Three Black people were killed in a racist attack at a Dollar General in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday afternoon, authorities said, shortly after security officers turned away the gunman at a nearby HBCU campus, where he was seen putting on an armored vest.
Authorities identified the victims as Angela Michelle Carr, 52; Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr., 19; and Jerrald Gallion, 29.
The gunman was a 21-year-old white man who “hated Black people,” Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters said at a press conference Saturday. The shooter wore a tactical vest and was armed with an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle and a Glock handgun. One of the weapons was painted with swastikas.
“The shooter killed three people before turning the gun on himself, taking his own life,” Waters said.
Officials of Edward Waters University said preliminary reports indicate no students or staff were involved. The shooting occurred less than a mile from the university. Founded in 1866 by members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, it is Florida’s oldest HBCU.
Before the shooting, the suspect drove onto the university’s campus, where the school’s security team confronted him “almost immediately,” said University President A. Zachary Faison Jr. in a video statement. The suspect put on an armored vest before returning to his car, Faison said, and officers followed his vehicle away from the campus.
“Little did we know that he had some very, very heinous and vitriolic aims,” Faison said.
The encounter occurred near the school’s main library, and campus police reported it to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, according to a university press release.
“I can’t tell you what his mindset was while he was there, but he did go there,” Sheriff Waters said of the shooter’s presence at Edward Waters University.
“He targeted a certain group of people, and that’s Black people. That’s what he said he wanted to kill,” said Waters, who is Black. “Any member of that race, at that time, was in danger.”
The attack occurred in Jacksonville’s New Town community, a historically Black neighborhood that was developed in the early 20th century for railroad and industrial workers.
Black Floridians recently have had to endure a barrage of anti-Black policies and comments from state and local leaders. Gov. Ron DeSantis has championed efforts to limit teaching of Black history in schools and restrict diversity training in workplaces, including with the Stop-W.O.K.E. Act.
In May, the NAACP this year issued a travel advisory for Florida, saying that the state had become “openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals.”
DeSantis responded to Saturday’s shooting by called the violent, racist mass shooter “a scumbag.”
The gunman left behind writings that used racist slurs and detailed his “disgusting ideology of hate,” Waters said. The diatribes were found by the gunman’s father, who alerted authorities after the attack had already begun.
Authorities have opened a federal civil rights investigation and will “pursue this incident as a hate crime,” said Sherri Onks, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Jacksonville office.
The attack occurred just hours after thousands of people gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington.
Recent years have seen a number of violent mass attacks targeting Black Americans. Last year, 10 Black people were killed at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store by a white gunman who had spouted fears of “white genocide.” He is now serving 11 life sentences after pleading guilty to murder, domestic terrorism, and hate crimes charges.
In 2015, nine Black worshipers were killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. That gunman, a self-professed white supremacist, was sentenced to death after being convicted of 33 murder and hate crime charges.
Early last year, several HBCUs were targeted by anonymous bomb threats, including Edward Waters University. The FBI announced in November that an unnamed minor had been identified as the person responsible for most of those threats, but the federal agency provided no information on potential charges.
Faison said the university recently erected “safety fencing” around Edward Waters’ campus that limits access points and allowed security to quickly confront the suspect’s vehicle.
“I want to say unabashedly that we are not dismayed. We will not be intimidated,” Faison said in the video statement. “We are about the business of uplifting and educating young, mostly Black minds to change the world. We know that is a very powerful force, and there are other forces who want to see that not happen.”
This story has been updated to include the names of the victims of Saturday’s shooting.
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