Three people were killed in a racially motivated attack Saturday after a gunman attacked black people at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida, in one of several shootings over the weekend that again shocked Americans in places audiences, from shops to football matches and parades.
“This shooting was racially motivated and I hated black people,” said Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters at a press conference on Saturday afternoon.
Waters said the shooter, whom he described as a white man in his 20s, shot and killed himself after the attack. The suspect left behind what the sheriff described as three manifestos outlining his “disgusting hateful ideology” and the motive for the attack.
The three victims, two men and one woman, were black.
Authorities respond to the scene of a shooting at a Dollar General store, Saturday, August 26, 2023, in Jacksonville, Florida. Credit: John Raoux/AP
Waters said the shooter lived in Clay County, Florida, south of Jacksonville, with his parents. Jacksonville is located in northeast Florida, about 35 miles south of the Georgia border.
Waters said the shooter told his father via text message to “check his computer.” The father found documents described by Waters as manifestos and called authorities.
However, Waters said that when authorities were alerted to the manifests, the young man had already launched the attack on the Dollar General.
The shooting began shortly after 1 p.m. ET, blocks from Edward Waters University, a historically black school where students living on campus were told to stay in their residence halls during the incident. Waters said the gunman was seen on the school campus before heading to the Dollar General. No one was injured on campus.
“He took that opportunity to put his bulletproof vest outside and his mask outside and then head to the store where he committed this horrible act,” Waters told CNN’s Jim Acosta.
Residents gather to pray near the scene of a shooting at a Dollar General store, Saturday, August 26, 2023, in Jacksonville, Florida. Credit: John Raoux/AP
Edward Waters University officials said the attacker was denied entry to his campus after he refused to identify himself.
“The individual returned to his car and left campus without incident. The encounter was reported to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office by EWU security,” according to a university news release.
Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan said the shooter barricaded himself inside the store after the crime. It is unknown at this time if the victims were shot inside or outside the store.
The sheriff said investigators believe the shooter acted alone and wore a tactical vest and mask during the attack. He was armed with an AR-15 style rifle and a pistol.
Waters showed photographs of the weapons during a press conference, which showed swastikas drawn on one of the weapons in white paint.
“We have opened a federal civil rights investigation and will pursue this incident as a hate crime,” said Sherri Onks, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Jacksonville office.
The attacker was previously evaluated for a mental health crisis
Authorities have yet to officially identify the suspect, but have been in contact with his parents, according to Waters.
The young man was the subject of a police call in 2017 under the Baker Act, which allows people to be involuntarily detained and subject to examination for up to 72 hours during a mental health crisis.
Waters did not provide details about what led to the calling of the Baker Act in that case. He said that normally a person who has been detained under the Baker Act is not eligible to purchase firearms.
According to authorities, the attacker did not appear to know the victims.
Deegan noted that the shooter’s writings indicated that he was aware of a mass shooting at a Jacksonville gambling event where two people were killed exactly five years earlier, and that he may have chosen the date of his attack to coincide with that anniversary. Two people were killed in that shootout.
The sheriff said those writings will be made public at some point. “I strongly believe in transparency,” he stated.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis condemned the shooting Saturday, calling the shooter “trash” while offering his condolences to the victims and their families.
“He was targeting people based on their race. That is totally unacceptable. This guy killed himself instead of coping with the situation and accepting responsibility for his actions, p