JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hundreds of people gathered at prayer vigils and at church on Sunday, frustrated and exhausted, to mourn another racist attack in America: this one, the murder of three black people in Florida at the hands of a white man, 21 years old. a year-old man who authorities say left behind white supremacist ramblings that read like “a madman’s diary.”
After church services earlier in the day, about 200 people showed up Sunday night for a vigil a block from the Dollar General store in Jacksonville, where officials said Ryan Palmeter opened fire on Saturday using weapons which he had purchased legally despite an involuntary commitment to a mental health examination.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis — who is running for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, who has relaxed gun laws in Florida and who has antagonized civil rights leaders by mocking the “revival” — has was booed loudly as he addressed the vigil.
Ju’Coby Pittman, a Jacksonville city councilwoman who represents the neighborhood where the shooting took place, stepped in to ask the crowd to listen.
“It’s not about partying today,” she said. “A bullet knows no party.”
DeSantis said on Monday the state would announce financial support for security at Edward Waters University, the historically black university near where the shooting took place, and to help affected families. He called the shooter a “major league bastard.”
“What he did is totally unacceptable in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said. “We are not going to allow people to be targeted based on their race. »
Sheriff TK Waters identified those killed as Angela Michelle Carr, 52, who was shot in her car; store worker AJ Laguerre, 19, who was shot while trying to flee; and customer Jerrald Gallion, 29, who was shot as he entered the store in a predominantly black neighborhood.
Gallion attended St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Bishop John Guns told the crowd. He was the 33rd murder victim in the 27 years Guns was there, he said.
“In two weeks I have to preach the funeral of a man who should still be alive,” Guns said. “He wasn’t a gangster, he wasn’t a thug – he was a father who gave his life to Jesus and was trying to pull himself together.
“I cried in church today like a baby because my heart is tired. We are exhausted. »
The latest in a long history of racist murders in the United States unfolded early Saturday afternoon after Palmeter first parked at Edward Waters University.
The sheriff said a video posted on TikTok without a timestamp showed Palmeter donning a bulletproof vest. A college security guard spotted Palmeter and parked near it. Palmeter left and the security guard alerted a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officer who was about to send an alert to other officers when the shooting began in the store.
Palmeter used an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and a Glock handgun in the shooting, Waters said. He had legally purchased the guns for the past few months, even though he was unwittingly subjected to a mental health exam in 2017. Given that Palmeter was released after the exam, this would not have come to light during his background check.
Palmer killed himself when police arrived, about 11 minutes after the shooting began.
Palmer lived with his parents in neighboring Clay County. He texted his father during the shooting and told him to break into his room, Waters said. The father then found a suicide note, a will and the racist writings that Waters described as “frankly, the diary of a madman”.
“He was completely irrational,” Waters said. “But with irrational thoughts, he knew what he was doing. He was 100% lucid.
The sheriff said Palmeter, wearing his vest covered with a shirt, gloves and mask, first pulled up in front of Carr’s vehicle and fired 11 shots through its windshield, killing her.
He entered the store and turned to his right, turning Laguerre, video shows. Many people fled through the back door, the sheriff said. He chased them and fired, but missed. He went back inside the store and found Gallion entering the front door with his girlfriend. He took down Gallio.
He then chased a woman through the store and fired, but missed.
“We must say loud and clear that white supremacy has no place in America,” President Joe Biden said in a statement on Sunday. “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. »
Earlier on Sunday, the pastor of St. Paul AME Church, near the scene of the shooting, urged congregants to follow the example of Jesus Christ and prevent their sadness from turning into rage.
Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan cried during the service. “Our hearts are broken,” Reverend Willie Barnes told about 100 congregants. “If any of you are like me, I fight not to be angry.”
Elected officials said racist attacks like the one on Saturday have been encouraged by political rhetoric targeting “awareness” and by the policies of the Republican-led state government led by DeSantis, including one aimed at the teaching black history in Florida.
“We need to be clear, this was not just racist violence, but racist violence perpetuated by rhetoric and policies designed to attack black people, period,” the state rep said. Angie Nixon, Democrat of Jacksonville.
“We cannot sit idly by as our history is erased, our lives are devalued, and awakening is attacked,” Nixon said. “Because let’s be clear: this is red meat for a voter base.”
Rudolph McKissick, national board member of the National Action Network of the Reverend Al Sharpton, a Baptist bishop and senior pastor of Bethel Church in Jacksonville, was in town Saturday when the shooting took place in the historic neighborhood. black from New Town.
“No one is having honest, candid conversations about the presence of racism,” McKissick said.
Past shootings targeting Black Americans include one at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, in 2022 and a historic African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.
The Buffalo shooting, which killed 10 people, stands out as one of the deadliest targeted attacks on black people by a lone white gunman in US history. The shooter was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Associated Press writers John Raoux in Jacksonville, Terry Spencer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Trisha Ahmed in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Mike Balsamo in Washington, DC, contributed to this report.
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