
“He was my best friend,” she said. “He was my daughter’s best friend. Even though we weren’t together, we were the best of friends. He had it every weekend, he was the best dad ever. I will just miss him.
Keita McNeill, Gallion’s brother, said he collapsed at the news of the murder.
“I got down and started crying,” he said. “He didn’t deserve it. All this man did was work and take care of his child.
In an earlier videoconference, Anolt Laguerre, father of Dollar General cashier Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr., said his son had recently graduated from high school and was just doing his first pre- taste of adulthood.
“He hasn’t even lived his life yet,” the father said on Sunday. “It’s outrageous that someone would take his life because he doesn’t like the color of your skin.”
Earlier this year, the Anti-Defamation League said anti-Semitic, racist and anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda had reached “an unprecedented level”. In 2021, the White House concluded that the most “persistent and deadly” threats against the United States came from “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists”.
Despite previous assurances that Jacksonville was no place for Saturday’s horror, some prominent voices in the city said there was work to be done to ensure the black community did not live in a state of fear.
Terresa White, vigil speaker and pastor of the city’s Heritage Christian Center, said victims deserve a legacy of change.
“We will make sure they celebrate their lives, but we will make a difference in this community,” she said. “We can admit there is a problem. And we can admit we have action to take.”