Police seal off the area after a shooting Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, at a Dollar General Store in Jacksonville.Police seal off the area after a shooting Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, at a Dollar General Store in Jacksonville.
Police seal off the area after a shooting Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, at a Dollar General Store in Jacksonville. | Dan Scanlan, WJCT News 89.9

Three dead in racial shooting at Dollar General in Jacksonville

Published on August 26, 2023 at 6:06 pm

Three people were shot to death Saturday in a racially motivated shooting in a Dollar General store on Kings Road in Jacksonville, not far from Edward Waters University.

Sheriff T.K. Waters said the gunman, wearing tactical gear, set out to kill Black people. The suspect killed two Black men and a Black woman and then shot himself to death, Waters said.

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Waters did not identify the shooter. He was described as a white man in his early 20s who lived with his parents in Clay County.

The man left Clay County just after 11:30 a.m., then texted his father to check his computer, where his parents found a manifesto that detailed his hatred for Black people, Waters said. The man left messages for his parents, the news media and the FBI that contained an “ideology of hate,” Waters said.

The shooters’ parents contacted the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, but by then, the shooting had begun.

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The gunman was seen donning a bulletproof vest and a mask at Edward Waters, a historically Black institution about a mile from the Dollar General. He then moved to the discount store with a Glock handgun and an AR-15-style rifle, Waters said. Swastikas were shown etched on one of the weapons.

A photograph shows the guns used in the mass shooting in Jacksonville on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023. Swastikas are visible on one of the guns. | Dan Scanlan, WJCT News 89.9

The gunman began shooting outside the store and then moved inside, Waters said. Police officers approached as he tried to leave, but he retreated and shot himself, the sheriff said.

“This is a dark day in Jacksonville’s history,” Waters said at a news conference. “Any loss of life is tragic. But the hate that motivates the shooter’s killing spree adds an additional layer and heartbreak. There is no place for hate in our community, and this is not Jacksonville.”

The shooting occurred on the fifth anniversary of a mass shooting at Jacksonville Landing that killed three people, including the shooter. It also came as the nation commemorated the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington, when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Mayor Donna Deegan said shootings “should not and must not continue to happen in our community.”

“This type of hate — you see the swastikas on the gun — we must do everything that we can to dissuade this type of hate. I can’t even begin to tell you how frustrating this is for all of us because we have seen it too much.”

The FBI is investigating the shooting as a hate crime, said Sherri Onks, special agent in charge of the agency’s Jacksonville office.

Waters said police believe the shooter acted alone, but an investigation is continuing.

“I want to be very clear that there is absolutely no evidence that the shooter is part of any large group,” Waters said. “We know that he acted completely alone.”

The shooter was involved in a domestic incident in Clay County in 2016 but not arrested, Waters said. In 2017, he was involuntarily committed for a mental health examination under the state’s Baker Act, but the Sheriff’s Office is still investigating the result and how he obtained the weapons.

The Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP issued a statement referring to “the tragic and senseless shooting.”

“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,” the chapter’s president, Isaiah Rumlin, said in the statement. “We are committed to supporting efforts that safeguard our communities from these acts of racial violence. Together, we must work towards a future where hate has no place and where all individuals can live without fear of senseless attacks.”

Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook said her department continues to work with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to investigate what she called a “heinous act.”  

Sheriff T.K. Waters answers questions at a news conference Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023. Mayor Donna Deegan stands at his right. Also present are state Sen. Tracie Davis, state Rep. Angie Nixon, City Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman and Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook. | Dan Scanlan, WJCT News 89.9

“We know that one person’s actions are not a reflection of our community as a whole,” Cook said in a statement. “Please join us in keeping the families of the victims in our prayers.”

Edward Waters issued an alert saying that all campus facilities were secured. Students were kept in their residence halls through the afternoon.

The White House said President Joe Biden was briefed on the Jacksonville shootings as well as other shootings over the last 24 hours across the nation.

Gov. Ron Desantis condemned the shootings and called the gunman a “scumbag” who “took the coward’s way out.”

State Rep. Angie Nixon, who attended the news conference, told Jacksonville Today she is saddened by the loss of life in her district.

“Know that I will continue to be active in working for real solutions around gun reforms to help restrict these types of guns and making sure that our communities are safe,” Nixon said.

City Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman, who was on the scene, expressed sadness and anger.

““I’m tired of seeing all the shootings,” Pittman said. “The people in this community are hurting.”

author image Senior News Editor

Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, where as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service. He has spent more than 40 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida. 

author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 email Dan Scanlan is a veteran journalist with almost 40 years of experience in radio, television, and print reporting. He has worked at various stations in the Northeast and Jacksonville. Prior to joining the WJCT News team, Dan spent 34 years at The Florida Times-Union as a police and current affairs reporter.

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