Jacksonville mass murder exposes familiar divides, draws criticism of recent gun law change

JSO presser Jax
State Senator cites atmosphere created by recent changes in the law.

A Jacksonville Dollar General was the scene of a mass murder Saturday, leaving four people dead five years to the day after a mass shooting at a video game tournament at the former Jacksonville Landing, and one day short of 73 years from Ax Handle Saturday, a day on which White marauders attacked Black shoppers downtown.

Yet another day will live in infamy.

“All of the deceased victims are Black,” said Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters at a press conference Saturday afternoon, at which Mayor Donna Deegan and other local and regional officials were on hand.

“Plainly put, this shooter was racially motivated and he hated Black people,” Waters said. “He wanted to kill n——. That’s the one and only time I will use that word.”

The shooter, who was from Clay County, used a Glock and an AR-15 with a swastika on it, Waters said, calling it a “dark day in Jacksonville’s history.”

Mayor Deegan said she was “heartbroken.”

“So many times, this is where we end up,” Deegan said. “This is something that should not and must not happen in our community.”

President Joe Biden has been briefed, and a representative from the FBI at the press conference said the incident was being investigated as a hate crime.

Waters briefed Gov. Ron DeSantis, who addressed the incident from Iowa, condemning the “scumbag” who committed the murders.

“This shooting, based on the manifesto that they discovered from the scumbag that did this, was racially motivated,” DeSantis said. “He was targeting people based on their race. That is totally unacceptable.”

“This guy killed himself rather than face the music and accept responsibility for his actions,” the Governor added. “And so he took the coward’s way out. But we condemn what happened in the strongest possible terms.”

That explanation wasn’t enough for Rep. Angie Nixon, a Jacksonville Democrat who is often at odds with DeSantis.

“It’s kinda hard to believe DeSantis and his ‘condemnation’ of the shooter, when he continually pushes anti-Black policies. A White man in his early twenties specifically went to kill BLACK PEOPLE. The Governor of our state of Florida has created an environment ripe for this,” Nixon said in a statement.

Other state leaders weighed in also.

Racism, hate and violence have NO PLACE in Florida. We’ve reached out to local authorities. Thank you to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office,” wrote U.S. Sen. Rick Scott.

House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell said this is a wake-up call that has to go beyond the immediate reaction. She called it “a hate crime in a Florida that has become a hotbed of extremism.”

“Our nation needs healing, as does our state,” Driskell said and recalled a June incident in Ocala in which a mother knocked on a door. “Unarmed Black mothers get shot by angry neighbors through their locked front doors. Children get taught that slavery had a personal benefit. This is not 1920s Florida. This is present-day Florida.”

Added Attorney General Ashley Moody: “This is absolutely sickening. Racist attacks and violence have no place in our state or nation. I am praying for the victims’ loved ones during this very difficult time.”

“The news out of JAX today is horrific. There is absolutely no place for this kind of hate in our state. Details coming out about the shooters race-based, hate-filled manifestos are very troubling. I have spoken with Sheriff Waters to offer any support the Senate can provide,” said Senate President Kathleen Passidomo.

“My heart is with the people of Jacksonville and the leaders there responding to this horrible act of racial terrorism. Assault weapons are white supremacy’s deadliest weapon of choice. We must disarm it and all hate-motivated violence,” added Sen. Lori Berman.

Sen. Shevrin Jones, meanwhile, blamed the GOP.

“It does not have to be this way. This is a policy choice, and whether they admit it or not, Florida Republicans have blood on their hands today because it is their white nationalist rhetoric and weakened gun laws that breed acts like this.”

Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried noted the “manifesto left behind could not have been more clear, the shooter was a white supremacist.”

“In Ron DeSantis’ Florida, Black people are being murdered because we live in a state that has refused to denounce neo-Nazi propaganda and rewritten the history books on slavery. Earlier this year, the NAACP issued a travel advisory warning people of color traveling to the state, and tonight we are reminded why,” Fried added.

“We offer our condolences to the victims’ families and stand with Mayor Donna Deegan and the entire City of Jacksonville as the community seeks answers and healing during this dark and difficult time.”

Jacksonville has dealt with turmoil for a long time, including neo-Nazi and anti-semitic displays projected on buildings through the beginning of last year. Deegan’s attempt to create a Diversity and Inclusion position has been, at least thus far, thwarted in the Jacksonville City Council budget process. Yet again, the Bold New City of the South will have an opportunity to show boldness in responding to an attack on marginalized people, one driven by race and hatred, and the world will be watching its response.

In the 2022 Session, legislation passed that forbids instruction or training that would make people feel guilty based on their race or ethnicity. Opponents saw in it an effort to whitewash the nation’s painful past of chattel slavery.

In spite of the Governor’s comments condemning the “scumbag,” Orlando Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani also faulted Florida’s political atmosphere — “a deadly combination of hate and loose gun laws” — for playing a role in the tragedy.

“We need Gov. Ron DeSantis to stop with the race-baiting and culture wars,” Eskamani posted on social media. “Under his watch, Florida has become ground zero for far-right extremism and radicalization.”

Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed in the state’s worst school shooting spurring his activism on gun control, also had strong words for the Governor and others in reaction to the tragedy. He also cited the state’s new law that allows people to carry guns without a permit, enacted following the most recent Legislative Session.

“Florida is a state where racism is practiced by those elected to lead, including @GovRonDeSantis,” Guttenberg posted on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter. “Combine that with easy access to weapons and bad policy like permitless carry. The dangers and tragic reality is that this shooting was predictable.”


Florida Politics writer Anne Geggis contributed to this report.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


  • My Takee

    August 26, 2023 at 9:50 pm

    MAGA! MAGA!!
    An activist white nationalist.
    No listless vessel he.

  • PeterH

    August 26, 2023 at 9:50 pm

    Annually, racially motivated shootings and hate crimes are up 400% since Trump came into office in 2016 and gave these deplorables a voice!

  • My Take

    August 26, 2023 at 9:53 pm

    One fewer vote for DeSScamtos

  • My Take

    August 26, 2023 at 10:06 pm

    Imagine had he gotten into the black college.

    • Linda

      August 27, 2023 at 9:56 am

      We cannot allow semi-automatic weapons near any school. Kudos to the security that stopped the shooter from killing more blacks at their college.

      • SteveHC

        August 27, 2023 at 11:42 am

        – I’d say we cannot allow semi-automatic weapons to be in the hands of non-military/non-police civilians *REGARDLESS* of where they might happen to be located.

  • My Take

    August 26, 2023 at 11:44 pm

    LeWayne “Frenchie” LaLaPierre (NRA-GOP) sends “thoughts and prayers.”
    As per usual.

  • RobertL Higdon

    August 26, 2023 at 11:56 pm

    Just another incident from the state that shows on a daily basis just what a racist looks like!! It sure looks to be a safe haven for TRUMP and his wanna be new NAZI PARTY to spread their want for new death camps with TRUMP as the commandant!!!

    • My Take

      August 27, 2023 at 12:09 am

      You might know that the Avon Park bombing range is STILL (I believe) reserved as a mass-internment camp if “needed” for rounded-up US civilians. Olliie North kept it on the list. Vietnom War protesters were mentioned as an ongoing irritation of his.

  • Richard C. Russell

    August 27, 2023 at 12:53 am

    Everything is either black or white! How about American citizen or NOT! Obama spoke in 2004 with the most racist comments, instead of unifying he drove a wedge in on that day and has continued to gin up anything to create hatred, rather than unity. Damn Obama and his race baiting minions! I am a proud Caucasian who supports America and the Founders’ Bill of Rights with EQUAL Justice for ALL!!!

    • Not The FBI

      August 27, 2023 at 12:55 am

      The next knock at your door will be the FBI. Make sure you resist so they can take care of you once and for all.

    • My Take

      August 27, 2023 at 1:04 am

      How about American citizen or NOT!
      We don’t hate foreign citizens.

    • Michael K

      August 27, 2023 at 7:48 am

      You do know that most of the founders “owned” enslaved human beings and considered them, legally, “property” and
      3/5 of a person? Hardly “liberty and justice stick for all.”

      Hate is learned and taught. It is bred by ignorance, not truth. White supremacy has found safe harbor in the MAGA movement because politicians need those votes to win.
      Our governor lacks the courage to condemn white supremacy. Calling a murderer a scumbag does not go far enough. Calling it the act of an individual pretends that white supremacy does not exist as a movement. It does. But DeSantis lacks the moral courage to say so.

    • Linda

      August 27, 2023 at 9:58 am

      “proud Caucasian” sounds like you spend time in the neo-Nazi dark web.

    • Richard

      August 27, 2023 at 11:18 am

      Obama’s 2004 speech — I assume you refer to his keynote address at the Democratic Party Convention in Boston.
      Here are some of the “racist comments” that “gin up…hatred, rather than unity”:

      * “[His parents] imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they weren’t rich, because in a generous America you don’t have to be rich to achieve your potential.”

      *”Alongside our famous individualism, there’s another ingredient in the American saga, a belief that we are all connected as one people.”

      * “There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.”

      The transcript is at

      • Mike Thiac

        September 10, 2023 at 11:52 am

        Great words someone wrote for him to read (we all know he is too stupid to say hello to a kindergarten class without two Teleprompters). He didn’t mean a word of it. He immediately started to separate people on race sex, any block he could. Hopefully he’s removed from office in November 2024 (we know Joe ain’t in charge) and is sent to the ash heap of history.

  • My Take

    August 27, 2023 at 2:30 am

    Was he for Trump or DeSSantis?

  • Sonja Fitch

    August 27, 2023 at 4:34 am


  • Politicalzation of a crime

    August 27, 2023 at 5:24 am

    A mentally ill man committed a crime. We mourn for the families. So Sad. God be with them.
    Now the politicalization begins or has already begun. Black politicians and white, are blaming the Governor of Florida and other Republicans for the actions of this one ill man, shame on them. Next they will be blaming a 105 year old bronze statue of a white woman and her two children reading from a Bible for the actions of this ill man, and demand the statue be taken down.. The Democrats never let a tragedy go to waste. never.

    • My Take

      August 27, 2023 at 9:06 am

      ĢOPers on a . . .
      . . .”Leftist’s” violent crime — “Conspiracy! Organized terrorism! Round them all up!”
      . . . “Rightwinger’s” violent hate crime — ” ‘Lone wolf.’ Mentally ill. Medicine side effect.”

    • Ocean Joe

      August 27, 2023 at 9:37 am

      Maybe the governor shouldn’t use nazi imagery in his campaign ads, nor attempt to distort Black history with the “slavery had benefits” nonsense.

      I think we CAN safely blame Republicans for blocking any ban on assault weapons, having let the federal ban sunset under W with a Republican controlled congress beholden to the NRA. Our firearm death levels make us the laughing bump stock of the world.


      August 28, 2023 at 6:20 am


    • MH/Duuuval

      August 28, 2023 at 8:57 am

      Its troubling that the white male was living at home and no one seemed to know he had a Glock, the choice of law enforcement, and some type of assault rifle, the choice of infantrymen.

      That the white male was crazy seems undeniable.

  • Richard

    August 27, 2023 at 11:02 am

    Conspiracy theorists appear to use tragedies such as this one to trout out their favorites. I don’t recall the “Avon Park Range Reserved for Interning Protesters” conspiracy theory, though.

    There IS a prison in Avon Park, but reserved only for convicted criminals.

    Not that any of this has anything to do with the 16 gun injuries/deaths that occurred in Florida over the last 72 hours.

    • Richard

      August 27, 2023 at 11:03 am

      “trot out” rather than “trout out”

    • My Take

      August 27, 2023 at 11:58 am

      Avon Psrk
      I would not have mentioned it had I not read mention of it in regulàr national news ,way back when North was in the news (pre-NRA). The “news” was North, not the contingency planning for a camp. And his action was to retain the contingency plan, not the creating of it. Cold War? WW2?

      • Richard

        August 27, 2023 at 1:19 pm

        “FEMA camps” to house dissidents have been part of anti-gov’t conspiracy theories since the ’90s. Glen Beck refreshed the camp theories about 15 years ago. You can still find websites promoting FEMA camps if you look hard enough.

        Maxwell AFB was the primary candidate for that mythical camp in theories I was aware of. North’s part in all of this was his help drafting a secret contingency plan in the early ’80s for martial law in case of nuclear war. It was discarded as soon as it hit the light of day.

        • My Take

          August 27, 2023 at 2:57 pm

          I was unaware of the FEMA rumors.
          What I read was most likely related to the martial law question.

  • Lisa

    August 27, 2023 at 11:41 am

    This doesn’t have anything to do with any other gun deaths, which is part of a different and very complex issue that will take decades to solve. This is about hate and violence against people of color that has existed for generations, long before the gun violence you speak of became a thing, and about politicians whose rhetoric validates this hate. Period. Two different issues. Focus.

  • Lisa

    August 27, 2023 at 11:58 am

    “Never let a tragedy to waste” – Who says something like that? You did. Wow. This could have been so much worse if he had made it onto the campus. Many repub politicians have been spewing hate and racism for years. And now DeSantis is jumping on the hatewagon with his policies. Accountability is the word you are looking for. You don’t want to hold Trump accountable for the significant increase in hate crimes after he took office and spewed hate and appealed to white supremacists, but we do because it’s the right thing to do if you’re not likeminded (i.e., racist). Funny how it’s always a mentally ill person committing racist hate but when some Repubs discuss all the crime committed in certain neighborhoods, no one ever wants to discuss how some of those people might have mental issues as well. Well, we know why – those discussions are to degrade people of color and not to solve anything. And why would anyone blame a statue of a woman reading a Bible on the actions of the violent hateful man (love how you said “ill”- many people who aren’t diagnosed as mentally ill think the way the killer did). That’s silly. Hold your beloved politicians accountable for validating racism. Hold any politician accountable for it, regardless of party affiliation. That’s all we’re trying is do and for some reason it bothers you.

    • Wait and See

      August 27, 2023 at 7:14 pm

      “Lisa”, wait and see, there will an outcry to remove the Women of the Southland statue, saying that it is the reason the shooter killed people. wait and see

  • My Take

    August 28, 2023 at 4:08 pm

    73 years from Ax Handle Saturday, a day on which White marauders attacked Black shoppers downtown.
    63 years, and civil rights protesters I believe.

Comments are closed.


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