Officials say a federal hate crime investigation is underway after a racially motivated shooting left three people dead in Jacksonville. Here’s what we know
A federal hate crime investigation is underway after a white gunman wielding an assault rifle with a swastika emblem on it Three black people were murdered at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Floridaauthorities said, on Saturday.
The shooting, which was described as racially motivated, killed Angela Michelle Carr, 52, Anault Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr., 19, and Gerald Gallion, 29.
Jacksonville Sheriff TK Waters said the gunman, identified as 21-year-old Ryan Christopher Palmeter, left behind racist graffiti and used racial slurs. He was armed with an AR-15 rifle and a pistol, both of which he purchased legally, and targeted blacks when he opened fire inside the store, according to the sheriff.
On Sunday, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department is now investigating the shooting as a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism.
As the affected community gathered Sunday to honor the victims, Jacksonville Mayor Donna DeGan called for an end to the division.
“The division must stop, the hate must stop, the rhetoric must stop. We are all of one flesh, blood and bone, and we must treat each other this way,” she added.
The attack in Florida is the latest in a number of shootings in recent years where a gunman has targeted black people, including at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, last year and a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.
There have been at least 475 mass shootings in the United States so far in 2023, according to a report. Armed Violence Archivewhich, like CNN, defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are injured or killed, not including the shooter.
As investigators investigate the Jacksonville attacker’s motives and history, Waters cautioned against trying to find a cause for the attack.
“Our community struggles to understand why these atrocities happened. I urge all of us not to search for logic in senseless acts of violence,” the sheriff said. “No reason or explanation can explain the shooter’s decisions and actions.”
As Jacksonville mourns the dead, here’s what we know about how Saturday’s shooting happened, the weapons used in the attack, the victims and the ongoing investigation:
The suspect was removed from the university first
Waters told CNN on Saturday that the shooter, who lived with his parents in Orange Park in Clay County, left his home around 11:39 a.m. and drove to Jacksonville in neighboring Duval County.
At 12:48 p.m., the suspect pulled into Edward Waters University in Newtown, a predominantly black area of Jacksonville, where the sheriff said the suspect wore a bulletproof vest. Waters said a TikTok video showed him getting dressed.
President and CEO of Edward Waters University, Dr. Zachary Faison Jr., told CNN on Sunday that a student reported to campus security when they saw the shooter because he “looked out of place.”
Fison said the man immediately got into his car and began driving away after he was confronted by a security officer, who followed him to the campus.
“We don’t know clearly what his full intentions are, but we do know he came here before going to Dollar General,” Faison said. “The members of our university’s security team reacted almost immediately. I believe the reports came in less than 30 seconds after he called and drove to our campus.”
Faison said campus security measures alone may have saved “dozens of lives.”
“We think it’s no coincidence that he came to the first historically black university in this state first,” Faison said.
University police followed him out of the parking lot around 12:58 p.m. and alerted the police officer, saying there was a suspicious person on campus, according to the mayor.
How was it shot?
At 1:08 p.m., the sheriff said, the gunman fired into a black Kia in the nearby Dollar General parking lot and killed Carr. The sheriff said he then entered the store and shot Laguerre, killing him.
Others fled the store’s back exit, the sheriff said, with the suspect following seconds later. Then he went back inside and shot the security cameras.
The first 911 call was made at 1:09 p.m., seconds before the third victim, Galleon, entered the store with his girlfriend.
Al-Sharif said that the gunman shot Galleon, killing him, then chased another person, so he shot him but did not hit him.
At 1:18 p.m., the sheriff said, the gunman texted his father and told him to go to his room, where the father found a will and a suicide note.
Al-Sharif said officers entered the store one minute later — 11 minutes after the shooting began — and heard a single gunshot, presumably when the gunman shot and killed himself.
The sheriff said family members of the suspect called the Clay County Sheriff’s Office at 1:53 p.m.
On Sunday, authorities released two short videos of the shooting.
One of the clips shows the shooter wearing a tactical vest and blue rubber gloves, pointing his weapon at a black Kia car outside the store, and the other shows the shooter entering the store and pointing his gun to his right.
“I wanted people to be able to see exactly what happened in this situation and how serious it was,” Waters said.
He added that the shooter did not appear to know the victims and believed he acted alone.
“It targeted a certain group of people, and that was black people,” Waters said at a news conference on Saturday. And that’s what he said he wanted to kill. This is very obvious… Any member of this race at that time was in danger.
The sheriff told reporters Saturday that the suspect left behind writings for his parents, the media and federal agents that spell out his “disgusting ideology of hate.”
Weapons were purchased legally
Authorities released photos of two weapons the gunman was carrying, including a firearm with swastikas on it.
The sheriff said the shooter had no criminal arrest history and appeared to have legally purchased the firearms earlier this year.
The shooter was the subject of a 2017 law enforcement claim under the state’s Baker Act, which allows people to be involuntarily detained and examined for up to 72 hours during a mental health crisis.
Waters did not provide details of what led to the advocacy of the Baker Act in this case, but he usually said that a person who was detained under the law was not eligible to purchase firearms.
“If there is a situation under the Baker Act, they are forbidden to have weapons,” he told CNN on Saturday. “We don’t know whether Baker’s law was properly recorded, and whether it is considered complete Baker’s law.”
On Sunday, the sheriff said, investigators found the weapons were obtained legally.
“There was no science that could stop him from buying those guns,” Waters said at a news conference Sunday. “As a matter of fact, it looks as if he purchased those guns completely legally.”
“There was no indication that he should not have weapons,” he added.
The sheriff did not provide further details about the 2017 Baker Act petition, but said Sunday that it appears the shooter, who was 15 at the time, was held for 72 hours and then released.
who are the victims
A relative of the 29-year-old Galleon, who was attending a Sunday evening vigil in honor of the victims, described him as a cheerful and loving young man.
Sabrina Rosier told CNN that the family is doing the best they can, and that they have not yet told Galleon’s 4-year-old daughter of her father’s death.
“It hurts,” Rozier said. “I thought racism had passed us, and it clearly isn’t.”
Dollar General identified one of the victims, Laguerre, as an employee of the store in a statement to CNN on Sunday night.
“The DG family mourns the loss of our colleague Anault Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr., who along with two of our clients were victims of senseless violence yesterday. We express our deepest condolences to their families and friends as we all try to understand this tragedy. Dollar General or in the communities we serve.”
Florida State Senator Tracy Davis, who represents the Jacksonville area where the shooting occurred, said Jacksonville is addressing the loss.
“I’m angry, and it saddens me to realize that it’s 2023, and as a black person we’re still haunted, because that’s the way it used to be,” Davis told CNN. “This was a three person planning and executing person.”
The attack coincided with the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington, the famous civil rights demonstration that called on the government to better protect the rights of black people.
“[T]”His day of remembrance and remembrance ended with the wounding of another American community as a result of an act of gun violence reportedly fueled by hateful hostility and carried out with two firearms,” Biden said in a written statement.
“Even as we continue to search for answers, we must say clearly and forcefully that white supremacy has no place in America,” the president added. “We must refuse to live in a country where black families go to the store or black students go to school in fear of being shot for the color of their skin.”
On Monday, Vice President Kamala Harris called on Congress to ban assault weapons and pass commonsense gun safety legislation.
“America is suffering from an epidemic of hate. Too many communities have been torn apart by hate and violent extremism,” Harris said. Too many families have lost children, parents, and grandparents. Every day, too many Black Americans live in fear of becoming victims of gun violence that fuels hate – At school, at work, at places of worship, and at the grocery store.
CNN’s Isabel Rosales, Eric Levinson, Joe Sutton, Sam Fossum, Priscilla Alvarez, Hana Rabinowitz and Andy Rose contributed to this report.
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