A federal hate crime investigation is underway following a deadly shooting at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida. The incident claimed the lives of Angela Michelle Carr, 52, Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr., 19, and Jerrald Gallion, 29. The shooter, identified as 21-year-old Ryan Christopher Palmeter, targeted the victims based on their race, leaving behind racist writings and using racial slurs before taking his own life.
The gunman, armed with an AR-15-style rifle and a handgun, legally purchased both weapons. The Justice Department has now classified the shooting as a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism.
The shooter’s actions are part of a disturbing trend of targeted violence against Black individuals, including previous incidents at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and a historically Black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Prior to the attack, the shooter visited Edward Waters University, a predominantly Black institution, where he put on a bulletproof vest. Campus security became aware of his presence and confronted him, prompting him to leave. The university’s swift response likely saved numerous lives.
The gunman proceeded to the Dollar General store, where he shot and killed Carr and Laguerre. Gallion entered the store with his girlfriend shortly after and was also fatally shot. The shooter then chased after another person but did not hit them.
Authorities discovered a will and a suicide note in the shooter’s room, which he texted to his father shortly before taking his own life. Officers entered the store and heard a single gunshot, presumed to be the moment the gunman killed himself.
Florida State Sen. Tracie Davis expressed anger and sadness over the racially motivated attack, emphasizing the need to address ongoing racism in society.
Dollar General identified Laguerre as an employee and extended condolences to the victims’ families, denouncing hate and violence.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced a $1 million grant to Edward Waters University to enhance security measures in the aftermath of the tragedy.
The suspect’s family contacted the Clay County Sheriff’s Office after the incident, prompting the investigation.
The investigation into this hate crime continues as authorities work to understand the full extent of the shooter’s motives and any potential accomplices.