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A vigil for victims of Saturday’s attack, which authorities say was racist, attracted widespread attention as Florida’s governor spoke before a crowd that initially booed him.
Gov. Ron DeSantis ultimately found a listening audience and said Jacksonville, Florida’s most-populous city, and the state itself, would not tolerate racial violence. He vowed to help local leaders with security and recovery, but the appearance may have foreshadowed the injection of politics in the discussion about why a 21-year-old fatally shot three Black Americans he apparently never met at a Dollar General store.
On Sunday, Florida state Rep. Angie Nixon, D-Jacksonville, lambasted DeSantis on MSNBC, suggesting he was insincere in his concern about racism-motivated violence.
What we know about the Jacksonville Dollar General shooting
- As Jacksonville mourned its dead in churches and in vigils, calls to reject racism and hate dominated.
- Mayor Donna Deegan also called for "commonsense gun legislation" to try to prevent future attacks.
- President Joe Biden condemned the shooting and said a federal civil rights investigation was treating it "as a possible hate crime and act of domestic violent extremism."
- Florida Gov. Ro DeSantis was initially booed when he tried to speak at an evening vigil. After an organizer quieted the crowd, DeSantis said, “We are not going to let people be targeted based on their race."
The victims in Saturday's shooting were identified by the Jacksonville County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday as Angela Michelle Carr, 52; Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr., 19; and Jarrald De’Shaun Gallion, 29.
Family members, including Anolt Laguerre, father of Dollar General cashier Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr., expressed their unspeakable anguish on Sunday. Laguerre said his son recently graduated from high school and was working as a cashier at the Dollar General store where the shooting took place.
“He hasn’t even lived his life yet,” the father said.
In Jacksonville, a grief-stricken community grapples with being a target
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jheam Johnson had just settled into his seat on a bus in Washington, D.C., that was about to embark on a 15-hour ride to Jacksonville, Florida when he heard the news that a mass shooting had taken place five minutes from his home.
The invigorating spirit he felt having just attended the 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington transitioned instantly into “an array of emotions,” Johnson said, none of them good.
“You hear about these tragedies happening all over the country all the time. But a part of your brain doesn’t connect that it could happen right where you live. This is my neighborhood. It’s a lot to process.”
Johnson, a 21-year-old poet who also goes by “Reign Supreme,” said he didn’t know victims Angela Carr, 52, Anolt Laguerre, Jr., 19 and Jerrald De’Shaun Gallion, 29. But the proximity of the tragedy scared him.
Florida legislator berates DeSantis, accuses him of insincerity
Florida state Rep. Angie Nixon, who represents the district where yesterday's attack took place, accused Gov. DeSantis of being insincere in his vow to protect constituents from racial violence.
At a vigil for victims of the shooting, DeSantis said, “We are not going to let people be targeted based on their race."
But Nixon accused DeSantis of basing much of his campaigning, both for governor and, now, for the Republican nomination for president, on racial fear and grievance, issues she said help fuel violence against people of color.
"This is a governor who has done nothing but fan these types of happenings throughout our the state," Nixon said on MSNBC this evening. "At the end of the day, the governor has blood on his hands."
Nixon used as examples a moment in 2018 when DeSantis urged Floridians not to "monkey this up" and vote for his Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum, who's Black, and the governor's current campaign for the GOP nomination, which has as a centerpiece his crusade against "wokeness," a term some associate with blackness.
"He has had an all-out attack on the Black community with his anti-woke policies, which we know very well was nothing more than a dog whistle to get folks riled up in a way it just happened yesterday," Nixon alleged.
She also said DeSantis retaliates against Black lawmakers who speak out against him or policies he supports. Nixon became emotional in arguing that policies of DeSantis and the state's Republican-controlled Legislature have hurt Black Floridians.
"He wants to be vindictive to Black folks because it gives him points in poll numbers," she said. "America, you are in danger, girl. We must stop Ron DeSantis in his tracks."
DeSantis' campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Dollar General shooting came day before anniversary of 1960 KKK attack
The fatal shooting at the Dollar General store took place just a day before the 63rd anniversary of Jacksonville's infamous "Ax Handle Saturday," when more than 200 Ku Klux Klan members — many wielding baseball bats and ax handles — violently attacked Black activists who were participating in a peaceful sit-in protest at a "whites only" lunch counter.
Dollar General confirms one of the victims was an employee
Dollar General said tonight it is mourning the killing of Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre, an employee who was fatally shot along with two customers.
"We extend our deepest sympathies to their families and friends as we all try to comprehend this tragedy," the retailer said in a statement. "There is no place for hate at Dollar General or in the communities we serve.
"Right now, we are focused on providing support, counseling and resources to our teams and their loved ones, and we are evaluating how we can best support and stand with the greater Jacksonville community during this sad and difficult time," the retailer added.
DeSantis booed at vigil
Gov. DeSantis faced a cold welcome at today's vigil for shooting victims.
He called the shooter a "deranged scumbag" and condemned racial violence, as he had earlier in the day, but the audience at the public vigil booed him when he arrived just before 6 p.m.
A speaker using a public address system tried to quell the reaction, saying this was a time to "put party aside."
"It isn't about party today," she said.
DeSantis is running for the Republican nomination for president, and his platform includes opposition to what he calls "wokeness," a term many Black leaders believe refers to a renewed Black awareness of those opposed to true justice and systemic racism.
DeSantis calls shooter 'deranged scumbag'
Gov. Ron DeSantis called the Jacksonville shooter a "deranged scumbag" and pledged to increase security at Edward Waters University, the historically Black college where officials said the shooter showed up before the attack.
He left the campus without incident, officials said.
"Florida, the state and its people condemned the horrific racially motivated murders perpetrated by a deranged scumbag in Jacksonville at the Dollar General store," DeSantis said. "Perpetrating violence of this kind is unacceptable, and targeting people due to their race has no place in the state of Florida."
He said he would work with the university, the mayor and the sheriff to provide adequate security on campus.
"We’re not going to allow in the state of Florida our HBCUs to be targets for hateful lunatics like the guy yesterday," he said.
'The dehumanization of Black people has hit a breaking point'
Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., said she is "filled with grief and outrage" over the shooting and called for confronting racism in Florida.
“Let me be clear: white supremacy is a poison that continues to permeate our society," Wilson, who is Black and chairs the federal Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys, said in a statement.
“This is the painful truth: racism plagues our state, and it’s time to confront it head-on," she continued.
“We can’t shy away from this harsh reality. The authorities have rightly called this heinous act racially motivated, a term that should jolt us into action. We cannot turn a blind eye to the hate that powers such acts of violence. The dehumanization of Black people has hit a breaking point.
"We must declare an emergency and demand accountability. When those in power peddle hate, we must respond. Divisive rhetoric ignites hatred and empowers those with violent intent."
Wilson also called for "comprehensive gun control" to prevent such tragedies from recurring in the future.
"It’s time to act decisively for lasting change," she said.
President Biden: 'White supremacy has no place in America'
President Joe Biden condemned the shooting and said a federal civil rights investigation was treating it "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," Biden said in a statement, noting that yesterday's attack occurred on the same day as the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington.
"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," he concluded.
Mayor calls for 'commonsense gun legislation' and reckoning with 'hate'
Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan told MSNBC's Katie Phang today that “commonsense gun legislation” and a reckoning with "hate" are necessary to prevent similar attacks in the future.
"This is something that we have seen far too often. These mass shootings happen over and over again," Deegan said, adding she is "absolutely a proponent of commonsense gun legislation."
The sheriff said yesterday that in 2017 the shooter was subject to the Baker Act, which imposes a temporary detention for a mental health examination. But Phang noted he was still able to obtain a gun.
Florida does not have a universal background check law for people buying firearms, but it does have a law prohibiting people from owning or possessing firearms if they have had documented mental health conditions, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a nonprofit advocacy organization.
Deegan also said officials must "talk about the hate" at the root of yesterday's mass shooting.
“I will do everything I can to unify this community and to make sure that those same folks who seem to be victimized and marginalized over and over again do not find that to be the case in the city of Jacksonville," she said.
Police were called in 2016 over fight between shooter and brother
The shooter's parents called police in 2016 to report a domestic disturbance between Ryan Palmeter and his older brother, James Palmeter, according to Waters.
Police records indicate James Palmeter is serving a prison sentence for a 2017 armed robbery. Waters did not offer details of the dispute between the brothers but noted that Ryan Palmeter, who was then a teenager, was not arrested.
The sheriff expressed sympathy for the suspect's parents, who did not appear to have any knowledge of their son's plan.
"He made a decision to do something that his parents obviously didn't know about," Waters told NBC News today. "I do know that his parents didn't want guns in the house, because he asked to bring it there, and they said no."
Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook spoke with the parents, Waters said, and read the 20-page document written by the suspect. Waters described the document as a "manifesto" because it detailed his feelings on the Black race, as well as his plans.
"He knew — this is my assumption, but I think it's a fairly good one — he knew that once this ended, we'd end up at his house and we'd see that," Waters said. "He never sent it to anyone."
Sheriff Waters breaks down the timeline of the shooting
Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters gave a detailed timeline of the shooter's actions at a news conference today, starting from when he changed into tactical gear at a nearby university to when he was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
12:48 p.m.: The shooter is seen arriving at Edward Waters University. He parks a gray Honda Element behind the library, where he dons a bulletproof vest. A TikTok video is posted, without a time stamp, of the suspect changing.
12:55 p.m.: University security officers enter the same parking lot as the shooter, who drives away two minutes later.
1:08 p.m.: Security reaches out to a Jacksonville officer to flag a suspicions person report, and authorities start to file a "be on the lookout," or BOLO, report. The suspect is identified as a white male, wearing a gray tank top, black shorts, a bulletproof vest and blue latex gloves.
1:08 p.m.: Video shows the gunman entering the Dollar General parking lot and shooting 11 rounds into a black Kia, killing Angela Carr.
1:09 p.m.: The shooter enters the store and shoots the second victim, Anolt Joseph Laguerre. Multiple people exit through the store's rear door. The suspect also leaves through the rear door but re-enters the Dollar General.
1:13 p.m.: Jarrald De’Shaun Gallion is shot and killed.
1:18 p.m.: The shooter texts his father with instructions to enter his bedroom using a screwdriver. His father finds a suicide note, as well as a last will and testament on his laptop.
1:19 p.m.: Law enforcement enters and officers hear a single gunshot. Authorities believe this is when the suspect killed himself.
HBCU turned away shooter before he opened fire at Dollar General
Edward Waters University, a historically Black college in Jacksonville, said a campus security officer encountered the shooter near a library on campus yesterday before the shooting.
He left without incident, the school said in a statement, after he was turned away for refusing to identify himself.
The university was placed on lockdown until 4:30 p.m.
Three victims identified
The sheriff's office identified the three people killed in yesterday's shooting as: Angela Michelle Carr, 52; Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr., 19; and Jarrald De’Shaun Gallion, 29.
All three victims were Black.
Prayer vigils set for tonight near Dollar General and at Edward Waters University
More prayer vigils are set to take place in Jacksonville tonight.
One of the vigils, at 5:30 p.m., will take place next door to Dollar General, at 2161 Kings Road, according to a flyer a local official shared on X, the site formerly known as Twitter. Mayor Donna Deegan and Sheriff T.K. Waters are scheduled to attend.
Another vigil will take place on the campus of nearby Edward Waters University — a historically Black college — at 7:30 p.m., the university said in a post on X.
In a statement yesterday, university officials said the shooter showed up on campus earlier in the day, "refused to identify themselves and was asked to leave." The school was placed on lockdown when the shooting later unfolded at Dollar General, according to the statement.
Shooter identified as Ryan Palmeter
Authorities identified the shooter as Ryan Christopher Palmeter, 21, of Orange Park, Florida. They also confirmed he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Waters said earlier that Palmeter had had previous interactions with law enforcement, including involvement in a 2016 domestic disturbance call. No one was arrested at the time, and Palmeter's involvement was not clear.
Palmeter was subject to the Baker Act in 2017, a temporary detention for a mental health examination, the sheriff said yesterday. The details of the hold were not released.
"There was no flag that could have come up that would have stopped him from purchasing those guns. ... When a person grabs a hold of a gun with hateful intentions, it's very difficult to stop that from happening," Waters said.
Palmeter's parents did not immediately respond to calls for comment today.
'Feels some days like we're going backwards': Mayor Deegan speaks at prayer service
At a prayer service for the shooting victims today, Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan emotionally urged the community to come together for change.
Deegan said that she takes responsibility for what happens in the city but that she needed the community to stand together. She told those in attendance that it "feels some days like we’re going backwards."
"When we look around us and we see what is happening because of our policies, because we don't see each other, because we don't believe symbols matter," Deegan said, "when we see all of this, we have to understand that common sense tells we have to do something different. Otherwise, it's just the same insanity over and over again."
She noted that some people say the rhetoric doesn't represent what people feel, but she called it "the political game." Those who died in the shooting were "not a game," she said.
Deegan stressed the importance of seeing one another's humanity.
"But today more than anything else, I just want you to know I am here with you and I love you," Deegan said. "And I'm sorry that I wasn't able to do something to stop this. And I will do everything I can in my power to see that ... this does not happen again."
What happened in Jacksonville is part of a pattern
The killings in Jacksonville, Florida, were the latest acts of American gun violence motivated by racist ideology, a national scourge that federal officials have described as one of the most lethal forms of modern domestic terrorism.
The shootings, carried out by a white man in his early 20s who authorities say “hated Black people,” follows deadly hate-motivated shootings at public gathering places, including a synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018, a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, in 2019, and a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, in 2022.
Shooter left hate messages, sheriff says
The shooter, who wore a tactical vest and was armed with an AR-style rifle and a Glock handgun, had left messages for his parents, the media and federal law enforcement officials that detailed racial hatred, Sheriff T.K. Waters said Saturday. The firearms were marked in white pen with swastikas.