Diane Rado, Florida Phoenix
A white man in his early 20s shot and killed three Black people Saturday at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, with Sheriff T.K. Waters saying the shooter “hated Black people.”
“This shooting was racially motivated, and he hated Black people. he wanted to kill n——. That’s the one and only time I’ll use that word,” Waters said, referencing the racial slur.
The sheriff, at a news conference Saturday, said two males and one female — all Black — were killed in the shootings, and the shooter killed himself. He had been armed with an AR-15 style rifle and a handgun, with the rifle showing several swastikas.
At the time of the news conference, the shooter’s name had not yet been identified, but Sheriff Waters told the media that the man had authored manifestos that were provided to his parents, the media, and federal agents. The sheriff referenced the “disgusting ideology of hate” at the news conference.
An FBI official said at the news conference that the agency has opened a civil rights investigation and will pursue the incident as a hate crime.
The shooter appears to have been living with his parents in Clay County, just southwest of Duval County.
Sheriff Waters said the shooter had been involved in a domestic call in 2016, with no arrest. In 2017, the sheriff said, there was a Baker Act, which relates to possible mental illness or a danger of harm under Florida law.
Edward Waters University, a historically Black college in Jacksonville, earlier activated its EWU Tiger Alert system, to notify the campus and community “and implement a campus wide stay in place order.”
It wasn’t clear if Gov. Ron DeSantis was in Tallahassee or in another state on Saturday, given that he is a GOP presidential candidate. But his Saturday schedule shows that he had a call at 5:15 p.m. with Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters. At 8 p.m., his scheduled showed a call with his acting chief of staff, Alex Kelly.
But DeSantis responded in a video by calling the shooter a “scumbag” and added that “this guy killed himself rather than face the music … and so he took the coward’s way out.”
The shooting Saturday in Jacksonville comes a year after the Buffalo, New York, shootings in May 2022 at a Tops grocery story, where 10 Black people were killed by an 18-year-old male who reportedly authored a manifesto.
This spring, the NAACP posted a travel advisory related to Florida, with State Sen. Shevrin Jones of Miami-Dade saying earlier that: “In Ron DeSantis’ Florida, Black Americans are absolutely less safe, so it is no wonder that the NAACP has issued this travel advisory, noting the state’s open hostility. Everyone ought to be able to visit and exist in our state, but that is no longer the case thanks to the attacks against Black and Brown communities from the governor and the Legislature he controls.”
Critics have also faced issues with academic standards related to African-American history studies in Florida, prompting protests in the state capital and visits to Florida from Vice President Kamala Harris.
In April, DeSantis signed legislation making Florida the 26th state in the nation to allow residents to legally carry concealed weapons without having to obtain a permit through the state. The signature came in DeSantis’ office, where he was surrounded by GOP legislators, gun rights advocates and other supporters of the legislation — but not the press or the public.
The new law will allow individuals who want to carry concealed weapons to forego registering through the state to pay fees, provide fingerprints, undergo an additional background check and take a gun safety course.
State Sen. Lori Berman, representing part of Palm Beach County, said on the X social media platform:
“My heart is with the people of Jacksonville and the leaders there responding to this horrible act of racial terrorism. Assault weapons are white supremacy’s deadliest weapon of choice. We must disarm it and all hate-motivated violence.”
The Jacksonville Branch NAACP said in a press release: “It is deeply disheartening that our Black communities live in constant fear of being targeted based on the color of their skin, unable to shop at their local store without the threat of violence.”
The chapter urged the Florida Legislature to reconsider the permitless carry law, which facilitates easier firearm possession.
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