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Jacksonville shooting leaves several dead, officials say

A white gunman wearing a tactical vest burst into a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Fla., on Saturday and shot and killed three black people in an attack authorities said are investigating a hate crime.

The shooter, who has not been publicly identified and was described as being in his 20s, died after shooting himself, Jacksonville Sheriff TK Waters told a conference call Saturday night press.

“That shooting was racially motivated and he hated black people,” Sheriff Waters said.

Saturday’s rampage was the latest high-profile racist attack by a white gunman in the United States.

Last year, a shooting targeting blacks left 10 dead at a Buffalo supermarket. And in 2019, an attack at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, killed 22 people. The shooter in that shooting told police he wanted to kill Mexicans.

In Jacksonville, the victims were two men and a woman, authorities said. No one else was shot.

Authorities said the shooter left his parents’ home in nearby Clay County around 11:39 a.m. Saturday and headed toward Jacksonville. At 1:18 p.m., he texted his dad asking him to check his computer.

Sheriff Waters said the gunman wrote “several manifestos”, including one to his parents, in which he detailed his “disgusting ideology of hate”.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office received a call from the shooter’s parents at 1:53 p.m. By then, Sheriff Waters said, the shooting had already begun in Jacksonville.

Authorities said the shooter was armed with an AR-15 type rifle bearing a swastika, as well as a handgun.

He had been spotted on the campus of Edward Waters University, a historically black university located about half a mile from Dollar General.

The school had ordered its students to shelter in place amid reports of shootings. It was unclear what, if any, intentions the shooter might have had in relation to the school.

“I can’t tell you what his state of mind was when he was there,” Sheriff Waters said. “But he went there and he put on his vest and a mask and then he went straight to Dollar General.

“This is a dark day in Jacksonville history,” the sheriff added. “Any loss of life is tragic, but the hatred that motivated the shooter’s killing adds an extra layer of grief. »

In Jacksonville, a city of 971,000, 30% of whom are black, people formed prayer circles outside the premises, which were cordoned off by police.

Donna Deegan, mayor of Jacksonville, said the shooting came on the fifth anniversary of a shooting at a video game tournament in the city that left three people dead, including the shooter. She said the shooter alluded to that 2018 shooting in his written statements on Saturday.

“I can’t even begin to tell you how frustrating this is for all of us,” Ms Deegan said. “We’ve seen it too much.”

Police did not release the identity of the shooter, but noted he was involved in a “domestic call” in 2016 and underwent a mental health screening by authorities in 2017.

On Saturday night, Governor Ron DeSantis released a video statement calling the shooting “horrific” and saying the shooter had targeted his victims based on their race.

“It’s completely unacceptable,” Mr. DeSantis said.

He added: “This guy killed himself rather than face the music and accept responsibility for his actions. And that’s how he took the coward’s path.

Mr. DeSantis’ office said he would cut short a campaign trip to Iowa and return to Florida.

Chris Cameron, Nicolas Nehamas and Nichole Manna contributed reporting.


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