Florida Governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis recently faced a resounding chorus of boos as he attended a vigil held in Jacksonville. The event was organised to honour three victims of a racially motivated shooting. The event drew hundreds of people who gathered to remember the lives lost in the tragic incident on Saturday 26 August 2023.
As reported by The Independent, the shooting was committed by a 21-year-old man, Ryan Palmeter. The perpetrator was captured on surveillance footage at a Family Dollar store at approximately 12:23 p.m. on Saturday. Wearing a mask, he courteously held the entrance door open for Black customers, allowing them to pass in and out. Briefly stepping inside, he subsequently left the premises without carrying out any aggressive action.
Shortly after, he proceeded to go to a different Dollar General store, situated roughly a mile away from the initial location. There, Palmeter murdered three people.
Present at the vigil, where hundreds of local people had gathered, was DeSantis—a politician who has become widely recognised for his polarising remarks, particularly in regard to minority communities.
The governor has been historically criticised for advocating bigotry and deeply ingrained racial biases. Some of his most controversial policies have included advocating for relaxed gun regulations as well as proposing that educators present slavery through a “positive” lens.
While attending the vigil, the right-wing politician addressed the crowd and stated: “What he did is totally unacceptable in the state of Florida. We are not going to let people be targeted based on their race.”
As DeSantis kept speaking, it became evident that the crowd were not interested in hearing his thoughts—booing and heckling the politician. Following this, a member of the city council stepped in and asked the crowd to listen, saying: “It ain’t about parties today. A bullet doesn’t know a party.”
The tragic incident took the lives of Angela Carr, 52, Anolt Laguerre Jr.19, and Jerrald De’Shaun Gallion, 29. The attacker then turned the gun on himself as law enforcement arrived, ending his own life. The shooting involved an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and a Glock handgun, both legally obtained. Authorities have stated that the gunman’s motivation was rooted in racist hatred.
In an interview with the BBC, Sheriff T K Water explained: “He knew exactly what he was doing. To put it succinctly: this shooting was undeniably fueled by racial bias, stemming from a profound hatred towards Black individuals.”
According to police sources, the attacker left behind messages laden with racial prejudice, resembling the thoughts of a “diary of a madman.”
In 2017, the gunman was subjected to a 72-hour detention under the framework of mental health legislation, which authorises involuntary confinement for therapeutic purposes. As the details of the shooting continue to surface, the Florida Governor is facing intensified scrutiny in the aftermath of this tragic incident, given his role in relaxing gun regulations within the state.
In considering the broader implications, it becomes evident that instead of solely addressing the tragedy from the perspective of the victims’ racial backgrounds, DeSantis should profoundly contemplate his own actions in loosening gun laws in Florida. Redirecting his focus towards this crucial issue is imperative to prevent the recurrence of such distressing events in the future.
The US Attorney General, Merrick Garland, confirmed that the shooting is under investigation as a hate crime, reinforcing the gravity of the incident and its underlying motivations.