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A gunman in Florida killed three people in a racially motivated shooting

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

In Jacksonville, Fla., a gunman shot and killed three people and then took his own life. Authorities said the shooting was motivated by his hatred of Black people. It took place at a Dollar General store near Edward Waters University, a small historically Black university. Joining us for more is reporter Dan Scanlan with member station WJCT. Good morning.

DAN SCANLAN: Good morning.

RASCOE: Dan, you were at the scene. What more do we know about the shooting?

SCANLAN: Well, the gunman, again, is a white male in his 20s. That's all the police would say. He was wearing a tactical-style vest and some kind of mask. He had an assault-style rifle and a handgun. And apparently, as the sheriff said, he just decided to target Black people going to this store in a predominantly Black neighborhood just blocks down the street from Edward Waters. And all the victims were Black. It was two men and a woman that he shot.

RASCOE: The police said the suspect wrote several racist statements prior to the shooting. Like, do we know any more about those and his motivations for this?

SCANLAN: Not much was released about these writings other than the man told his father to look for them. And then the sheriff's office and investigators found out more about them, unfortunately about the same time that the shooting occurred. But Sheriff T.K. Waters said the gunman had alerted his family about that. And these paperworks detailed his racist motivation for the killings that happened.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

T K WATERS: One to his parents, one to the media and one to federal agents. Portions of these manifestos detailed the shooter's disgusting ideology of hate. Plainly put, this shooting was racially motivated, and he hated Black people.

SCANLAN: The sheriff himself is a Black man, and he said he was sickened by what he saw as a coward's ideology of hate.

RASCOE: Do authorities think that the gunman was linked to any organized hate groups?

SCANLAN: No. The sheriff indicated that this man had no connection with any group, that he was alone in this. The FBI is on scene along with ATF, and they have actually opened up a federal hate investigation into this situation. The only background we have on the man is that in 2016, there was a domestic call that he was involved with but not arrested. And he was what is called Baker-Acted in 2017. That's involuntary examination - psychological examination.

RASCOE: So how is the community reacting? I mean, you know, just going to the Dollar General store, which people do every day, and to be targeted in such a horrific way.

SCANLAN: This is a very vibrant community. It is an historically Black community, historically also has had many, many issues with gunplay. The campus even has ShotSpotter so they can hear shots that are going on. There were prayer vigils last night. There were some very angry people. Lawmakers were holding the vigil in the street. And then this morning, we are told there's another prayer vigil. NAACP has reacted to this. So has Gabby Giffords, sending out a statement yesterday about the horrific situation that happened in Jacksonville.

RASCOE: That's reporter Dan Scanlan with member station WJCT in Jacksonville. Thank you so much.

SCANLAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.