The gunman who killed three people on Saturday in a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Floridahe had earlier been turned away on the campus of a historically black university, a few blocks from the scene of the shooting, which authorities say was a targeted attack on black people.
The shooter, described by police as a white male in his 20s, first went to the Edward Waters University campus, where he refused to identify himself to a campus security officer and was asked to leave, the university said. it’s a statement. release.
“The individual returned to his car and left campus without incident. The encounter was reported to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office by EWU security,” the school said.
The university, which is in a historically black neighborhood, closed Saturday and students living on campus were told to stay in their residence halls.
The suspect, who has not been publicly identified, donned a bulletproof vest and mask while still on campus before going to the nearby Dollar General, Jacksonville Sheriff TK Waters told CNN’s Jim Acosta.
Armed with an AR-15-style rifle and a pistol, the gunman opened fire outside the store and then back inside, fatally shooting all three victims before killing himself, according to Waters.
Authorities have not publicly identified the victims, described as two men and one woman, all black, the sheriff said.
Investigators are now looking into the gunman’s motives, his history of calling authorities and how he obtained the firearms, Waters said, adding that It is clear that the attack was directed at blacks.
“This shooting was racially motivated and I hated black people,” Waters said at a news conference Saturday night.
The suspect left letters to his parents, the media and federal agents describing his “disgusting hate ideology” and used racial slurs, the sheriff told reporters. The shooter did not appear to know the victims and is believed to have acted alone, he said.
“There is absolutely no evidence that the shooter is part of any large group,” he added.
“This is a dark day in Jacksonville history,” the sheriff said. “Any loss of life is tragic, but the hatred that fueled the shooter’s killing spree adds an extra layer of anguish.”
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.
The Jacksonville attack was one of several reported shootings across the United States over two days, including one near a parade in Massachusetts and another at a high school football game in Oklahomaunderscoring the increasingly ubiquitous presence of gun violence in the everyday places of American life.
There have been at least 472 mass shootings in the US so far in 2023, according to the gun violence file, which, like CNN, defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more people are injured or killed, not including the shooter. That’s almost two mass shootings for every day of the year so far.
The nation passed the 400 mark in July, the first month such a high number it has been recorded since 2013, the group said.
The shooter, who lived in Clay County with his parents, left his home around 11:39 a.m. Saturday and headed for Jacksonville, in neighboring Duval County, Waters told CNN.
At 1:18 p.m., the gunman texted his father and told him to check his computer, according to Waters, who did not provide details about what was on the computer.
At 1:53 p.m., the father called the Clay County sheriff’s office, the sheriff said.
“At that point, he had started shooting inside the Dollar General,” Waters said of the gunman. Officers rushed to the scene as the gunman was leaving the building.
“He saw them, and he withdrew into the building and went into an office,” where he shot himself, Waters said.
Authorities showed photos of the weapons the gunman had, including a firearm with swastikas on it. While it remains under investigation whether the gunman purchased the guns legally, the sheriff said they did not belong to the parents.
“Those weren’t their parents’ guns,” Waters told reporters on Saturday. “I can’t say he owned it, but I know his parents didn’t; his parents didn’t want them in his house.”
“The suspect’s family did not do this. They are not responsible for this. This is your decision, only your decision,” the sheriff later told CNN.
The history of the gunman and his access to weapons are being investigated
The shooter was the subject of a police call in 2017 under the state’s Baker Law, which allows people to be involuntarily detained and subject to examination for up to 72 hours during a mental health crisis.
Waters did not provide details about what led to the Baker Act being called in that case, but said that normally a person who has been detained under the law is not eligible to purchase firearms.
“If there’s a Baker Act situation, they’re prohibited from getting guns,” he told CNN. “We don’t know if that Baker Act was properly recorded, if it was considered a full Baker Act.”
The shooter’s writings indicated that he was aware of a Mass shooting at a Jacksonville gaming event where two people were killed exactly five years earlier, and he may have chosen the date of his attack to coincide with the anniversary, Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan said.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Saturday condemned the shooting and called the gunman “trash.”
“He was targeting people based on their race. That is totally unacceptable. This guy killed himself instead of facing the situation and accepting responsibility for his actions, so he took the coward’s way out. But we condemn what happened in the strongest possible terms,” DeSantis said, according to a video statement sent to CNN by the governor’s office.
The US Department of Homeland Security is “closely monitoring the situation,” Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement on Saturday.
“Too many Americans – in Jacksonville and across our country – have lost a loved one to racially motivated violence. The Department of Homeland Security is committed to working with our state and local partners to help prevent another tragic and abhorrent event from occurring,” he said.