By Alecia Taylor
Howard University News Service
Howard University students and alumni from Jacksonville continue to grieve for their community back home.
A white gunman, who carried an assault rifle and a handgun, opened fire at a Dollar General in Jacksonville, Florida, claiming the lives of three Black victims before killing himself. The deceased has been identified as Angela Michelle Carr, 52, Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr., 19, and Jerrald Gallion, 29.
“It’s getting to a point where I just I don’t know what the future of Jacksonville, the future of Florida, [and] I certainly don’t know what the future of the U.S. can look like [with the] current state of things,” said Evan Quaintance, a 2023 political science graduate from Jacksonville.
For Quaintance and his family, the shooting happened close to home. His family lives on the northside of Jacksonville where the shooting took place. When he heard where the 21-year-old gunman Ryan Christopher Palmeter killed the victims he realized some of his friends had worked at the store.
The Duval Sheriff’s Department believes Palmeter to be a resident of Clay County, Florida, which is almost an hour’s drive from Jacksonville, Florida. The shooter contacted his parents moments later to read his manifesto, describing his hatred for Black people, said T.K. Waters, the sheriff of neighboring Duval County during a televised news conference.
The shooter first approached Edward Waters University, a historically Black university in Jacksonville. A group of students noticed Palmeter pulling into an EWU parking lot at the rear of the campus, then putting on gloves and a “technical armored vest,” according to A. Zachary Faison Jr., president of the University.
Students notified a campus officer, Lt. Antonio Bailey. who then approached the vehicle. Palmeter fled at a “high rate of speed,” Faison said during an EWU news conference on Monday. The officer followed him in a vehicle until he was off the campus. He then notified a Jacksonville sheriff about the incident, describing the suspect.
“I just thank God that I was there and that the students was there and was able to alert me,” Bailey said.
He elaborated that he is no hero, but acknowledged that the students followed the university’s advice of “if you see something, say something.”
The president read a statement from board chairman Bishop Frank Madison who said, “We are thankful to the Holy Spirit had led Lieutenant Bailey into the truth of where to be, when to be there and what to do.”
Keith Stokes, a junior television and film major at Howard, grew up in the area near the shooting. His mother and his grandparents live three minutes away from the Dollar General, he said. Once he heard about the shooting, his mind went to the series of bomb threats made to multiple HBCUs over the past two years.
“It was just such a targeted attack,” Stokes said. “That kind of just is throwing me.” He also thought it was unusual for EWU. “You don’t really hear stuff about that, especially at EWU.”
Like Howard’s campus, he said, EWU is in an area with a large Black population, which he described as “in the middle of the hood.”
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Department revealed the shooter was “Baker active” which is a Florida that allows families to provide emergency mental health services for their loved ones who have unknown needs for their mental illness.
“How crazy does it need to get before something actually has to be done?” Stokes asked.
Like many HBCUs, Howard University released a statement about the incident Sunday night.
“The individual responsible for Saturday’s heinous act stopped by the campus of Edward Waters University, a fellow HBCU, before tragically cutting short the lives of three innocent Americans,” said Wayne A.I. Frederick, said in a statement, one of his last official acts as he steps down as Howard University president.
“We must be clear that white supremacy has no place in our country,” Frederick said, “and we must do everything in our power to eliminate it and the racist rhetoric that fuels hate crimes from our society at once.”
Both Stokes and Quaintance said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recent gun legislation doesn’t bring hope to the future of Jacksonville.
Earlier this year, DeSantis signed House Bill 543, which allows Floridians to carry concealed weapons without a government-issued permit.
“It sends the wrong lessons when it comes to gun violence,” Quaintance said. “I think it just makes our world a lot more dangerous. The dangers of gun violence and the dangers of being Black in the South, specifically in Jacksonville and just like Florida as a whole, is not anything new.”
Alecia Taylor is a reporter for HUNewsService.com.