Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was heckled and booed as he was introduced to speak at a vigil Sunday for the victims of the Jacksonville shooting at a Dollar General store where a white gunman shot and killed three Black people.
DeSantis, who is running for the GOP presidential nomination, said the state was looking to identify funds to help boost security at the historically Black college, Edward Waters University, where the gunman showed up before the attack but left without incident.
"We are not going to allow these institutions to be targeted by people," DeSantis said.
But as heckling resumed, a local councilwoman told the crowd to put political parties aside, which allowed DeSantis to continue his remarks.
"The fact of the matter is, you know, you had a major league scumbag come from Clay County up here, and what he did, what he did is totally unacceptable in the state of Florida," DeSantis said about the shooter, a white man in his 20s who killed himself after the shootings.
DeSantis added, "We are not going to let people be targeted based on their race. We are going to stand up and we are going to do what we need to do to make sure that evil does not triumph in the state of Florida. And that means we are going to work with Edward Waters so that they have whatever security they need."
The governor vowed not to let anyone target historically Black colleges and universities in Florida and said that anyone who does would be held accountable.
DeSantis's office didn't immediately return a request for comment about the crowd's reaction during his remarks.
As he opened a news conference on Monday morning to provide a briefing about Tropical Storm Idalia, DeSantis announced that the state had identified $1 million in funding for Edward Waters University to increase security on campus.
The shooter, identified as 21-year-old Ryan Palmeter, was armed with an AR-style rifle and Glock handgun and had left messages for his parents, the media and federal law enforcement officials detailing racial hatred, said Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters. He described the shooter as a "maniac" who wanted to kill Black people.
The victims were identified as Angela Michelle Carr, 52; Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr., 19; and Jerrald De’Shaun Gallion, 29.
The Republican governor has faced sharp criticism from the left over his anti-"woke" agenda in education and from gun-control advocates over his efforts to ease gun restrictions in the state, which has seen numerous mass shootings in recent years, including at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in 2018 and the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016.
DeSantis has also received intense criticism from Florida’s Black community and others after the state instituted new public school standards that teach that some Black people benefited from slavery because it taught them useful skills. Early this year, his administration also blocked a new Advanced Placement course on African American studies from being taught in high schools, saying course content violated state law on how race and gender are discussed in classrooms.
CORRECTION (Aug. 28, 2023, 4:33 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misspelled the first name of one of the shooting victims. He was Jerrald De’Shaun Gallion, not Jarrald.