Guard at College Turned Away Gunman Before Store Shooting

Florida officials decry hateful rhetoric as DeSantis denounces slayings
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 27, 2023 4:40 PM CDT
Store Gunman First Tried to Get Onto College Campus
Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan speaks during a service Sunday in Jacksonville.   (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Before a white gunman opened fire Saturday at a Dollar General store in Florida, killing three Black people, he tried to go on campus at a historically Black college nearby. A security officer turned the man away when he refused to identify himself, Edward Waters University said in a statement. The man returned to his car and left, and the school reported him to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, CNN reports. Sheriff TK Waters said the 21-year-old gunman then put on a bulletproof vest and a mask and drove to the Dollar General, less than a mile away, to commit what the sheriff called a racially motivated attack. He might have gone to the college looking for a place to change, Waters said, per the Washington Post.

Officials identified the victims as Angela Michelle Carr, 52, who was shot in her car; AJ Laguerre, 19, a store employee who was shot as he tried to get away; and Jerrald Gallion, 29, a customer who was shot walking into the store, per the AP. The gunman was identified as Ryan Palmeter. He did not appear to know the people he killed and seems to have acted alone, Waters said. Officials showed reporters photos of the guns used, one of which had swastikas drawn on it. He had no criminal record and bought the guns legally, the sheriff said. "There is nothing we could have done to stop him from owning a rifle or a handgun," Waters said. "There were no red flags." The gunman also killed himself Saturday.

"Jacksonville is bleeding. We're hurting," said Latasha Hobbs, whose son died in gun violence. "People are suffering. This has to stop," she added, per WJXT. About three miles from the stores, congregants and elected officials gathered for a service Sunday at St. Paul AME Church. "Our hearts are broken," the Rev. Willie Barnes said. "If any of you are like me, I'm fighting trying to not be angry." Officials said hateful political rhetoric has contributed to such hate crimes. "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," said Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan, who wept as she spoke. "Those three people who lost their lives, that's not a game."

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"It was not just racially motivated, it was racist violence that has been perpetuated by rhetoric and policies designed to attack Black people, period," Democratic state Rep. Angie Nixon told the congregation. "We cannot sit idly by as our history is being erased, as our lives are being devalued," Nixon added, per the AP. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose policies have inspired new state guidelines requiring students be taught that some Black people benefited from their enslavement, denounced the slayings Sunday. "Perpetrating violence of this kind is unacceptable, and targeting people due to their race has no place in the state of Florida," the governor said in a press conference in Tallahassee. (More mass shootings stories.)

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