A gunman wielding an AR-15 style rifle with swastika markings killed three Black people in a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida Saturday afternoon before shooting himself. According to Jacksonville sheriff T.K. Waters, the shooting “was racially motivated,” and the gunman “hated Black people.”
Police described the gunman as a white man in his early 20s wearing a tactical vest. He reportedly first showed up at the campus of Edward Waters University, a historically Black college, where he was turned away after he refused to identify himself to a security officer. In a statement, the university said it “stands in opposition to hate-filled crimes against minorities and other targeted groups, and we are deeply impacted, and will not condone these types of actions in our community.”
Waters told the media that the shooter had written “several manifestos” for the media, for his parents, and for federal law enforcement agents, which detailed his “disgusting ideology of hate.”
Sherri Onks, special agent in charge of the Jacksonville FBI office, said that a civil rights investigation had been opened, and that the shooting was being pursued as a hate crime. “Hate crimes are always and will always remain a top priority for the FBI because they are not only an attack on a victim, they’re also meant to threaten and intimidate an entire community,” she said.
Similar racist shootings have taken place in recent years in Buffalo, New York, where 10 Black people were killed at a supermarket last year, and in El Paso, Texas, where 22 people were shot and killed in 2019 by a gunman who claimed to be targeting Mexicans. Both shooters received life sentences this year.
Florida has also seen some of the country’s worst-ever mass shootings, including the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando and the 2018 massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
But Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has worked to loosen the state’s gun laws, signing a concealed carry bill in April. That law went into effect last month. DeSantis said Saturday that he’d spoken to Waters about the “horrific” incident. “This was racially motivated,” he said. “He was targeting people based on their race. That is totally unacceptable.”
According to pool reports, President Joe Biden has been briefed on the shooting.