Three people were gunned down at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday afternoon in what police say was a racist rampage targeting Black people.
“Plainly put, this shooting was racially motivated and he hated Black people,” Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters told reporters at a press conference.
The suspect, who has not yet been named, was described as a white man in his mid-20s armed with an AR-style rifle and handgun, one of which was adorned with a swastika. After killing the victims, the suspect turned a gun on himself.
All three victims were Black. Although authorities are not identifying the deceased, Waters said two of the victims were male and one was female.
Sherri E. Onks, the Special Agent in Charge of the Jacksonville FBI Field Office, confirmed at the conference that the incident will be investigated as a hate crime and a federal civil rights investigation has been opened.
Waters said the suspect left Clay County headed to Jacksonville before noon on Saturday and at 1:18 p.m., he texted his father telling him to check his computer. The alleged shooter’s parents later called the Clay County Sheriff’s Office to notify them that their son had authored several manifestos—one to his parents, one to the media, and one to federal agents, Waters added.
Mayor Donna Deegan noted that the shooting came on the 5-year anniversary of a different mass shooting that occurred at the Jacksonville Landing in 2018 and how the community “has suffered again and again.” She said the suspect mentioned the anniversary in one of his manifestos and “perhaps chose this date in alignment with that.”
The Clay County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast on Saturday.
“Portions of these manifestos detail the shooter’s disgusting ideology of hate,” Waters said. “This is a dark day in Jacksonville’s history. Any loss of life is tragic, but the hate that motivated the shooter’s killing spree adds an additional layer of heartbreak.”
There is no evidence that the suspect is part of any larger group, and Waters said police know he acted alone.
Sources cited by local outlet News 4 Jax said the suspect was spotted at Edward Waters University, a historically Black college, putting on a ballistics vest just prior to the shooting. Waters confirmed the suspect went to the university before going to Dollar General; he left when a security officer approached and asked him for identification.
Police said it’s not clear if he initially intended to target the university.
“I can’t tell you what his mindset was while he was there, but he did go there,” Waters said.
“We are heartbroken by the senseless act of violence that occurred at our Kings Road store in Jacksonville, Florida today,” a Dollar General spokesperson told The Daily Beast in a statement. “At this time, supporting our Jacksonville employees and the DG family impacted by this tragedy is a top priority as we work closely with law enforcement.”
The alleged shooter’s history involves a domestic incident that did not result in arrest in 2016 and an emergency 72-hour mental health admissions under the Baker Act in 2017, police said.
“This was quite frankly a maniac who decided he wanted to take lives,” Waters said. “He targeted a certain group of people, and that’s Black people. That’s what he said he wanted to kill. That’s very clear. I don’t know that the targets were specific, but I know that any member of that race at that time was in danger.”