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Jacksonville shooter attempted to enter HBCU before Dollar General

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A white gunman who killed three black people Saturday at a Jacksonville Dollar General store legally purchased the two firearms used in the racially charged attack, local law enforcement has confirmed.

The man, identified Sunday as Ryan Christopher Palmeter, 21, of Clay County, Florida, drove to Edward Waters University, a historically black college, on Saturday but was denied admission, depending on the school. He then drove to the nearby store, where he opened fire using an AR-15-style rifle bearing Nazi insignia, authorities said.

Police described a methodical rampage that lasted less than 11 minutes and killed Angela Michelle Carr, 52; Anolt Joseph Laguerre Jr., 19; and Jerrald De’Shaun Gallion, 29.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (right) was cut off while speaking at a vigil in Jacksonville following the Aug. 26 shooting of three black people by a white man. (Video: The Washington Post)

Jacksonville police said Sunday that law enforcement had previously been called about Palmeter during a domestic incident and that he had also been detained during a mental health crisis. But those cases did not result in a criminal record, so there was no legal reason to prevent him from acquiring the guns he bought this year between April and July.

“There was no history of criminal arrest. There was nothing we could have done to stop him from owning a gun or a handgun,” Jacksonville Sheriff TK Waters said at a news conference Sunday. “There was no signal alarm.”

He said Palmeter was “100% clear” during the shooting.

It is believed that Palmeter acted alone and did not know the victims. Local law enforcement said he “hated black people” and left behind evidence the attack was racially motivated. About 30 percent of Jacksonville’s 970,000 residents are black.

Waters told a press conference on Saturday that Palmer detailed a “disgusting ideology of hatred” towards black people in writings prior to the attack. The FBI office in Jacksonville is investigating the shooting as a hate crime, the agency said in a statement posted on social media.

“The Department of Justice is investigating this attack, calling it a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Sunday. He also offered his condolences “to the loved ones of the victims and the community of Jacksonville as they mourn an unimaginable loss.”

In a timeline of events from Saturday, Waters said Palmeter drove to Jacksonville in neighboring Duval County around 11:39 a.m. and parked in a parking lot behind the university library, where he was observed getting dressed and wearing a black bulletproof vest. and latex gloves.

AR-15: the weapon that divides a nation

He then went to the dollar store. He first shot Carr in his vehicle, then entered the store and killed the 19-year-old.

Waters said Palmeter allowed several people to leave the store, including white people, during the attack. The third victim, Gallion, was shot while he entered the store with his girlfriend after others fled through a backdoor.

Palmer then texted her father, telling him to check his computer, where a suicide note and other content was found. Her father called law enforcement after the shooting began. Police arrived at the store 11 minutes into the rampage and heard a gunshot which they believe was that of Palmeter who had taken his own life.

Edward Waters University, which has about 1,200 students, was closed on Saturday. Access was restricted until the go-ahead was given at 4:35 p.m. Saturday, the college said.

Palmer only appears to be on campus briefly before being confronted by a security guard. “The individual refused to identify himself and was asked to leave,” the college said in a statement, adding that the individual “returned to his car without incident.”

It’s unclear why Palmeter chose to park near the college, but the sheriff said the shooter didn’t appear to be targeting anyone there. “It looks to me like he went in there to put on everything he needed,” Waters said, referring to the shooter’s tactical gear. “He had the opportunity to do violence there; he didn’t,” he said.

CCTV footage shared by local police showed Palmeter – a portly man wearing a mask and vest – entering the store with a rifle and aiming quickly.

Law enforcement began investigating Palmeter’s background after it was revealed he was detained in 2017 under a state rule called the Baker Act, which allows people to be held for review for up to 72 hours in the event of a mental health crisis.

He was also involved in what officers described as a “domestic visit” to his home in 2016 during an incident with his brother, although he was not arrested. Waters confirmed on Sunday that Palmeter does not have a criminal record.

Sunday evening, the scene of the shooting was calm. Tapes of police still blocked intersections near the store.

Deputies in sheriff’s vehicles kept the road closed. Flowers were stacked at the traffic lights on Canal Street and Kings Road. Uniformed officers remained in front of the store.

During an afternoon vigil, local leaders and religious figures called for unity after the tragedy.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (right) spoke briefly at the event, during which he said money had been set aside in Florida’s budget to provide additional security at Edward Waters University. An announcement would follow on Monday, he said.

“We are not going to allow people to be targeted based on their race. We will rise up and do what it takes to ensure that evil does not triumph in the State of Florida,” DeSantis said. Mourners briefly scoffed during the governor’s remarks before Jacksonville City Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman chimed in, calling on the crowd to put aside partisanship.

The shooting took place a day before the 63rd anniversary of one of the most heinous events in Jacksonville’s racial history, ‘Axe Handle Saturday,’ when 200 Ku Klux Klan members attacked a group of blacks leading a sit -in peaceful protest against Jim Crow laws. in 1960.

The attack on the dollar store This is the 34th massacre in the United States, according to the Massacre Database maintained by Northeastern University, USA Today and the Associated Press.

It happened on the same day thousands gathered in Washington to warn that racial progress in America was collapsing at an event marking the 60th anniversary of the day the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. led 250,000 people in the march on Washington.

Those close to King, who spoke at the event, later expressed their sadness over the killings, adding that the shooting is proof of the urgent need to continue to fight racial injustice in America.

The family of Martin Luther King Jr. spoke on CNN Aug. 27 about the persistence of hate crimes in America, 60 years after the March on Washington. (Video: CNN)

“It’s so tragic. We have to, as a society, find a way to solve the problems. You don’t have to like me, but we have to understand how to deal with problems with civility and we have to do something to change that,” Martin Luther King III said in an interview Sunday on “The State of Union” from CNN. »

At a Sunday church service several miles from the store, tearful mourners gathered, including Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deagan (D), and a pastor urged people to avoid letting sadness turn in rage. “If any of you are like me, I fight, I try not to be angry,” Reverend Willie Barnes told about 100 congregants, according to an Associated Press report.

President Biden issued a statement Sunday afternoon condemning the attack, noting that there was additional symbolism in the killings “fuelled by hateful animosity” that took place on the 60th anniversary of the march on Washington.

“Even as we continue to search for answers, we must say loud and clear that white supremacy has no place in America. We must refuse to live in a country where black families going to the store or black students going to school live in fear of being shot because of the color of their skin,” he said.

The attack follows at least two other public shootings in recent days, including one at an Oklahoma high school football game that left one dead and another incident that injured at least seven when a shooter opened fire near a Boston parade.

It comes just 15 months after 10 black people were killed in a racially charged shooting at a Buffalo grocery store by an 18-year-old white man.

Cadell and Javaid reported from Washington. Anumita Kaur, Ben Brasch, Andrea Salcedo and John Hudson in Washington and Bryan Pietsch in Seoul contributed to this report.


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