People walk past the Jacksonville, Florida, Dollar General store where three people were shot and killed the day before, on Aug. 27, 2023. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Man who killed 3 Black shoppers in Jacksonville carried a swastika-decorated gun

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Man who killed 3 Black shoppers in Jacksonville carried a swastika-decorated gun

People walk past the Jacksonville, Florida, Dollar General store where three people were shot and killed the day before, on Aug. 27, 2023. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

(JTA) — The man who killed three Black shoppers at a Florida Dollar General on Saturday carried a gun that had a swastika on it, according to police in Jacksonville.

The shooter, who died by suicide inside the store, left behind multiple manifestos spelling out his hatred for Black people, officials said, adding to a string of racist attacks on minority groups in the United States. The manifestos have not been made public.

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the shooting as “a hate crime and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement on Sunday.

Jacksonville officials said they had not found any evidence thus far that the shooter, Ryan Christopher Palmeter, 21, was part of an organized hate group. But advocates say the presence of the Nazi insignia, coupled with the racist manifestos, offer yet another example of how hate ideologies threaten people of many backgrounds.

“From Charlottesville to Pittsburgh to Poway to El Paso to Buffalo, we’re witnessing a cycle of white supremacist violence – fueled by increasingly normalized conspiracy theories and hate promoted directly by politicians and pundits and enabled by social media,” Amy Spitalnick, CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said in a statement on Saturday, naming the locations of mass shootings by white supremacists.

“And it’s sadly no surprise that this racist shooter marked his gun with swastikas: because antisemitism, anti-Black racism, and white supremacy are inextricably linked, animating and fueling each other in a constant feedback loop – with deadly consequences for our communities and our democracy,” Spitalnick added.

The Jacksonville area has emerged as a hub of extremism, with multiple white supremacist and other hate groups active in the area, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The leader of the antisemitic propaganda group Goyim Defense League said he was drawn to the Jacksonville area shortly before he moved from California to Florida last year. In October, the Goyim Defense League used a light projection to display the text “Kanye is right about the Jews,” a catchphrase used by hate groups, at a Jacksonville football game attended by 75,000 people.

The Dollar General shooting took place on the five-year anniversary of a fatal shooting at a video game convention in Jacksonville, and officials said the shooter’s manifestos indicated an awareness of the date. (The perpetrator in that case, which was not treated as a hate crime, was a Jewish man from Baltimore.)

It also comes 15 months after a shooter who subscribed to “replacement theory,” or the belief that minorities are usurping white Americans in a plot masterminded by Jews, killed 10 Black people at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store. The theory has united white supremacists across borders in their hatred of Jews and immigrants and inspired multiple attacks, including the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in which 11 Jews were murdered; the 2019 attack on a New Zealand mosque that killed 51; and the 2019 massacre at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart that targeted Hispanic immigrants..

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis visited the scene of the Jacksonville shooting on Sunday, where his remarks were briefly interrupted by booing before a local councilwoman silenced the crowd. DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate, has loosened gun laws in Florida and has also sought to constrain instruction about race and racism in public schools.

“We are not going to let people be targeted based on their race,” DeSantis said. “We are going to stand up and we are going to do what we need to do to make sure that evil does not triumph in the state of Florida.”

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