Shortly after 1pm on Saturday, a man entered the store armed with an AR-style rifle, Glock handgun and “outfitted with a tactical vest,” Jacksonville Sheriff TK Waters said at a press conference.
The three victims - two men and one woman - were Black. They were identified on Sunday as Angela Michelle Carr, 52, Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr, 19, and Jarrald De’Shaun Gallion, 29.
The gunman was also identified as 21-year-old Ryan Palmeter, who “hated Black people”, the sheriff said. After the shootings, he turned the gun on himself and took his own life.
“This is a dark day in Jacksonville’s history. There is no place for hate in this community,” the sheriff said. “I am sickened by this cowardly shooter’s personal ideology.”
Timeline of the shooting
The gunman left his parents’ house in Clay County, Florida and headed to Jacksonville around 11.40am on Saturday, law enforcement said.
He first went to the campus of Edward Waters University, a historically Black college, where he refused to identify himself to a security guard and was told to leave the campus.
“The individual returned to their car and left campus without incident. The encounter was reported to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office by EWU security,” the school said in a press release.
Shortly after 1pm, the gunman’s father received a text from his son, telling him to check his computer. His parents then found “several manifestoes” written by the gunman, intended for his parents, law enforcement, and the media. The sheriff called the writing, “the diary of a madman” on Sunday.
Just before 2pm, his father called the Clay County Sheriff’s office, according to Sheriff Waters, but “by that time, [the shooter] had begun his shooting spree inside the Dollar General”.
What weapons were used?
The shooter used an AR-15 style rifle as well as a Glock handgun. One photo, shared on the sheriff’s office Facebook page, showed a close-up of the gun with at least two swastikas and illegible writing in white paint or marker on one side.
The weapon had “Palmetto State Armory” and “PA-15” engraved. Palmetto State Armory’s website describes PA-15 rifles as “our interpretation of the legendary AR-15 rifle that you have grown to love”.
Another chilling photo captured a weapon beside what appears to be a pool of blood.
“Those were not his parents’ guns,” Sheriff Waters clarified at the press conference. “I can’t say that he owned them but I know his parents didn’t – his parents didn’t want them in their house.”
The shooter was previously involved in a 2016 domestic incident but was not arrested, the sheriff added.
In 2017, the gunman was committed under Florida’s Baker Act, a statute that allows for people who could be considered a harm to themselves or others to be involuntarily detained and examined for up to 72 hours.
“If there is a Baker Act situation, they’re prohibited from getting guns,” Mr Waters later told CNN. “We don’t know if that Baker Act was recorded properly, whether it was considered a full Baker Act.”
Law enforcement are examining the writings of the shooter. According to the sheriff, the gunman used racial slurs and conveyed his “disgusting ideology of hate.”
The suspect didn’t appear to know the victims. Sheriff Waters said, “there is absolutely no evidence the shooter is part of any larger group.”
The FBI has launched a federal civil rights investigation into the shooting and “will pursue this incident as a hate crime,” said Sherri Onks, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Jacksonville office.
“Dark day in Jacksonville’s history”
The shooting coincided with the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington, where Dr Martin Luther King Jr delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
Speakers at the event discussed the growing threat of hate crimes.
Jonathan Greenblatt, director of the Anti-Defamation League, spoke about hate and racism in his speech.
“In 1963, we came here to this place alongside Dr. King and so many other leaders, to demand equal rights, justice and fair treatment to all,” he began.
“Now today, we’ve come here once again to demand equal rights, justice and fair treatment to all. Because we know – that hate still exists. And the work of fighting hate — together — continues.”
Reactions to the tragedy
Both sides of the political aisle have reacted to the massacrea.
House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries wrote: “We will never bend the knee to violent extremists who worship at the altar of white supremacy.”
South Carolina Senator, and GOP presidential candidate, Tim Scott wrote that he was “devastated”.
“There is nothing more hateful than murdering someone because of the color of their skin; violence of any kind has no place in our country,” he wrote.
Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan also shared her thoughts.
“We must do everything that we can to dissuade this type of hate. I can’t even be able to tell you how frustrating this is for all of us because we’ve seen it too much.”
New Jersey Democrat, Rep Bill Pascrell, underscored the need for tighter gun laws.
“Last year 99% of House republicans voted no to banning war weapons like the one used yesterday in Jacksonville by a racist terrorist,” he wrote.
Shannon Watts, founder of gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action, echoed this sentiment, pointing to recent gun legislation that went into effect in the state: “Florida’s lax gun laws - like permitless carry - make it easy for criminals and white supremacists to access guns.”
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed this measure into law in April, which went into effect on 1 July. It allows anyone who can legally own a gun in Florida to carry a concealed gun without a permit, and does not require training or a background check.
On Saturday, Mr DeSantis condemned the shooting, tweeting a video of him saying that “the shooting, based on the manifesto that they discovered from the scumbag who did this, was racially motivated. He was targeting people based on their race. That is totally unacceptable.”
Florida Democratic Rep Maxwell Frost, also denounced the shooting—but he pointed the finger at the governor.
“A racist bigot walked into a store to murder Black people. A racist bigot felt comfortable enough to walk into a store to murder Black people. The far-right fascist movement, embraced by Gov @RonDeSantis, is murdering people,” he tweeted.
The NRA took the opportunity to promote AR-style weapons hours after the shooting, claiming that “Millions of law-abiding citizens own and use AR-15s to defend themselves and their families.”