A white man armed with an assault-style rifle and a handgun killed three Black people at a store in Jacksonville, Florida, before shooting himself, in what local law enforcement officials in the US state described as a racially motivated crime.
According to the sheriff’s office in Jacksonville, the man, who was in his 20s but has not yet been named, was wearing body armour when he entered the Dollar General outlet on Saturday and targeted three Black customers.
Here’s what we know about the shooting so far:
What happened and when?
The assailant entered the store wearing a tactical vest, armed with an AR-style rifle and a handgun. He shot dead three Black people, two men and a woman, before taking his own life after a standoff with police, authorities said.
“He targeted a certain group of people and that’s Black people. That’s what he said he wanted to kill. And that’s very clear,” Jacksonville Sheriff TK Waters told a news conference.
The shooter had driven to Jacksonville from neighbouring Clay County, where he lived with his parents, the sheriff said.
The FBI will investigate the shooting as a hate crime, said Sherri Onks, the bureau’s special agent for Jacksonville.
“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.”
#JSO Sheriff T.K. Waters, along with Mayor Deegan and other LEO partners and city leaders gathered today to speak about a shooting involving three victims – all of which died. The suspect, after being pinned down by officers, is believed to have taken his own life. pic.twitter.com/geDFAhtibl
— Jax Sheriff’s Office (@JSOPIO) August 26, 2023
Where did the shooting take place?
The shooting took place at a Dollar General discount store in the northeastern city of Jacksonville in Florida. The store is located near Edward Waters University, a historically Black college in the southern US state.
The university said in a statement 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.”
🚨 EWU CAMPUS SAFETY ALERT 🚨
Stay Informed. Sign-up for Tiger Alerts at: https://t.co/qwxNPDu5II pic.twitter.com/OTgB29UaNA
— Edward Waters University (@ewctigers) August 26, 2023
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.
Who is the suspect?
The shooter has not been identified so far but police officials have described him as a masked white man in his 20s driven by racial hatred. Police officials said the gunman acted alone and “there is absolutely no evidence the shooter is part of any larger group”.
Manifestos discovered by the gunman’s family shortly before the attack “detail the shooter’s disgusting ideology of hate”, Waters said, and at least one of the guns had hand-drawn swastikas on it – a symbol associated with white supremacists.
His writings have led investigators to believe that he committed the shooting because it was the fifth anniversary of another attack in Jacksonville during which a gunman killed two people at a video game tournament in Jacksonville.
Waters 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.
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.
Racism is not mere dislike.
Racism is driven by an ideology of supremacy + power (being in it, fear of losing it, and by a grotesque desire for more of it).
So if a person is indoctrinated to believe that their race should always be in power, but is losing it… #Jacksonville
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) August 27, 2023
Who are the victims?
Officials haven’t released the names of the victims, but have identified them as two Black men and one Black woman who were customers at the Dollar General store.
What have officials said?
Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan has said she is “heartbroken.”
“This is a community that has suffered again and again. So many times this is where we end up,” Deegan said. “This is something that should not and must not continue to happen in our community.”
Our hearts are breaking for our neighbors who were lost in a hate-filled tragedy today. We must heal our nation and our community to bring an end to racially motivated gun violence and mass shootings. Please pray for the victims, their families, and Jacksonville. https://t.co/YvAvjSb3za
— Mayor Donna Deegan (@MayorDeegan) August 27, 2023
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, after speaking by phone with the sheriff, called the shooter a “scumbag” and denounced his racist motivation.
“This guy killed himself rather than face the music and accept responsibility for his actions. He took the coward’s way out,” said DeSantis, who was in Iowa campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination.
Both President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland were briefed on the shooting, officials said.