The gunman who shot dead three people at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday afternoon in a racially-motivated attack has been named as 21-year-old Ryan Christopher Palmeter.
Armed with an AR 15-style rifle and Glock handgun and sporting a tactical vest and face mask, the shooter fired 11 rounds into a car in the store’s parking lot – killing his first victim – shortly after 1pm on Saturday before entering the Dollar General in the city’s New Town neighbourhood, allowing some shoppers to leave before opening fire on those who remained, finally turning his gun on himself.
The three killed in the episode – two men and a woman – were all Black. They were later identified as Angela Michelle Carr, 52, Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr, 19, and Jarrald De’Shaun Gallion, 29.
Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Sheriff TK Waters said the suspect was a white man who “hated Black people” and commented: “This is a dark day in Jacksonville’s history. There is no place for hate in this community. I am sickened by this cowardly shooter’s personal ideology.”
Who is Ryan Palmeter?
Palmeter is believed to have left the home he shared with his parents in suburban Clay County around 11.40am on Saturday, arriving in his grey Honda Element first at the campus of Edward Waters University (EWU), a historically Black college, about an hour later, only to be turned away by a security guard when he refused to identify himself.
“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 subsequent press release.
Just before the massacre was carried out at the nearby Dollar General branch, Palmeter texted his father advising him to look at his personal computer, on which the suspect’s parents duly found “several manifestos” intended to explain his actions, which Sheriff Waters characterised as “the diary of a madman” during Sunday’s press conference.
Palmeter’s father had called the Clay County Sheriff’s Office at around 2pm to report the manifestos but by then it was already too late.
In the aftermath of the attack, the sheriff’s office posted images on Facebook of the firearms used, one of which had swastikas emblazoned on it.
“Those were not his parents’ guns,” Sheriff Waters explained. “I can’t say that he owned them but I know his parents didn’t – his parents didn’t want them in their house.”
Palmeter’s writings, which included a will and a suicide note declaring his intention to end his life, are now being examined by investigators.
“Portions of these manifestos detail the shooter’s disgusting ideology of hate,” Sheriff Waters said.
“Plainly put, the shooting was racially motivated, and he hated Black people. He wanted to kill n******. That’s the one and only time I’ll use that word. I want to be very clear that there’s absolutely no evidence that the shooter is part of any large group. We know that he acted completely alone.”
Palmeter was previously involved in a 2016 domestic incident involving his brother James – who is reportedly currently serving a jail sentence for armed robbery – but was not arrested, the sheriff added.
“There was no criminal record, nothing,” he said. “There were no red flags.”
However, in 2017, Palmeter was held in state custody under Florida’s Baker Act, a statute that allows for people to be “taken to a receiving facility for involuntary examination” for up to 72 hours if they are considered a harm to themselves or others during a mental health crisis.
According to The Daily Beast, citing public voting records, Palmeter was a registered Republican, unlike his parents, who are registered Democrats, and maintained only a very basic account on X, formerly Twitter, whose sole post concerned his being accepted into Flagler College to study business administration.
“The gunman responsible for the Jacksonville shooting this past weekend was not a current student at Flagler College,” a spokesperson for the school told the outlet.
On Sunday, US attorney general Merrick Garland announced that the Department of Justice is “investigating this attack as a hate crime and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism”.
“One of the Justice Department’s first priorities upon its founding in 1870 was to bring to justice white supremacists who used violence to terrorise Black Americans. That remains our urgent charge today,” he said.
President Joe Biden also condemned the shooting, stating: “White supremacy has no place in America.
“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 colour of their skin.
“Hate must have no safe harbour. Silence is complicity and we must not remain silent.”