The man who killed three Black people in a racially motivated shooting Saturday at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville may have initially targeted another store, the sheriff says.
Ryan Christopher Palmeter, 21, of Orange Park, parked outside a Family Dollar store at Kings Road and Myrtle Avenue and even bought some items, but nothing happened there with a security guard patrolling the lot.
“When I am looking at it, it doesn’t appear to me that he wanted to face anyone that may cause him any issues,” Sheriff T.K. Waters said during a news conference Monday. “So it looks like he wanted to take action at Family Dollar. That’s what it looks like. And he did not because I think he got impatient and tired of waiting.”
Palmeter then drove to the Dollar General store just over a mile away and began a rampage that left two men and a woman dead. He shot himself to death as police closed in.
Waters said writings that Palmeter left for police, federal authorities and the media appear to show he acted alone, intent on killing Black people.
“He didn’t like anyone,” Waters said. “He may say he’s all right with someone, then later on he will say something disparaging about them or that group of people. He didn’t like government. He didn’t like the left or right. He didn’t like anything.”
During the briefing, Waters gave a more precise timeline of what Palmeter did Saturday before shooting Angela Michelle Carr, 52; store employee A.J. Laguerre, 19; and customer Jerrald Gallion, 29, at the Dollar General.
Palmeter had worked at a Dollar Tree store in the Oakleaf area in 2021 and 2022, Waters said.
On Saturday, he drove from Clay County to Edward Waters University in Jacksonville just after 11:30 a.m. Security video from the parking lot of Salter Hall shows Palmeter putting on a tactical vest behind his Honda, then getting back into his car just before one of the university’s private security officers drove into the parking lot.
University President A. Zachary Faison said Monday that a handful of students had approached Antonio Bailey, a lieutenant with Protective Enterprises Public Safety, to reveal a possible threat.
Bailey said students notified him that a man was donning gloves, a tactical vest and a mask on an afternoon when temperatures were in the mid-90s and the heat index was higher.
“For you to have on a tactical vest, gloves and a mask, you know, the question was raised: What are you doing here?” Bailey said Monday. “So, I just wanted to make sure that everyone was safe and that I got the license plate to where, (if) anything came about then I can provide that.”
Bailey said he observed the man drive along Kings Road, turn right onto Spires Avenue, which is behind the west end zone at the Nathaniel Glover Community Field and Stadium. Bailey said the man then drove right onto 9th Street. Later, he observed the vehicle travel onto Fairfax Street away from campus.
That was when Bailey flagged down a member of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to alert the officer to the threat.
“President Faison said multiple times and occasions here today that I’m a hero. It was the act of the students who came forth as to why I was able to do what I did,” Bailey said. “I’m no hero. This is a daily activity that we do on a daily basis to protect our students.”
Bailey has worked for the Jacksonville-based private security firm for 18 months. CEO Marcus Williams said the university contracted the company in March 2022. Williams said the organization has 17 officers who provide security for the Edward Waters campus.
Sheriff Waters said he does not believe Edward Waters University was ever a target.
“You can see a red vehicle sitting next to his vehicle. Two young African American males got in that vehicle as he was sitting there,” Waters said. “So it gives me some comfort knowing, or believing, that based on what we saw after stopping in the Family Dollar, and working at a Dollar Tree previously, then him going to the Dollar General — that was his target the entire time.”
Palmeter left Edward Waters and then parked at the Family Dollar store on Myrtle Avenue. He got out of his silver Honda and walked inside, captured on a security camera, then left a few minutes later with items in a bag. Palmeter then sat in his car as a private security officer drove through the Family Dollar parking lot.
After sitting there for a few minutes, Palmeter drove away and apparently headed to Dollar General, with the security guard still in the lot, security video shows.
At Dollar General, Palmeter shot one woman as she sat in a car in the parking lot, then entered the store and killed the two men. He carried an AR-15-style rifle and a Glock handgun, Waters said. Swastikas were etched on the rifle.
The sheriff showed new security video from inside the store of SWAT officers running in after the three victims had been shot. In one, the officers are seen reacting to a gunshot.
“Once those officers got inside. That’s when that suspect decided to kill himself,” Waters said.