Authorities in Jacksonville, Fla., have identified three victims of Saturday’s shooting at a Dollar General store that the Justice Department is investigating as a hate crime.
The victims were identified as Anolt “AJ” Laguerre Jr., 19; Gerald DeShawn Gallon, 29; and Angela Michelle Carr, 52, all black. No one else was injured in the shooting, officials said.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office identified the shooter as 21-year-old Ryan Palmet, who left a “manifesto” that led investigators to believe the shooting was a hate crime.
“Honestly, this shooting was racially motivated, and he hates black people,” Sheriff T.K. Waters said at a news conference Saturday night, adding that the hatred at the heart of the pieces “gives the tragedy Adds a layer of heartbreak.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement that the Justice Department was investigating the shooting as a hate crime and “racially motivated act of violent extremism.”
The shooter is believed to live in Clay County and drove about 40 miles north to Jacksonville on Saturday, Waters said.
The gunman attempted to drive through Edward Waters University, a historically black nearby university, before approaching Dollar General. School principal A. Zachary Faison Jr. said campus security confronted the shooter and escorted him off campus.
On the first day of Black History Month last year, Edward Waters and several other black colleagues received anonymous bomb threats.
“This is no accident. We know these were targeted attacks,” Faison said Saturday.
The gunmen, wearing tactical vests, attacked the store with assault-style rifles and pistols. Photos of the weapon shared at the news conference showed swastikas painted on the side of the rifle.
Waters said the shooter texted his father before the shooting, sharing the location of three manifesto documents — one addressed to his parents, one to the media and a third to federal agents. About 30 minutes later, the family called the local sheriff’s office, but by then the attack had already begun.
Waters said the shooter acted alone, adding that “there is no evidence that the shooter was part of a larger group.” FBI agents are on the scene and have opened a federal civil rights investigation and plans to make the incident a Hate crimes prosecuted.
Police said the gunman was involved in a 2016 home call but was not arrested and invoked the Baker Act against him in 2017. The Florida Act allows individuals to be involuntarily sent to a receiving institution for treatment of mental illness.
Local news outlets reported that there was a heavy police presence at shops along Kings Road in the north-west community of College Gardens starting around 1 p.m. Saturday. Students at Edward Waters University have been told to remain in their residence halls until the site is cleared.
Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan told local TV station News4JAX that the gunman locked himself in the store.
“This is a community that has suffered over and over again. Many times, this is where we end up,” Deegan told reporters at a news conference. “This is a hate crime. We don’t deserve this hate in Jacksonville.”
Saturday’s shooting came five years after a gunman opened fire at a poker tournament in Jacksonville, killing two and wounding 11 before killing himself.
On the same day, thousands gathered in Washington, D.C., to renew the push for racial justice, 60 years after Martin Luther King Jr. led the March for Jobs and Freedom on Washington. Dozens of high-profile speakers cited an increase in hate crimes as proof that King’s dream is in jeopardy.
Isaiah Ramlin, president of the Jacksonville chapter of the NAACP, called Saturday for increased security measures to protect black communities from acts of racial violence.
“It is deeply disheartening that our black community continues to fear that they will be targeted because of the color of their skin and cannot shop at their local store without the threat of violence,” Rumlin said in a statement.
He urged the legislature to tighten the state’s undocumented carry law, which allows people to legally carry concealed firearms without mandatory training, licensing fees and background checks.