A targeted hate crime
By Gilda Balan, Correspondent
JACKSONVILLE, Florida – There was something more disturbing than usual about the violent hate crime that took place late last month in Jacksonville, Florida.
Based on eyewitness accounts, 21-year-old Ryan Christopher Palmeter, a white male, entered the Dollar General Store while heavily armed, and with the exception of people of a certain racial stock, told everyone else inside to leave. Then he opened fire, killing three.
The August 26, 2023 shooting was done with legally purchased firearms, an assault rifle and a handgun.
The mass shooting has been described as a racist rampage, making it a federal hate crime. The victims ranged in age from a young 19-year-old male, another male aged 29 (who left behind a four-year-old daughter), and a 52-year-old woman.
After the slaughter, Palmeter then took his own life.
A sheriff on the case said there was “no question” that the killings were racially motivated. Not only did the killer’s rifle have swastikas emblazoned on it, Palmeter had also worked previously at a Dollar Store where the sheriff said “he hated just about everyone who wasn’t White.”
Prior to heading to the Dollar General Store, Palmeter had gone to a local university, where he was seen putting on a bullet proof vest.
It may have been pure luck that a university security officer saw Palmeter, and tried to confront him. The gunman, however, left the site before he could have done more harm considering the higher number of students present there.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said what happened in Jacksonville last month was a racially motivated act of violent extremism.
Florida State Senator Tracie Davis said the racist attack is a sign of the times.
While mass shootings have tragically become the norm in the US, attacks specifically targeting one racial group – be they Blacks, Asian-Americans, Latinos, or the LGBTQ community – are not as commonplace. In many cases, victims have been a combination of races, as well as age groups and genders.
Sadly, there were no red flags in this latest incident of a targeted hate crime, except for his donning a bullet proof vest shortly before the carnage.
Last month’s mass shooting occurred exactly five years after a mass shooting in downtown Jacksonville.
Said President Joe Biden of the incident: “We must say clearly and forcefully that white supremacy has no place in America.”
How to prevent future such acts is something that federal, state, and local governments must grapple with as they try to find ways to Stop the Hate.