The father of the suspected shooter who killed three Black people in a racially motivated attack at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday, called 911 after finding his son’s writings that revealed his “disgusting ideology of hate”, according to a newly released audio recording.
Shooter had planned to target a dollar store
Ryan Christopher Palmeter, 21, a White man who had previously worked at a Dollar Tree store, legally bought two weapons earlier this year, Sheriff T.K. Waters said on Monday. He used one of them, a swastika-emblazoned assault-style rifle, to open fire in a nearby Dollar General parking lot and throughout the store before fatally shooting himself, according to authorities.
The shooter killed Angela Michelle Carr, 52; Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr., 19; and Jerrald Gallion, 29, according to authorities. The violence took place during the same weekend as the 63rd anniversary of Ax Handle Saturday – when more than 200 White rioters in Jacksonville chased and beat Black residents with baseball bats and ax handles, according to the Zinn Education Project.
Investigators believe Palmeter planned to carry out his attack on a dollar store, Waters said. He had visited another Dollar Tree store before the shooting, but left without incident, according to CNN.
Shooter had visited a historically Black university before the attack
Less than an hour before the shooting, Palmeter parked at a nearby historically Black university, where students saw him donning tactical gear and alerted campus security, a security officer told CNN. The students’ warning led security officers at Edward Waters University – nestled in the city’s predominantly Black New Town area – to approach Palmeter, who drove away from the parking lot at the sight of the approaching officer, university security officer Lt. Antonio Bailey said on “CNN Primetime” Monday.
“We knew that he was not supposed to be on the university campus,” Bailey said. Students reported seeing the man putting on a tactical vest, gloves, a mask and a hat, he said. University security pursued Palmeter until he drove off campus, Bailey said. They then flagged down a Jacksonville Sheriff’s officer to report the suspicious person, Waters has said.
Despite Palmeter’s alarming stop on campus, there is no direct evidence he intended to target the university, Waters said. However, he added that it was “very possible” that he was looking for potential victims there.
Shooter’s father discovered his son’s hateful writings
Palmeter’s father called 911 on Saturday afternoon after finding his son’s writings that expressed his hatred towards Black people and other minorities, according to an audio recording released by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. The father told the dispatcher that he had not seen his son since Friday night and that he was worried about his safety and mental health.
“He left some writings here that are very disturbing,” the father said. “He hates Black people. He hates Jewish people. He hates gay people. He hates everybody.”
The father also said that his son had two guns and that he did not know where he was or what he was planning to do. He asked the dispatcher to send an officer to his home to check on the writings and to look for his son.
“I don’t know if he’s going to hurt somebody or hurt himself,” the father said.
The dispatcher told the father that an officer was on the way and advised him not to touch anything in his son’s room. The father agreed and said he hoped his son would be found soon.
“I love him very much and I don’t want anything bad to happen to him or anybody else,” the father said.
Federal hate crime probe is underway
The FBI and the Department of Justice are investigating the shooting as a possible hate crime, Waters said on Monday. He said that Palmeter left behind writings to his parents, the media and federal agents outlining his “disgusting ideology of hate” and his intention to kill Black people.
Waters also said that Palmeter had been influenced by online sources that promoted White supremacy and anti-Semitism. He did not name any specific websites or groups that Palmeter followed or belonged to.
The sheriff condemned the shooting as a “horrific act of violence” and expressed his condolences to the victims’ families and friends. He also praised the university security officers and the sheriff’s deputies who responded quickly to the scene and prevented further bloodshed.
“This is not who we are as a community,” Waters said. “We will not tolerate this type of hatred and violence in our city.”