People in Jacksonville are mourning the deaths of three Black residents, gunned down by a white man who left behind “manifestos,” leading investigators to believe the shooting was a hate crime.
The victims of the shooting at a Dollar General store Saturday were identified as Anolt “A.J.” Laguerre Jr., 19; Jerrald De’Shaun Gallon, 29; and Angela Michelle Carr, 52. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office identified the gunman as Ryan Palmeter, 21, who first attempted to drive through Edward Waters University, a nearby historically Black school.
Rahman Johnson, a member of the Jacksonville City Council and a professor at Edward Waters University, said there is work to be done.
“These three lives that were taken here in Jacksonville, I pray that they are not in vain,” Johnson stressed. “Rather than just grieving and crying, as Iylanla Vanzant once said, ‘Let’s cry with a purpose. Let’s grieve, and then work.'”
As for what the work entails, Johnson acknowledged he is not quite sure just yet, but thinks there must be a serious focus on mental health for a community in trauma, and perhaps conversations around the systemic issues leading to the shooting. In a video statement, Gov. Ron DeSantis condemned the shooting and called the gunman a “scumbag.”
Johnson is reluctant to blame one person or group, but said it is what happens “when Diversity Equity and Inclusion is seen as the enemy,” referencing the recent policy actions led by some state officials, including Gov. DeSantis.
“When we say we don’t want to be able to interact with people who love differently than we do — who worship differently than we do, who live differently than we do — we then end up creating and watering seeds of divisiveness that give us the fruit that we now see, which is this heinous act,” Johnson contended.
Johnson also voiced concern about the expansion of gun laws and new education standards in Florida, which ignore the realities of African American history. He pointed out given the governor’s position of advocating for the changes, he is unable to reconcile DeSantis‘ statement of condemnation.
“When we say that African American History should be taught one way, that there ‘could’ve been a value or benefit to slavery,’ or that people who — when the Constitution was authored — were not considered people, all of a sudden, all of that is supposed to be washed away, and we can’t learn about that and learn from that,” Johnson emphasized. “I think that’s antithetical to learning, so unfortunately, I don’t see those actions nor the statements as being congruent. ”
Palmeter used an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and a Glock handgun in the shootings. On Sunday, the local sheriff said he shot one person as she sat in her car outside the store, another just after he entered the store, and shot the third minutes later. Eleven minutes after the shooting started and as police entered the store, Palmeter killed himself. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the case as a hate crime.