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Gunman who killed 3 at Florida store targeted Black people, police say

A white man fatally shot three people inside a Jacksonville, Fla., Dollar General store on Saturday in a predominately Black neighbourhood in an attack that the local sheriff called "racially motivated." The shooter then killed himself.

'He hated Black people,' Jacksonville sheriff says of white shooter who killed himself

Police officers and vehicles block a road.

A masked white man fatally shot three people inside a Jacksonville, Fla., Dollar General store on Saturday in a predominately Black neighbourhood in an attack that the local sheriff called "racially motivated." The shooter then killed himself.

"He hated black people," Sheriff T.K. Waters told a news conference. "There is absolutely no evidence the shooter is part of any larger group."

Waters said the shooter, who was in his 20s, used a Glock handgun and an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle with at least one of the firearms painted with a swastika. He was wearing a bullet-resistant vest.

The two men and one woman who were killed were Black, Waters said. Officials didn't immediately release the names of the victims or the shooter.

The sheriff said the gunman had left behind writings that led investigators to believe that he committed the shooting because it was the fifth anniversary of when another gunman opened fire during a video game tournament in Jacksonville, killing two people before fatally shooting himself.

<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/JSO?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#JSO</a> Sheriff T.K. Waters, along with Mayor Donna Deegan, and other LEO partners and city leaders gathered today to speak about a shooting involving three victims – all of which died.<br><br>The suspect was located and pinned down by officers. He was subsequently found deceased and is… <a href="https://t.co/G9TzOckC7D">pic.twitter.com/G9TzOckC7D</a>

&mdash;@JSOPIO

The shooting happened just before 2 p.m. ET at a Dollar General near Edward Waters University, a small historically Black university. Waters said the suspect was seen on campus shortly before the shooting, putting on his vest and a mask.

"I can't tell you what his mindset was while he was there, but he did go there," the sheriff said.

Edward Waters University students were being kept in their dorms, the school said in a statement. No students or faculty are believed involved, the school said.

The shooter had driven there from neighbouring Clay County. Shortly before the attack, the shooter had sent his father a text message telling him to check his computer. The father found writings and the family notified 911, but the shooting had already begun, the sheriff said.

'Dark day in Jacksonville's history'

"This is a dark day in Jacksonville's history. There is no place for hate in this community," Waters said. "I am sickened by this cowardly shooter's personal ideology." He said the investigation will continue and that the shooter's home is being searched.

Mayor Donna Deegan said she is "heartbroken."

"This is a community that has suffered again and again. So many times this is where we end up," Deegan said. "This is something that should not and must not continue to happen in our community."

People hold hands in a prayer circle.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, after speaking by phone with the sheriff, called the shooter a "scumbag" and denounced his racist motivation.

"This guy killed himself rather than face the music and accept responsibility for his actions. He took the coward's way out," said DeSantis, who was in Iowa campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination.

Both U.S. President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland were briefed on the shooting, officials said.

'Waiting to hear about my co-workers'

Penny Jones told the The Associated Press that she worked at the store until a few months ago. She lives a few blocks away in the predominantly Black neighbourhood.

"I'm just waiting to hear about my co-workers that I used to work with," Jones said. "I don't know if it's safe to move about the neighbourhood."

Jones added that she was "feeling awkward, scared."

"I don't want to leave my house. I'm thinking, do I want to go back to the store? Is this going to start happening more frequently? I don't know what the cause of it is. I'm confused. It's a lot of different feelings going on right now," she said.

Latest shooting to target Black communities

The deadly shooting took place within hours of the conclusion of a commemorative March on Washington in the nation's capital, where organizers drew attention to the growing threat of hate-motivated violence against people of colour.

An attack on a shopping centre in a predominately Black neighbourhood will undoubtedly evoke fears of past shootings targeting Black Americans, like the one at a Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket in 2022, and one at a historic African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015.

The Buffalo supermarket shooting, in particular, stands apart as one of the deadliest targeted attacks on Black people by a white lone gunman in U.S. history. Ten people were killed by the gunman, who has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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