Officials say the racially motivated shooting in Jacksonville is under investigation as a hate crime
Three black people were shot dead by a white gunman in a hate shooting at a Dollar General retail store in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday afternoon, Sheriff TK Waters said.
“This shooting was racially motivated, and he hated black people,” the sheriff told a news conference. “He wanted to kill n——. That’s the only time I’ll ever use that word,” Waters said, referring to the racial slur.
Waters said the shooter, who was wearing a tactical vest and was armed with an AR and Glock pistol, left messages for his parents, the media and federal law enforcement officials detailing racial hatred. Firearms are marked with a white pen with swastikas.
“This was, frankly, a lunatic who decided he wanted to take lives,” Waters said. “He targeted a certain group of people, black people, and that’s what he said he wanted to kill. That’s very clear.”
He added, “Anyone of that race at that time was in danger – of the black race.”
The FBI has opened a federal civil rights investigation and is investigating the shooting as a hate crime.
The shooting came two days before the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and on the same day thousands marked the anniversary by marching in the nation’s capital.
It also came five years after the date of a Mass shooting at a video game event in Jacksonville.
Law enforcement officials have not identified the victims – two men and a woman – or the shooter, who was in his early 20s.
The “AR” rifle, or AR-15 long rifle, is commonly used in group shootings.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination and was campaigning in Iowa, said that “this shooting, based on the statement they found out from the scum that did it, was racially motivated.”
“This man killed himself rather than face the music and accept responsibility for his actions,” he added, expressing his condolences to the families who lost loved ones. “So he took the coward’s way out. But we condemn what happened in the strongest possible terms.”
Waters said he believed the shooter lived in nearby Clay County with his parents and had previous interactions with law enforcement.
In 2016, he was involved in a domestic disturbance phone call, which did not result in any arrests. In 2017, he underwent a Baker’s lawwhich provides “emergency services and temporary detention for up to 72 hours for mental health screening” if, among other criteria, there is reason to believe that a person is mentally ill and because of mental illness “refusal of voluntary examination.”
The shooter left Clay County at 11:39 a.m. and headed for Jacksonville. At 1:18 p.m., Waters said, he texted his father and told him to look at his computer.
At 1:53 p.m., the shooter’s family called the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, but by then, Waters said, the shooting had already begun at the Dollar General store on Kings Road and Canal Street.
Waters said the three messages left by the shooter detailed “disgusting ideology of hate”.
Waters said there was no evidence the shooter was part of a group and acted alone.
“We are deeply saddened by the senseless violence that occurred at our store on Kings Road in Jacksonville, Florida, today,” Dollar General said. “At this time, supporting our employees in Jacksonville and the DG family impacted by this tragedy is a top priority as we work closely with law enforcement.”
Nearby Edward Waters University, a historically black college, issued a “stay put” order for the campus on Saturday and said authorities had checked all campus facilities.
The school said there was no initial indication that students, faculty or staff were involved in the shooting.
This story originally appeared on NBCNews.com.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com