Eleven minutes after the Jacksonville shooter, Ryan Christopher Palmeter, was spotted in the parking lot of Edward Waters University (EWU), a historically Black institution, the first 911 call was received, as discussed on a call on Monday with Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters to brief national law enforcement and local leaders. But prior to that, he went to a Family Dollar store, a mile away from what appeared to be his main target — the Dollar General where he killed three Black people, and then killed himself. “The suspect worked at a Dollar Tree in the past,” Waters said during the call.
While Palmeter did visit EWU, Waters said it didn’t appear that the HBCU was a part of his attack plan. “I think we are really getting to point we believe Edward Waters University was not [a] primary target, we think that he went there to change clothes, he had a really, really good opportunity — I hate to put it that way but I’m speaking very frankly now — but he had an opportunity to kill two people that were parked right next to him, but he did not take that opportunity to do so,” the sheriff said. However, Sherri Onks, Special Agent in charge of FBI Jacksonville office, said during the call on Monday: “We are trying to determine if that was ever a target.”
“While parked in that parking lot a security vehicle from EWU pulled in but did not get out of the car, just backed up and sat in the same parking lot, they never talked to him, they never engaged him, they sat there for about a few minutes and then he exited the parking lot in his vehicle,” Waters said. “As he was exiting the parking lot you can see one of the security guards getting out of the car but then he got back into his car and started following him slowly, no chase ensued, they just start to follow him slowly.”
Waters gave specific timelines, adding, “At 12:48:33 seconds, that’s when he arrived at EWU behind the library and dons his bulletproof vest. During this time a TikTok video of the subject getting dressed at EWU was transmitted. At 12:55:10, EWU security backs into a parking spot in that same parking lot as the subject. At 12:47:49, the subject left EWU south on pierce street and west on Kings road. I think it’s very important to remember that the access or ability at this point to do a lot of damage, and he did not take that opportunity.”
During the call, Waters ran through a second-by-second account of the events leading up to, during, and after the shooting. In 2017, the sheriff said, “He went for a 72 hour evaluation, but he was not committed to a mental institution.” He added on the call that he believed the shooter was able to legally purchase firearms in April and June this year because the 2017 evaluation did not result in him being committed to a mental institution and because he was 15 at the time.
Per law enforcement reports, Palmeter was the subject of a Baker Act on July 6, 2017, after leaving his residence on a bicycle, refusing to come home, and leaving a suicide letter in his bedroom. Prior to police locating Palmeter, his mother found him unharmed and brought him home. According to the reports, later, while speaking with Clay County authorities, Palmeter said that he could not handle the stress any longer and that he had planned to ride his bicycle towards a Bank of America tower in downtown Jacksonville to jump off of it.
“I want to start by offering my deepest condolences to victims of this despicable attack and to their families and to everyone in the Jacksonville community,” said FBI Director Chris Wray on the afternoon call with partner agencies and community members to provide an update on the investigation and to offer resources from across the government.
“I can only imagine the terrible pain that you and your neighbors are experiencing now and feelings of loss that will stay with you in the days and weeks and months to come.”
He added: “The FBI is committed to thoroughly and aggressively investigating Saturday’s attack because we are not going to tolerate racially motivated violence in our country.” Wray said the investigation to this point, “reveals the perpetrator of Saturday’s attack through his own writings, through the references he made, and through his actions, make clear his intentions, his actions, his motivations, his hate.”
“I want to be crystal clear from everything we know now, this was a targeted attack, a hate crime that was racially motivated,” Wray said. “Heinous crimes like these rip at heart of community directly effected but also understandably cause concern about other threats that may be out there and they bring about anxiety and pain for the entire African American community and for our nation as a whole.”
Palmeter, who was white, 21, shot and killed three people — and then himself — at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville Saturday, Aug. 26, The three victims, all of whom were Black, were identified by authorities as Angela Michelle Carr, 52; Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr., 19; and Jerrald Gallion, 29.
“I am broken. She was my everything even on the worst days,” Carr’s daughter Meghan Griiffin, wrote on Facebook, early Sunday morning. She later added: “This gotta be the Twilight Zone. Ain’t no way he just walked up and point blank killed my mama. This is really hard.”
Gallion’s girlfriend, Elvesha Deloach, who was with him at the time of the shooting, recounted part of the experience in a post, saying: “I had to run from someone shooting at me and seen Dee get shot.” She later added, “God I thank you, I really do. [You] allowed me to come home to my 3 kids. But [why] take Dee from his?”
At a press conference later the night of the incident, Waters said the shooting was “racially motivated” and reviled that Palmeter, who was white, had written several manifestos. One was addressed to his parents, while others were for the news media and federal agents.
“Portions of these manifestos detailed the shooter’s disgusting ideology of hate,” Waters said. “Plainly put, this shooting was racially motivated, and he hated Black people.”
On Saturday, Palmeter had apparently texted his father and told him to check his computer not long after he’d left his home in Orange Park, Florida and headed to Jacksonville. That led Palmeter’s family to notify the authorities, though by that time, Palmeter had already opened fire at the Dollar General. According to authorities, he was wearing a tactical vest and was armed with a handgun and an AR-15 rifle with swastika markings on it.
“The shooter used multiple electronic devices with a significant amount of data,” Onks said during the call on Monday. “So far we have identified multiple writings” that show a “hatred against African Americans and belief in the inferiority of Black people. There’s also evidence he harbored anti LGBTQ+ and anti-Semitic grievances.”
She said the weapons and body armor used in Saturday’s attack “had references to previous mass shootings.”
Prior to heading to to the Dollar General, Palmeter stopped at the nearby campus of Edwards Waters University, a historically Black institution. However, Palmeter was turned away by an on-campus security officer after he refused to identify himself.
On Monday’s call, Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice, said it had opened a civil rights investigation. “We know the shooter was on the campus on Edward Water’s University an HBCU. While the shooter’s attack didn’t occur there, we are attuned to threats HBCUs face.”
“I join my colleagues in grieving the victims of this senseless attack on the Black community,” Clarke said. “I grieve with you as parent as a Black woman and as chief civil rights officer at the Department of Justice.”
A vigil for the three victims was held Sunday, Aug. 27, in Jacksonville, and featured an appearance from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Several people in the crowd booed DeSantis, with one person shouting, “Your policies caused this!” Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman was forced to step in and say, “It ain’t about parties today. A bullet don’t know a party.”