Republicans, Democrats united in horror as Jacksonville gunman is identified

jax shooting 3 ap photo
President Joe Biden added his voice to those condemning Saturday's violence.

A gunman’s racially motivated attack inside a Jacksonville Dollar General store that left three dead Saturday continued to spread shock and horror across the political divide Sunday, right up to President Joe Biden.

The gunman was identified as Ryan Palmeter, 21. He legally purchased his guns in recent months even though he had been involuntarily committed for a mental health examination in 2017, Sheriff T.K. Waters said. He killed himself after killing his three victims, The Associated Press reported.

Writings that the gunman left behind left little doubt the killings were racially motivated.

Biden’s statement noted the irony that the violence unfolded on the same day chosen to commemorate the 60th anniversary of a key moment in the struggle for equal rights for all Americans. On Saturday, thousands marched on Washington to mark the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

“Even as we continue searching for answers, we must say clearly and forcefully that White supremacy has no place in America,” Biden said, according to a statement. “We must refuse to live in a country where Black families going to the store or Black students going to school live in fear of being gunned down because of the color of their skin. Hate must have no safe harbor. Silence is complicity and we must not remain silent.”

Those killed in Saturday’s attack at a Dollar General were identified as Angela Michelle Carr, 52, who was shot in her car; store employee A.J. Laguerre, 19, who was shot as he tried to flee; and customer Gerrald Gallion, 29, who was shot as he entered the store.

Gov. Ron DeSantis condemned the gunman as a “scumbag” shortly after news of the carnage spread Saturday and reiterated his revulsion to the incident before beginning a hurricane briefing Sunday.

“Hate has no place in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said.”We’re not going to allow our state or our HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) to be targeted by hateful lunatics like that guy yesterday.”

Reports are that an Edward Waters University security guard rebuffed the gunman just before he hit the nearby Dollar General store.

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson issued a statement that she sees the problem as something beyond one lunatic, however. The Miami Gardens Democrat is calling it an emergency that should jolt people into action.

“The dehumanization of Black people has hit a breaking point,” Wilson said. “When those in power peddle hate, we must respond. Divisive rhetoric ignites hatred and empowers those with violent intent.”

State-level Democrats were more specific about who and what they see creating conditions ripe for this tragedy. DeSantis received some of the blame. And, added to that, the Republican-dominated Legislature this past Session made it so a permit was no longer required to carry a weapon, they pointed out. And a recent change in state education curriculum was cited as a a step backward in rooting out racial hatred.

Democratic state Sen. Tracie Davis, appeared on MSNBC’s The Katie Phang Show Sunday morning, said it’s “absolutely devastating” that Black people are being targeted for their skin color in 2023.

“The state of Florida has to realize that we as a Legislature have put policies in place — policies into law — that have incited behavior like this,” said Davis, who is a Jacksonville native and represents the city in Tallahassee. “That’s what I truly, wholeheartedly and personally believe.”

The shooter, who was from Clay County, used a Glock and an AR-15 with a swastika on it, according to the Sheriff.

Former state Senator Annette Taddeo saw a connection and posted that Davis is “100%” right on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“DeSantis and GOP legislature passed hateful laws against black & brown Floridians & have refused to condemn numerous Nazis rallys with DeSantis flags alongside swastikas,” said the Miami-area Democrat who is mulling a run for Miami Dade Clerk, on the platform Sunday afternoon.

But Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, mostly posting about the oncoming tropical conditions expected to make a midweek Florida landfall, followed up Sunday with stronger words than the day before, condemning what led to the unnamed gunman’s deadly fire.

“Racism is disgusting, and Jacksonville won’t let this horrific violence tear us apart,” he posted, adding that he’s praying for the victims and their loved ones.

House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell said the incident is a wake-up call that Florida has slipped too far back to how it used to be. She noted that only last June, a Black Ocala mother was shot after she knocked on a door. Also, the state Board of Education made national headlines for approving standards that call for instruction that slaves were taught skills that could sometimes be used for their benefit.

“Our nation needs healing, as does our state,” Driskell said in a prepared statement. “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.”

Rep. Dianne Hart, the chair of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, said the time has come to seriously work on dealign with both the rise in gun violence and racism.

“It should not be lost on us that this incident took place near Edward Water University, an historically Black university,” the Tampa Democrat’s statement read. “That was not a coincidence, and if your state does not take the proper action now, it unfortunately will not be the last.”

Jacksonville has dealt with this sort of turmoil for a long time, including neo-Nazi and anti-semitic displays projected on buildings through the beginning of last year.

Mayor Donna Deegan, who was standing beside the Sheriff as he declared the crime racially motivated, said she was “heartbroken” by the turn of events.

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

Deegan’s attempt to create a Diversity and Inclusion position has been, at least thus far, thwarted in the Jacksonville City Council budget process.

Likewise, state Sen. Jennifer Bradley, who represents North Florida, posted on X that she too was “heartbroken.”

“Racism and hateful ideologies have no place in our community,” the Fleming Island Republican wrote. “We see these evils too often.”

Another Northeast Florida Republican, Sen. Clay Yarborough, condemned the violence as “against God’s order.”

“I fully condemn the cowardly and evil acts of the perpetrator responsible for the heinous acts,” Yarborough’s statement said, offering his prayers and condolences to the victims’ families and the Jacksonville community along with his support for the Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement partners.

Still, Orlando Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani faulted Florida’s political atmosphere — “a deadly combination of hate and loose gun laws” — for playing a role in the tragedy. Republicans held a supermajority in the Legislature last Session and a majority the Session before as permitless carry as well as so-called “anti-woke” legislation was passed over Democrats’ objections.

“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 X. “Combine that with easy access to weapons and bad policy like permitless carry. The dangers and tragic reality is that this shooting was predictable.”

Anti-Defamation League Florida issued a statement saying that calling out the same bigotry that the Rev. King did 60 years ago remains as important as ever.

“Here in Florida, where we’ve seen domestic extremism grow and incidents of hate skyrocket, the environment has been ripe for the sort of racially motivated violence that was unleashed in Jacksonville yesterday, killing three innocent people,” said Sarah Emmons, ADL Florida Regional Director. “We must continue to combat hatred.”


The Associated Press and Florida Politics writer A.G. Gancarski contributed to this report.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


  • Tjb

    August 27, 2023 at 3:08 pm

    Ron DeSantis promotes a culture of hate towards people of color and the LGBTQ community. This type of dehumanizing creates an environment for these horrific acts of violence.

  • My Take

    August 27, 2023 at 3:45 pm

    DeSSantis’s base blazes away.
    Hopped up on hate.
    The Republicans’ “Southern Strategy” racist hate.

    I wonder if Palmeter soaked up the online hate from the Council of Conservative Citizens* like that church mass-murderer in Charleston did?
    *formerly, “White Citizen’s Councils”

  • Jake

    August 27, 2023 at 4:09 pm

    The governor chose to ignore the Nazis. He called them some outdated terminology like “knuckleheads”. Now he’s going to eulogize their victims. The governor fuels their White hatred.
    Ben Crump referred to the extremist leadership as “enemies of equality ” yesterday in his March on Washington speech. Ron Desantis is an enemy of equality.

    • My Take

      August 29, 2023 at 1:05 am

      Enemy of equality, i.e., unAmerican.

  • Ocean Joe

    August 27, 2023 at 5:08 pm

    The NAACP travel advisory people laughed at turns out to be good advice.
    Yes, our leaders set the tone.

  • Meredith Jordan

    August 27, 2023 at 5:37 pm

    Look no further than the mirror, Governor DeSantis. You coaxed this hatred out of hiding, and Florida is suffering because of it.

    • My Take

      August 27, 2023 at 9:36 pm

      Governor DeSantis. You coaxed this hatred out of hiding
      Exactly right.

  • Barry R.

    August 27, 2023 at 5:42 pm

    A few weeks back a black gunman killed four white people. Crickets in MSM. Shaping a narrative are we?

    • Zoma

      August 27, 2023 at 5:53 pm

      And a few months before that whites were inspired by the Gov. to kill more colored folks.

  • Henry Nicols

    August 27, 2023 at 6:16 pm

    One thing we know for sure. The shooter, he ain’t woke. DeSantis, this is on you! I live in Florida and I am embarrassed, humiliated and sad.

  • Michael K

    August 27, 2023 at 6:52 pm

    In Florida, thanks to our governor, isn’t it against the law for white people to feel uncomfortable when faced with our racist past, present and future?

  • Margaret

    August 27, 2023 at 7:32 pm

    Meanwhile, Sen. Scott offers prayers. The majority in the State government, and that includes some of the representatives quoted in the piece, voted for the permitless carry law which
    allowed this racist to purchase firearms. Assault weapons have no place in civilian hands. Tactical gear has no use outside of law enforcement and soldiers. Root out the elements which make deranged, hate-filled people kill, which means, stop guns.

  • My Take

    August 28, 2023 at 7:58 pm

    If ony he had put his deep racist hate to some permissible èndeavour. Like volunteering for the DeSSantis campaign.

  • My Take

    August 28, 2023 at 7:58 pm

    If ony he had put his deep racist hate to some permissible èndeavour. Like volunteering for the DeSSantis campaign.

  • Richard Russell

    August 29, 2023 at 4:00 pm

    Hate is not manifested only in some Caucasians. it is evident in the motives of many Democrat politicians, their staff and followers. As revealed by the hatred of President Trump. You would think that Trump had destroyed our oil reserves, stopped drilling to cause massive misery for travelers, heating oil customers, etc.etc. But those are all and many more put in place by Biden, not Trump. Pelosi publicly tearing up Trumps State of the Union was a most hateful exhibit. The hatred of the prosecutors in New York and Atlanta campaigning on “I will get Trump”! It and the lies must STOP!

Comments are closed.


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