A “white male” gunman wearing tactical gear killed three people at a Florida Dollar General store in a “racially motivated” attack using an assault rifle covered in Nazi swastikas say police.
The shocking incident in Jacksonville on Saturday is now being investigated as a racially motivated hate crime by the FBI and local law enforcement.
The suspected shooter, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, was initially seen near the library on the campus of the city’s Edward Waters University but security guards tried to take him into custody and he escaped.
The suspected shooter’s parents called Clay County Sheriff’s Office after they told deputies they had found a manifesto, reported WJXT.
Authorities say that two weapons were used in the shooting, including an assault rifle with the swastikas on it.
Edward Waters University is a historically Black private Christian university in the city, which was founded in 1866 by members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
FOX30 reported that the gunman was wearing a mask, tactical vest and gloves.
Law enforcement, including a SWAT team, were called to the scene in the northwest part of the city at around 1pm.
“This is unacceptable. One shooting is too much but these mass shootings are really hard to take,” Mayor Donna Deegan told WJXT.
And she added: “It’s a heartbreaking thing for our community. It’s awful and it has happened in this community way too many times.”
she later told reporters that she was “heartbroken” by the incident and it was “a community that had suffered time and time again.”
“This type of hate, you see the swastikas on the gun, we must do everything we can to dissuade this type of hate.”
State Representative Angie Nixon, who represents the District 13 neighbourhood called the incident “tragic.”
“These are things that we want to try to avoid by making sure that our communities are fully resourced, making sure we’re creating a climate of love and not tension,” Ms Nixon told WJXT.
Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman said she was devastated to see yet more violence unleashed.
“I’m tired of seeing all the shootings. The people in this community are hurting,” she said.
The shooting took place near the city’s Edward Waters University campus, which issued a campus-wide stay-in-place order.
JSO Sheriff TK Waters called the incident “an outlier” saying that “it doesn’t represent who we are as a city or who we are as a people.”
And he added: “We live together as a community and we fight together as a community.”
The FBI says it will investigate the incident as a hate crime and has opened a civil rights investigation.