‘Racially motivated’ shooting in Jacksonville, Florida, leaves 3 dead, says sheriff

Shooter ‘hated Black people,’ US authorities say after attack at Dollar General shop; reports say he left behind hate-filled manifesto, carried handgun emblazoned with swastikas

This video grab shows a press conference screen displaying a handgun found on the scene of a shooting in Jacksonville, Florida, August 26, 2023. (AFP)
This video grab shows a press conference screen displaying a handgun found on the scene of a shooting in Jacksonville, Florida, August 26, 2023. (AFP)

JACKSONVILLE, Florida — Multiple people were fatally shot Saturday inside a Jacksonville, Florida, Dollar General store, the US city’s mayor told a television station. A city council member said the shooter was dead.

The Jacksonville, Florida, sheriff said that a racially motivated shooter fatally shot three people inside a Dollar General Store on Saturday before killing himself.

“Plainly put, this shooting was racially motivated and he hated Black people,” Sheriff T.K. Waters said at a news conference Sunday.

The shooter left a hate-filled manifesto, and carried an “AR style rifle” and a handgun with Nazi swastikas on it, according to local reporters.

The shooter sent written statements to federal law enforcement and at least one media outlet shortly before the attack with evidence suggesting the killings were intended to mark the fifth anniversary of the murder of two people during a video game tournament in Jacksonville by a shooter, 24-year-old David Katz, a Jewish man from Baltimore, Maryland, who also killed himself.

Waters said the Sunday’s gunman was wearing a bullet-resistant vest. He said the shooter had once been involved in a 2016 domestic violence incident and was once involuntarily committed to a mental hospital for examination. He did not provide further details on those incidents.

Jacksonville police officers block the perimeter of the scene of a mass shooting, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP/John Raoux)

The shooter had driven to Jacksonville from neighboring Clay County, where he lived with his parents, the sheriff said. That house was being searched late Saturday.

Shortly before the attack, the shooter sent his father a text message telling him to check his computer. The father found the writings and the family notified 911, but the shooting had already begun, Sheriff Waters said.

“This is a dark day in Jacksonville’s history. There is no place for hate in this community,” the sheriff said. “I am sickened by this cowardly shooter’s personal ideology.” He said the investigation will continue. The FBI was helping the sheriff’s office and said it had opened a hate crime investigation.

“One shooting is too much but these mass shootings are really hard to take,” Mayor Donna Deegan told local news channel WJXT, saying there were a “number of fatalities” but did not specify how many.

The broadcaster reported that the gunman fired at cars passing by a Dollar General discount store. He then reportedly barricaded himself inside.

Numerous police officers were in the area near Edward Waters University, a small historically Black university.

“This is unacceptable,” Deegan told the station.

Jacksonville City Council member Ju’Coby Pittman told the station the shooter was dead. “My heart is heavy. I am tired of all of the shootings,” she said.

Authorities respond to the scene of a mass shooting at a Dollar General store, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP/John Raoux)

Edward Waters University students were being kept in their dorms, the school said in a statement. No students or faculty are believed to be involved, the school said.

The university said that the shooter had been on campus earlier that day, though no one was harmed.

“An on-campus Edward Waters University security officer engaged an unidentified male in the vicinity of the Centennial Library on campus,” it said. “The individual refused to identify themselves and was asked to leave.”

The university added that the individual — later identified as the shooter — left “without incident.”

Sheriff Waters said the man was spotted putting on his vest and mask before leaving. He said it is unknown if he had originally planned to attack the school.

“I can’t tell you what his mindset was while he was there, but he did go there,” the sheriff said.

There was no evidence the shooter was part of a larger group, officials said.

“We know that he acted completely alone,” Waters said.

Penny Jones told The Associated Press that she worked at the store until a few months ago. She lives a few blocks away in the predominantly Black neighborhood.

“I’m just waiting to hear about my co-workers that I used to work with,” Jones said. “I don’t know if it’s safe to move about the neighborhood.”

Jones added that she was “feeling awkward, scared.”

“I don’t want to leave my house. I’m thinking, do I want to go back to the store? Is this going to start happening more frequently? I don’t know what the cause of it is. I’m confused. It’s a lot of different feelings going on right now,” she said Saturday afternoon.

Law enforcement vehicles line the street as officials investigate the scene of a mass shooting at a Dollar General store, in Jacksonville, Florida, August 26, 2023. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis decried the “horrific” shooting and called the gunman a “scumbag.”

“He was targeting people based on their race, that is totally unacceptable,” said DeSantis, who is vying to be the Republican Party’s presidential candidate for 2024.

“This guy killed himself rather than face the music and accept responsibility for his actions and so he took the coward’s way out.”

Earlier Sunday, at least seven people were hospitalized after a mass shooting at a Caribbean festival in the northeast city of Boston, police there said.

Meanwhile, two women were shot at a baseball game in Chicago the night before, authorities in the Midwestern city said.

And a 16-year-old was shot dead and four others injured after an argument erupted at a high school football game in Oklahoma, local police said.

Mass shootings have become disturbingly common across the United States, with easy access to firearms in most states and more guns in the country than citizens.

In July, the United States surpassed 400 mass shootings for the year so far, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit that tracks rampant gun violence across the country. The figure puts the US on track for a record-breaking year in gun violence.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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