‘Multiple’ people killed, including gunman, in Jacksonville dollar store shooting

Residents gather for a prayer near the scene of a mass shooting at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Fla., on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023.

John Raoux/AP

John Raoux/AP

A gunman who opened fire at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Fla., on Saturday afternoon, killed three people before taking his own life, authorities said.

The shooter, whose name has not yet been released, was described by Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters as a white male in his early 20s who left behind “manifestos.”

“Plainly put, this shooting was racially motivated and he hated Black people,” Waters said during a press conference on Saturday evening, adding that the hate at the heart of the writings “adds an additional layer of heartbreak to this tragedy.”

The victims — two males and one female — have not been identified, but Waters confirmed that all were Black. No others were injured in the gunfire, he said.

Waters said the gunman was believed to have resided in Clay County, and drove about 40 miles north to Jacksonville on Saturday.

Before he approached the Dollar General, the gunman attempted to drive through Edward Waters University, a nearby historically Black university. Campus security confronted the gunman and escorted him out of school grounds, according to A. Zachary Faison Jr., the school’s president.

Edward Waters and several other Black colleges received anonymous bomb threats on the first day of Black History Month last year.

“This is not by happenstance. We know that these are targeted attacks,” Faison said.

The gunman donned a tactical vest and used an assault-style rifle and a handgun to carry out the attack on the store. Photos of the weapons shared during a press conference showed swastikas painted on one side of the rifle.

Waters said the gunman texted his father ahead of the shooting to share the location of three manifesto documents — one addressed to his parents, one to the media and a third to federal agents. The family called the local sheriff’s office roughly 30 minutes later, but by that time, the attack had already started.

The gunman acted alone, Waters said, adding, “there is no evidence the shooter was part of a large group.” FBI agents are on scene and have opened a federal civil rights investigation, with plans to pursue the incident as a hate crime.

Police said the shooter was involved in a 2016 domestic call, but was not arrested, and that the the Baker Act was invoked against him in 2017. The Florida act allows individuals to be involuntarily taken to a receiving facility to be treated for mental illness.

Local news outlets reported a heavy police presence at the store along Kings Road in the Northwest neighborhood of College Gardens, starting around 1 p.m. on Saturday. Students at Edward Waters University were told to remain inside their residence halls until the scene could be cleared.

Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan told local TV station News4JAX that the shooter had barricaded himself in the store.

“This is a community that has suffered again and again. So many times, this is where we end up,” Deegan told reporters at the press conference. “This was a hate-filled crime. We shouldn’t have that kind of hate in Jacksonville.”

Saturday’s shooting unfolded five years to the day after a gunman opened fire at a Jacksonville gaming tournament, killing two people and injuring 11 others before taking his own life.

It also took place on the same day as thousands gathered in Washington, D.C., to renew a push for racial justice, 60 years after Martin Luther King Jr. led his March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Dozens of high-profile speakers mentioned a rise in hate crimes as evidence that King’s dream was in jeopardy.

Isaiah Rumlin, the president of the Jacksonville branch of the NAACP, on Saturday called for improved safety measures to protect Black communities from acts of racial violence.

“It is deeply disheartening that our black communities live in constant fear of being targeted based on the color of their skin, unable to shop at their local store without the threat of violence,” Rumlin said in a statement.

He urged the legislature to tighten the state’s permitless carry law, which allows people to legally carry a concealed firearm without mandatory training, licensing fees and background checks.

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