Sheriff provides first details of how a white man fatally shot three black people in a Florida store


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — A 21-year-old white man fatally shot three black men in Florida with guns he legally purchased, despite once being admitted for an involuntary psychiatric evaluation, the local sheriff said Sunday.

Ryan Palmer shot and killed one of his victims while she was sitting in her car outside a Jacksonville store; fired another shot shortly after Palmer entered the store; and fired three minutes later, the Jacksonville sheriff said.

Palmer used an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and a Glock handgun in the shooting, Sheriff TK Waters said during a news conference.

Palmer had legally acquired his guns in recent months, despite undergoing an involuntary psychiatric evaluation in 2017. Palmer killed himself after killing the three victims.

Waters identified those killed in Saturday’s attack on a Dollar General as Angela Michelle Carr, 52, who was shot in her car; Store worker AJ Laguerre, 19, who was shot trying to escape; and customer Jerrald Gallion, 29, who was shot while entering the store, which is in a predominantly black neighborhood.

Palmer, who lived with his parents in neighboring Clay County, texted his father during the shooting, urging him to break into his room, Waters said. The father then found a suicide note, a will and writings that Waters called racist.

Waters said the guns were purchased in April and June, with the dealers following all laws and procedures, including background checks. Since Palmer was released following his psychiatric evaluation, this would not have shown up on his background checks.

“Therein lies the difficulty. When a person with hateful intentions picks up a gun, it’s very difficult to stop it,” the sheriff said.

Just before 1 p.m. Saturday, Palmer parked at Edward Waters University, a historically black college less than a mile from Dollar General. The sheriff said he posted a TikTok video of him donning a bulletproof vest and gloves. Around this time, a University security guard spotted Palmer and parked near him. He said Palmer appeared to have had no intention of attacking the school.

“He had the opportunity to use violence against (Edward Waters) and didn’t do it. There were people in close proximity,” the sheriff said.

Palmer pulled away and the security guard pulled over a Jacksonville sheriff’s officer who was about to send a warning to other officers when the store shooting began.

The sheriff said Palmer, who had his vest covered with a shirt, gloves and a mask, first stopped in front of Carr’s vehicle and fired 11 shots through her windshield with his rifle, killing her.

He entered the store, turned right and shot Laguerre, video footage. Scores of people escaped through the back door, the sheriff said. He gave chase and fired, but missed his target. He went back into the store and found Gallion entering the front door with his girlfriend. He fatally shot Gallion.

He then chased a woman through the store and fired, but missed his target.

About a minute later, Palmer walked into the store’s office and texted his father, urging him to break into his room with a screwdriver. There his father found a suicide note and a will. Writings that the sheriff described as racist and addressed to his family, federal law enforcement, and the media were found on his computer.

“The manifesto is quite frankly a madman’s diary,” Waters said. “He was just completely irrational. But with irrational thoughts, he knew what he was doing. He was 100% clear.”

Eleven minutes into the shooting, Palmer killed himself as police entered the store.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Sunday that the Justice Department was “investigating this attack as a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism.”

“No person in this country should have to live in fear of hateful violence, and no family should have to mourn the loss of a loved one through bigotry and hatred,” he said.

Early Sunday, the pastor of a church near the scene of the shooting urged parishioners to follow Jesus Christ’s example and not let their sadness turn to anger.

The latest in a long history of racist killings in the US took place at the center of services at St. Paul AME Church, about three miles from the scene. Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan wept during the service while other attendees focused on Florida’s political rhetoric and said she fueled such racist attacks.

“Our hearts are broken,” Rev. Willie Barnes said in front of about 100 parishioners. “If any of you are anything like me, I fight not to be angry.”

Deegan cried as she addressed the community.

“I’ve heard some people say that the rhetoric that we hear doesn’t really reflect what’s in people’s hearts, it just reflects the game. It’s just a political game,” Deegan said. “These three people who lost their lives, it’s not a game.”

The choir sang “Amazing Grace” before the clergy offered prayers for the victims’ families and the wider community. From the pews, the faithful answered with bowed heads with “Amen”.

Elected officials said racist attacks like Saturday’s were encouraged by political rhetoric aimed at “vigilance” and actions by the Republican-led state government led by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, including one aimed at teaching black history in Florida aimed.

“We need to be clear that it wasn’t just racially motivated, it was racial violence perpetuated through rhetoric and policies designed to attack black people,” said state assemblyman Angie Nixon, a Democrat Jacksonville.

“We cannot stand by and watch as our history is erased, as our lives are devalued, as wakefulness is attacked,” Nixon said. “Because to be clear, that’s red meat for a voter base.”

DeSantis, who returned to Florida on Sunday from Iowa where he was running for the Republican presidential nomination, said Florida residents “condemn the horrific, racially motivated murders committed by a crazed scumbag.”

“The use of violence of this kind is unacceptable and there is no place in the state of Florida to target people because of their race,” DeSantis said at a news conference in Tallahassee. He said he had promised the university’s president that the state would ensure that the school had adequate security.

Rudolph McKissick, a national board member of Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, a Baptist bishop and senior pastor at Bethel Church in Jacksonville, was in town Saturday when the shooting took place in the historically black New Town neighborhood

“No one is having honest, open conversations about the existence of racism,” McKissick said.

Previous shootings against black Americans counted one after the other Buffalo, New York, Supermarket in 2022 and a historic African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolinain 2015.

The Buffalo shooting, which killed 10 people, is considered one of the deadliest targeted attacks by a lone white gunman on black people in US history. The shooter was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The Jacksonville shooting came a day before the 63rd anniversary of the city’s infamous “Ax Handle Saturday,” when 200 members of the Ku Klux Klan attacked black protesters who were staging a peaceful sit-in protesting the Jim Crow laws, which barred them from white shops and restaurants.

The police stood by until a black street gang arrived to fight the Klansmen, who were armed with clubs and ax handles. Only blacks were arrested.

Contributing to this report were AP writers John Raoux in Jacksonville, Terry Spencer in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Trisha Ahmed in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Mike Balsamo in Washington.

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