A white gunman fatally shot three Black people in what was a hate-motivated shooting at a Dollar General retailer in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday afternoon, Sheriff T.K. Waters said.
"This shooting was racially motivated, and he hated Black people," the sheriff said at a news conference. "He wanted to kill n------. "That's the one and only time I'll use that word," Waters said, referring to the racial slur.
The shooter, who wore a tactical vest and was armed with an AR-style rifle and Glock handgun, had left messages for his parents, the media and federal law enforcement officials detailing racial hatred, Waters said. The firearms were marked in white pen with swastikas.
“This was, quite frankly, a maniac who decided he wanted to take lives,” Waters said. “He targeted a certain group a people, and that’s Black people, that’s what he said he wanted to kill. And that’s very clear.”
“Any member of that race at that time was in danger — of the Black race,” he added.
The FBI has opened a federal civil rights investigation and is investigating the shooting as a hate crime.
The shooting came two days before the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and on the same day thousands celebrated the anniversary in a march in the nation's capital.
It also came five years to the date of a mass shooting at a video gaming event in Jacksonville.
Law enforcement officials have not identified the victims — two males and one female — or the shooter, who was in his early 20s.
The "AR-style" rifle, or a long gun in the style of the AR-15, is commonly used in mass shootings.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who's running for the GOP presidential nomination and was campaigning in Iowa, said, “This shooting, based on the manifesto that they discovered from the scumbag that did this, was racially motivated."
"This guy killed himself rather than face the music and accept responsibility for his actions," he said, adding condolences to the families who lost loved ones. “And so he took the coward’s way out. But we condemn what happened in the strongest possible terms.”
The shooter was believed to live in nearby Clay County with his parents, Waters said, and has had previous interactions with law enforcement.
In 2016, he was involved in a call about a domestic disturbance, which resulted in no arrests. In 2017, he was subject to the Baker Act, which provides "emergency services and temporary detention for up to 72 hours for mental health examination" if, among other criteria, there's reason to believe a person is mentally ill and because of mental illness "has refused voluntary examination."
The shooter left Clay County at 11:39 a.m. and headed to Jacksonville. At 1:18 p.m. he texted his father and told him to look on his computer, Waters said.
At 1:53 p.m. the shooter's family called the Clay County Sheriff's Office — but by that time, Waters said, he had already begun shooting at the Dollar General store on Kings Road and Canal Street.
The three messages the shooter left, Waters said, detailed "a disgusting ideology of hate."
Waters said there was no evidence the shooter was part of a group and that he acted alone.
"We are heartbroken by the senseless act of violence that occurred at our Kings Road store in Jacksonville, Florida, today," Dollar General said. "At this time, supporting our Jacksonville employees and the DG family impacted by this tragedy is a top priority as we work closely with law enforcement."
Nearby Edward Waters University, a historically Black college, issued a "stay in place" order for the campus Saturday and said authorities had checked all campus facilities.
The school said there was no preliminary indication the shooting involved students, faculty or staff.