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FLASH ALERT: SHOOTING IN JACKSONVILLE AND THE RISK TO MINORITY COMMUNITIES

Lydia Baccino, Magdalena Breyer, NORTHCOM & Extremism Teams

Evan Beachler, Senior Editor

August 26, 2023


Jacksonville, Florida, Highlighted in the Red Dashed Line[1]


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is issuing a FLASH ALERT to law enforcement and minority communities following a racially motivated shooting attack in Jacksonville, Florida. Ryan Palmeter, aged 21, shot three people inside a Dollar General store on Saturday, located in a predominantly Black neighborhood, later shooting himself. The perpetrator was dressed in a mask and tactical gear and used a Glock handgun and an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, with one of the firearms embodied with a swastika.[2] Shortly before the attack, the shooter rang their parents, informing them of several manifestos addressed to themselves, the media, and law enforcement, which contained a “disputing ideology of hate.”[3] Law enforcement believed one motivation for this attack was the fifth anniversary of the 2018 shooting during an online video game tournament at the Jacksonville Landing, where two people died and nine others were injured.[4] Following the attack, online chatter on social media apps like Telegram has seen users “celebrating” the attack with posts containing emojis. Online chatter has also seen threats aimed at Black and Jewish communities, calling for patriots to “fight back against this ongoing New Red Terror.”[5]


CTG is on HIGH alert for the safety of minority communities following the racially motivated attack in Jacksonville, Florida, and the subsequent threats posted online targeting Black and Jewish communities specifically. Online chatter threatening these communities will VERY LIKELY grow as more information about the perpetrator’s manifestos is made public. This attack’s similarities to the Buffalo, New York attack make it LIKELY that future threats will be styled similarly to both the Buffalo and Jacksonville shootings. If an attack is to occur, it is VERY LIKELY that predominantly Black and Jewish areas will be targeted, with areas with significant foot traffic or population VERY LIKELY targeted.


On Saturday, August 26, a white gunman dressed in a mask and tactical gear entered a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida, barricading himself before shooting and killing three people, later killing himself. The shooter during the attack possessed a Glock and a swastika-branded AR-15 style assault rifle. Sheriff T.K. Waters explained in his briefing that Palmeter obtained these weapons legally. This store is located in a predominately African-American neighborhood just under a mile from Edward Waters University, a culturally and historically significant institution. Campus security initially spotted the perpetrator on the university's campus and tried to apprehend him, but the individual managed to escape. The suspect drove approximately a mile from the university campus through a predominantly Black neighborhood to reach the Dollar General store on Kings Road in Northwest Jacksonville.


At approximately 1318 local time, the suspect texted his father, informing him of the several manifestos on his computer, addressed to his parents, the media, and law enforcement. Sheriff Waters said that "the manifesto is, quite frankly... the diary of a madman"[6], he said. "He knew what he was doing. He was 100% lucid.’[7] Sheriff Waters explained that these manifestos contained a “disputing ideology of hate” towards Black people, and through detail within the manifesto, it is believed that the attack was influenced by the fifth anniversary of the 2018 Jacksonville shooting during an online video game tournament.[8] Historically similar was the 2022 attack in Buffalo, New York, which saw the perpetrator shoot and kill 10 Black people. The Buffalo shooter also wore tactical gear, branded his gun with a swastika, targeted a predominantly Black neighborhood, and left a manifesto detailing his reasons for the attack.[9] The suspect has had two previous interactions with law enforcement. In 2016, law enforcement was called to the suspect's home for a domestic disturbance, and again in 2017 under Florida's mental health act, the Baker Act, when the individual was institutionalized involuntarily for three days.[10]


This shooting comes as there has been an increase in the number of mass shootings within the US. There have been 470 mass shootings in the US this year, with the previous two years averaging 600 each year, approximately two a day.[11] One factor explaining the rise in mass shootings is the growth in gun ownership. In 2020, gun sales reached 23 million, a 61% increase from 2019.[12] Josh Horwitz, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, stated that the general rise in violence in public areas is drawing people towards firearms. He said, "People are afraid, and they want to quell that fear by buying a gun.”[13] These rises in mass shootings and gun ownership come at a time when there is also a rise in hate crimes. In the latest figures published by the FBI, hate crimes increased by 11.6% in 2021 and have continued to increase in the following years.[14] Recent statistics show that anti-Black/African-American hate holds the highest figure for hate crimes, responsible for 31.1% of all hate crimes.[15] Anti-Jewish-related hate crimes are also increasing, making up 51.4% of all religion-related attacks.[16]


In the immediate aftermath of the incident, online chatter on social media apps such as Telegram began “celebrating” the attack, with users engaging in posts detailing the incident with emojis. Posts on 4Chan, an anonymous imageboard website, have praised the shooter in a thread named “Hail Saint Palmeter” for his actions as a true patriot.[17] Further online chatter saw the resurgence of threats directed at both Black and Jewish communities; these posts called for patriots to step up and “fight back against this ongoing New Red Terror.”[18]


Edward Waters University (HBCU) may likely have been the intended target for this shooter's plan. The suspect first drove to the university, where he later fled from university security, who was alerted of a possible threat, before making the mile journey to the Dollar General. The university campus is a highly probable target on account of the historical significance of this university for the African-American community. With August 28 being the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington, an attack will likely occur on this date to cause further devastation for the Black community. The similarities to the 2022 Buffalo shooting almost certainly suggest a copycat element to this perpetrator’s tactics. Likely, the increase in online chatter and these racially motivated attacks will inspire other copycat assailants to carry out future attacks, likely targeting Black and Jewish communities. The ideology present within these manifestos will likely encourage like-minded readers to adopt a similar ideology and act out on these beliefs. With these target groups in mind, any further attacks will very likely occur in predominantly Black or Jewish public spaces that primarily service these communities and provide a target-rich environment with heavy foot traffic. It is likely that along with targeting individuals from these communities, other significant buildings or meaningful locations will be prone to attacks to create the most amount of fear, similar to the shooter’s initial attack plan of Edward Waters University.


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) recommends that law enforcement agencies monitor potential areas that may be targeted by copycat attackers, particularly spaces where members of the Black and Jewish communities gather in public or groups. It is recommended that there should be ongoing monitoring of online chatter and individuals celebrating the attack on social media platforms. Investigations relating to this monitoring should focus on the users engaging in these specific posts through liking, reposting, or continuing comment threads with additional posts. CTG recommends that law enforcement agencies, social media apps, and other internet forums should collaborate to create a shared hashing database that would alert content moderators to related hate and extremist posts. Increased security measures should be implemented for the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, while wider Black communities should be on alert within their communities. CTG recommends that Black and Jewish communities remain vigilant and report suspicious activity immediately. CTG’s NORTHCOM, Extremism, and OSINT teams will continue to analyze and monitor any further developments posted online relating to the threats directed toward minority communities.


CTG assesses that the current threat climate against Black and Jewish communities is HIGH because of celebrations of the attack on various social media platforms. The messages and images almost certainly encourage further violence against minority communities by glorifying the act and the perpetrator. The increase in hate crimes and mass shootings is likely inspiring extremists to carry out copycat acts of violence.


Analysis indicates that there is a HIGH PROBABILITY that online threats directed toward Black and Jewish communities will continue to grow, attracting more attention and new users. There is HIGH PROBABILITY that predominantly Black and Jewish neighborhoods will see an uptake in hate crime attacks directed towards individuals and infrastructure. This attack will LIKELY inspire further copycat attacks from like-minded individuals wishing to become “true patriots” who are fighting back against the “New Red Terror.”

 

[1] Jacksonville, Florida by Lydia Baccino via Google Maps

[2] Jacksonville Dollar General shooter had swastikas on assault rifle used to kill three in ‘hate crime’ - live, The Independent, August 2023, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/crime/jacksonville-shooting-dollar-general-news-b2400011.html

[3] 3 people dead after ‘racially-motivated’ shooting at store on Kings Road: Sheriff, WJXT, August 2023, https://www.news4jax.com/news/local/2023/08/26/developing-heavy-police-presence-reported-on-kings-road/

[4] A white man fatally shot 3 Black people at a Jacksonville store in what officials say is a hate crime, AP News, August 2023, https://apnews.com/article/florida-store-shooting-fatalities-b65ecad5f81ac8aa35121507dd4f7dcc

[5] Southern Nationalist, from Telegram, via CyberHUMINT

[6] Jacksonville shooter, 21, who killed three 'wrote racist manifestos, BBC News, August 2023, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-66633186

[7] Jacksonville shooter, 21, who killed three 'wrote racist manifestos, BBC News, August 2023, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-66633186

[8] Jacksonville Dollar General shooter had swastikas on assault rifle used to kill three in ‘hate crime’ - live, The Independent, August 2023, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/crime/jacksonville-shooting-dollar-general-news-b2400011.html

[9] Buffalo Supermarket Shooting: Gunman Kills 10 at Buffalo Supermarket in Racist Attack, The New York Times, May 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/05/14/nyregion/buffalo-shooting

[10] 3 people dead after ‘racially-motivated’ shooting at store on Kings Road: Sheriff, WJXT, August 2023, https://www.news4jax.com/news/local/2023/08/26/developing-heavy-police-presence-reported-on-kings-road/

[11] How many mass shootings have there been in 2023? BBC News, August 2023, How many US mass shootings have there been in 2023? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-41488081

[12] Why number of US mass shootings has risen sharply, BBC News, August 2023, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-64377360

[13] Ibid

[14] US hate crimes jumped in 2021 - FBI, BBC News, March 2023, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-64946119

[15] FBI Releases Supplement to the 2021 Hate Crime Statistics, The United States Department of Justice, March 2023, https://www.justice.gov/crs/highlights/2021-hate-crime-statistics

[16] Ibid

[17] Politically Incorrect, from 4Chan, via CyberHUMINT

[18] Southern Nationalist, from Telegram, via CyberHUMINT

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