The white supremacist who killed at least three Black people in a racist mass shooting in Florida on Saturday was seen on the campus of a nearby historically Black college (HBCU) before traveling a short distance and opening fire in a discount retail store, video shows.
The footage purportedly showed the still-unidentified white man in his 20s appearing in tactical military gear in a parking lot at Edward Waters University, a private Christian HBCU in Jacksonville.
The brief clip shared on social media is narrated by apparent students filming what they said was a man wearing a bulletproof vest. The voices behind the video seemingly rejoice when a campus security cruiser is shown rolling up on the scene, but the end result of the fatal mass shooting makes it clear that the subsequent violence was not deterred.
Watch the footage below.
The New York Times later confirmed that the gunman “had been spotted on the campus of Edward Waters University” after apparently driving from his parents’ home in nearby Clay County.
Dr. A. Zachary Faison, Jr., Edward Waters University’s president and CEO, also said that the gunman was indeed briefly on the campus of Florida’s first HBCU before the shooting.
“We learned that the perpetrator of this heinous act did come to the Edward Waters campus via his vehicle and drive ionto the campus,” Faison said in a video posted to the institution’s Facebook page. He said campus security “directly confronted this perpetrator almost immediately” and quickly determined he wasn’t affiliated with the school.
“The perpetrator did put on an armored vest and get back in his vehicle and at that time our campus security pursued him further and directed him off of the Edward Waters campus,” Faison added.
Faison said campus security followed the gunman down the same road on which the Dollar General store where the shooting took place is located.
“Unfortunately, little did we know, that he had some, of course, very very heinous and vitriolic aims, and sometime thereafter then went into a local place of business and murdered three individuals,” Faison explained.
After the shooting, Edward Waters University quickly issued a “stay in place” order to its campus community.
“Students are being kept in their residence halls through the afternoon until the scene is cleared,” the HBCU said in a statement at the time.
Local law enforcement said the gunman “hated Black people,” a conclusion based on a racist manifesto he left behind as well as the swastikas that were drawn onto an assault rifle used in the shooting.
Dollar General issued a statement after the senseless violence.
“We are heartbroken by the senseless act of violence that occurred at our Kings Road store in Jacksonville, Florida today,” the statement said. “At this time, supporting our Jacksonville employees and the DG family impacted by this tragedy is a top priority as we work closely with law enforcement.”
The moments ahead of the shooting, which came nearly one year after a spate of bomb threats were levied against dozens of HBCUs and left unresolved without any accountability, underscores the ongoing threat under which Black colleges around the country still live under.
The fact that the shooting happened in Florida, where the NAACP in May issued a travel advisory for the state in direct response to anti-Black policies pushed by state lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis, may not be a coincidence.
“Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, the state of Florida has become hostile to Black Americans and in direct conflict with the democratic ideals that our union was founded upon,” NAACP President & CEO Derrick Johnson said in the advisory. “He should know that democracy will prevail because its defenders are prepared to stand up and fight. We’re not backing down, and we encourage our allies to join us in the battle for the soul of our nation.”
Saturday’s killings were the second set of high-profile racist shootings in Florida since June when a white woman killed a Black mother of four in Ocala, which is about 102 miles southwest of Jacksonville.
In that instance, Susan Lorincz, 58, allegedly called Black children racial slurs before fatally shooting their mother, Ajike “AJ” Owens, 35. Lorincz was charged with manslaughter with a firearm, culpable negligence, battery and two counts of assault, but not a hate crime.
The shooting in Jacksonville also came more than a year after a heavily armed avowed white supremacist drove from his upstate New York home to a supermarket in a predominately Black neighborhood in Buffalo and opened fire indiscriminately, killing 10 Black people and injuring others. Payton Gendron, like the Jacksonville shooter, also left behind a racist manifest identifying the motivation behind the massacre at the Tops grocery store.
In February of this year, a little more than eight months after Gendron’s racist shooting spree on May 14, 2022, the 19-year-old was sentenced to life in prison.
Not to be outdone, the shooting also happened on the same day that civil rights leaders and organizations converged on the nation’s capital to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, an event organized in part to demonstrate against racial discrimination.
This is America.
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