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Divine interruption: Did Jacksonville shooter first plan to attack local Black university? Seems so.

The hidden heroes, the EWU students who alerted authorities and Lt. Antonio Bailey who bravely approached the intruder, may have saved countless lives

By Black Headline News - Julia Dudley Najieb

Compliments of EWU: Edward Waters University (EWU) convenes a press conference on Monday, August 28, 2023 concerning the racially motivated mass shooting that occurred near the EWU Campus. Lt. Antonio Bailey was the first to approach and question the gunman intruder.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.--On Saturday, a white 21-year-old, racist gunman opened fire inside a Dollar General located in Jacksonville, Fla, killing three Black people randomly: Angela Michelle Carr, 52; Jerrald Gallion, 29; and Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr., 19.

According to Sheriff T.K. Waters in a press briefing, he confirmed that the attack was racially motivated and that the gunman, Ryan Palmeter, who legally bought two guns (a handgun in April and an AR-15-style rifle in June,) had no prior criminal record, and left behind "manifestos" which reiterated his hate for Black people, specifically "niggers," as quoted. Palmeter lived with his parents in Clay County. Sheriff Waters said this is an ongoing investigation.

"Other than the three individuals killed and the shooter himself, there are no additional people who suffered gun shot wounds," said Sheriff Waters. "All of the deceased victims are Black ... We are still in the very early stages of this investigation."

"He (the gunman) left Clay County and headed to Jacksonville. At 1:18 PM, he texted his father and told his father to check his computer. At 1:53 PM, the shooters family members called the Clay County Sheriff's Office. By that time, he had already began shooting in Jacksonville."

Although most media have not seen the manifesto, the gunmen left several: one for his parents, one for the media, and one for federal agents, according to Sheriff Waters.

"Portions of these manifestos detail the shooter's disgusting ideology of hate. Plainly put, this shooting was racially motivated, and he hated Black people--he wanted to 'kill niggers.'"

"I want to be very clear that there is absolutely no evidence that the shooter is a part of any large group."

A mass shooting happened at a Madden 19 video game tournament Aug. 26, 2018, in downtown Jacksonville Landing in Jacksonville. A lone, White male, gunman, David Katz, shot and killed several people and injured multiple others before committing suicide, according to Florida Today. Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan made reference to the 2018 incident.

"I'm heartbroken, obviously, this is a community that has suffered again, and again; so many times, this is where we end up," said Mayor Deegan. "It's just something that should not and must not happen in our community.

"You see the swastikas on the gun? We must do everything we can to dissuade this type of hate."

"While we still need to learn more about the motivation for Saturday’s shooting, law enforcement has opened a federal civil rights investigation and is treating this incident as a possible hate crime and act of domestic violent extremism," said President Joe Biden.

"Even as we continue searching for answers, we must say clearly and forcefully that 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 color of their skin. Hate must have no safe harbor. Silence is complicity and we must not remain silent."

Sheriff Waters confirmed in a press briefing that the 21-year-old killer first stopped at a historically Black university, Edward Waters University (EWU), driving into the faculty-staff parking lot, behind the library where he was observed by university students. The gunman's plan was foiled by heroes, EWU students and Lt. Antonio Bailey.

It was just the second week of school for EWU students who were still registering for classes when according to an August 28 Edward Waters University press conference, the university students felt there was something suspicious when they saw the gunman in the faculty parking lot putting on gloves and some type of tactical armored vest. Students reported the suspicion to authorities where Lt. Antonio Bailey, a campus safety officer who had been protecting the campus for just over a year and half, was summoned to the scene and approached the gunmen, asking him to identify himself. Gunman Palmeter immediately got into his car, and sped out of the university parking lot. Lt. Bailey attempted to follow the individual in his public safety vehicle through the university neighborhood for about a block to retrieve the license plate number of the car. Lt. Bailey then flagged down a Jacksonville sheriff officer to inform them and describe what the white male, suspicious intruder was wearing.

"While again, we as a university community are and will remain forever utterly heartbroken at the senseless loss of these three beautiful lives," said Dr. A. Zachary Faison, Jr., Edward Waters University President and CEO, "we at the same time are grateful and appreciative first to God."

"In consultation with our board chair, Bishop Frank Madison Reed, III, earlier this morning, he shared, 'The protection of EWU and the fact that not a single life was lost, and no harm came to any person on the Edward Waters campus was and in fact is a God thing...'"

It is evident that had the students not been on location when the gunman-intruder appeared on campus, and/or had they not alerted Lt. Bailey, there would have been more casualties, although unfortunately three lives were still lost.

"It was actually the students; we preach you see something, say something, and they did just that," explained Lt. Bailey. "They flagged me down and acknowledged that they seen what they seen, at that, we go right into action ... and for you to have on a tactical vest, gloves and a mask , you know the question raised is, 'What are you doing here?'"

"It is saddened of what just occurred and when I learned it was the same gunman, it saddened that he took the lives there which is a tragedy."

Lt. Bailey served in law enforcement prior to serving on the EWU campus safety team in the state of Mississippi.

Founded in 1866 by members of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, Edward Waters University (formerly Edward Waters College) is the state of Florida’s first independent institution of higher learning, and Florida’s first institution established to educate African Americans.

EWU students were put on lockdown for several hours during the potentially life-threatening incident and are still traumatized by the mass shooting that could have been on their campus. Contrary to Sheriff Waters' statement of the EWU campus not being the initial target but the place for the gunman to gear up, EWU campus officials do not agree.

"It was not by happenstance--Jacksonville by land mass is the largest city on the East Coast--he (the gunman) could have gone anywhere," said Dr. Faison. "It's not just on a whim that he chose to come to Florida's first historically Black college and university. Align that with the fact that he (the gunman) said, 'I want to kill niggers,' is what he said, he came to where he thought African Americans would be. And that's Florida's first HBCU. It's also not lost on us that he came to the Newton community. This is the heart of the Black community in Jacksonville."

Although booed by members of the crowd at a community prayer vigil for the victims of the the mass shooting, hosted by Jacksonville councilwoman Ju'Coby Pittman, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis spoke to the crowd, saying that his office will direct $1 million toward campus security at Edward Waters University and $100,000 to support the families of the three shooting victims.

"We are not going to allow these institutions to be targeted by people," said Governor DeSantis. "The fact of the matter is you had a major league scumbag from Clay County up here and...what he did was totally unacceptable in the state of Florida. We are not going to let people to be targeted based on their race. We are going to stand up, and we are going to do what we need to do to make sure evil does not triumph in the state of Florida. Let me tell you this, you are not gonna target HBCUs in the state of Florida and get away with it."

DeSantis, who is also running for president, has also cracked down on diversity initiatives and the teaching of Black history in public schools over concerns of "woke indoctrination," according to NPR News.

Meanwhile, a federal hate crime investigation is underway. Director Christopher Wray, Associate Deputy Director Brian Turner, and other FBI officials led a national partner call that included leaders in the faith and civil rights communities, leaders of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and local law enforcement and public safety partners to discuss the tragic shooting in Jacksonville, Florida, that occurred over the weekend. Director Wray offered his deepest condolences to the victims and their families, and to the entire community of Jacksonville, for what he called a “heinous crime.”

“From everything we know now, this was a targeted attack—a hate crime that was racially motivated,” said Director Wray. “It’s my hope that by sharing this common operating picture, we can use our collective strengths to fully investigate the attacker’s heinous intentions, to move forward and prevent future acts of violence, and to achieve justice for all those who have been affected by this horrific act.”

The FBI’s Jacksonville Field Office immediately responded to the shooting to assist the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and continues to support the local investigation. In coordination with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, the FBI has also opened a federal civil rights investigation and will pursue this incident as a hate crime.

The FBI will bring every resource to bear in this investigation as we stand shoulder to shoulder with our partners in the search for answers. “In the wake of the mass shooting, FBI and ATF agents responded to the scene and are continuing to work closely with local law enforcement on the ground," stated Attorney General Merrick B. Garland following Saturday’s shooting . "The Justice Department is investigating this attack as a hate crime and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism. The entire Justice Department extends its deepest condolences to the loved ones of the victims and to the Jacksonville community as they mourn an unimaginable loss."

"No person in this country should have to live in fear of hate-fueled violence and no family should have to grieve the loss of a loved one to bigotry and hate. One of the Justice Department’s first priorities upon its founding in 1870 was to bring to justice white supremacists who used violence to terrorize Black Americans. That remains our urgent charge today. The Justice Department will never stop working to protect everyone in our country from unlawful acts of hate.”

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas released the following statement regarding the racially-motivated shooting in Jacksonville, FL:

“The Department of Homeland Security is closely monitoring the situation surrounding this afternoon’s racially-motivated shooting in Jacksonville, Florida that led to the tragic, senseless death of three innocent people today. We are and will continue to provide support to law enforcement and to the Jacksonville community to help keep Floridians safe."

“I have spoken with Jacksonville Mayor Deegan and to national civil rights leaders. Too many Americans – in Jacksonville and across our country – have lost a loved one because of racially-motivated violence. The Department of Homeland Security is committed to working with our state and local partners to help prevent another such abhorrent, tragic event from occurring.”


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