On Saturday, August 26th, 21-year-old Ryan Palmeter— a white man— shot three Black people at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida. The store was located in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Victims in the senseless tragedy have been identified as Michelle Carr, A.J. Laguerre and Jerrald Gallion. Laguerre was a 19-year-old store employee who was shot while running away from the shooter, while Carr was shot in her car and Gallion was shot upon entry of the store.
According to Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters, this shooting was a racially motivated attack. Palmeter was allegedly planning this shooting for some time, especially as he purchased guns as early as April this year and more in June. According to AP News, Palmeter texted his father during the shooting and asked him to go into his room, where he was able to find a "suicide note, a will and writings" that have since been described as racist material.
Prior to the shooting, Palmeter made it a point to park his car at the HBCU Edward Waters University. When noticed by a campus security guard who parked near him, Palmeter took off as other officers were being notified about his menacing appearance and later once gunshots began to ring out.
After shooting his third victim, Ryan Palmeter shot himself. Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a statement in which he expressed, "No person in this country should have to live in fear of hate-fueled violence and no family should have to grieve the loss of a loved one to bigotry and hate." This event taking place on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington is not lost on the Black community and beyond, as many have taken to social media and other outlets to share sentiments of deep sadness and despair.
During a service held Sunday morning at St. Paul AME Church, the mayor of Jacksonville Donna Deegan tearfully said, "I’ve heard some people say that some of the rhetoric that we hear doesn’t really represent what’s in people’s hearts, it’s just the game. It’s just the political game. Those three people who lost their lives, that’s not a game." State Rep. Angie Nixon echoed these same sentiments as she spoke during the service. "We must be clear, it was not just racially motivated, it was racist violence that has been perpetuated by rhetoric and policies designed to attack Black people, period," said Nixon.
President Joe Biden also released an official statement regarding the shooting:
On Saturday, our nation marked the 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington — a seminal moment in our history and in our work towards equal opportunity for all Americans. But this day of remembrance and commemoration ended with yet another American community wounded by an act of gun violence, reportedly fueled by hate-filled animus and carried out with two firearms.
Yesterday in Jacksonville, Florida, a white gunman went on a shooting rampage at a store near a Historically Black University and killed three Black individuals. While we still need to learn more about the motivation for Saturday’s shooting, law enforcement has opened a federal civil rights investigation and is treating this incident as a possible hate crime and act of domestic violent extremism.
Even as we continue searching for answers, we must say clearly and forcefully that white supremacy has no place in America. We must refuse to live in a country where Black families going to the store or Black students going to school live in fear of being gunned down because of the color of their skin. Hate must have no safe harbor. Silence is complicity, and we must not remain silent.
Jill and I are praying for the victims and their families, and we grieve with the people of Jacksonville.President Joe Biden
Amid worsening and unsafe conditions in the state of Florida, many are hoping that this incident will encourage honest and truthful conversations about the divisiveness being brewed by the state's politicians.