(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) — The suspected gunman who officials say killed three people over the weekend at a Dollar General in Jacksonville, Florida, before turning the gun on himself had “racist writings and rants” that described a “hatred toward African Americans” and other groups, according to the FBI.
The suspect, identified as Ryan Christopher Palmeter, used an AR-15-style weapon he purchased legally to kill Black shoppers at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville on Saturday afternoon, Jacksonville County Sheriff T.K. Waters said over the weekend. Palmeter left behind a last will and testament and writings that read like “the diary of a madman,” Waters said.
“We’ve identified multiple documents, including racist writings and rants that the depict a hatred toward African Americans, as well as other cultural groups. One of the primary themes throughout the writings is a belief in the inferiority of Black people,” Sherri E. Onks, special agent in charge of the FBI Jacksonville Field Office, told state and local law enforcement partners on a conference call Monday. “And there’s also evidence that he harbored anti-LGBTQ+ and antisemitic grievances.”
It is believed Palmeter, a 21-year-old white man, hoped to inspire others to carry out racially motivated attacks, Onks said.
FBI Director Christopher Wray called the shooting a “hate crime.”
“This was a targeted attack, a hate crime that was racially motivated,” Wray said on the conference call.
ABC News obtained a transcript of the call.
The suspected gunman was put under the Baker Act when he was 15 years old, Waters said on the call Monday. Unique to Florida, the Baker Act allows for the involuntary institutionalization of an individual if it is believed they are going through a mental health crisis.
“He went for a 72-hour evaluation,” Waters said, adding that Palmeter was not committed to a mental institution at that time. Waters said the incident likely didn’t show up on a background check for the gun purchase because he was a minor.
Before the Dollar General shooting spree, the suspect entered a Family Dollar about a mile away, Waters said. The suspect also made a stop before the shooting at Edward Waters University, a historically Black Christian college in Jacksonville, where he was confronted by a school security officer.
Waters said on the call that he believed Edward Waters University was not the primary target.
Wray told law enforcement partners on the call that violence “motivated by racial or ethnic bias is a particularly serious concern.”
“All Americans, regardless of their race, should be able to live their daily lives, to go to the store, to attend worship services, to go to school without fear — things that should seem so routine, so normal, so basic, yet because of racial animus and hatred, combined with violence, have become dangerous at all levels of government. Our fundamental duty is to make sure Americans feel safe and secure in their own communities,” Wray said.
The FBI said it opened both a domestic-terror and hate-crime investigation.
Racially motivated hate crimes across the country have risen to an “all time high,” according to Kristin Clarke, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
“Our prosecutors are already working with FBI investigators to ensure that we hold any and all perpetrators of this heinous act accountable,” Clarke said.
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