Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose tenure leading the state and presidential campaign has been marred by repeated instances of anti-Black policies and rhetoric, issued a brief statement reacting to the mass shooting in Jacksonville on Saturday afternoon that was described as racially motivated.
At least three people were killed when an unidentified suspected white supremacist opened fire in a local Dollar General store. Jacksonville County Sheriff T.K. Waters said the gunman “hated Black people” and “wanted to kill n*ggers.”
It was in that context that DeSantis denounced the shooting in no uncertain terms, NBC News reported.
“[T]his shooting, based on the manifesto that they discovered from the scumbag that did this, was racially motivated,” DeSantis, a Republican, said on Saturday from the campaign trail in Iowa.
DeSantis described the shooter as a coward for taking his own life after committing mass murder inside of the local establishment.
“This guy killed himself rather than face the music and accept responsibility for his actions,” DeSantis added. “And so he took the coward’s way out. But we condemn what happened in the strongest possible terms.”
The gunman, who was identified as a white man in his 20s, reportedly used an AR-15 with swastikas drawn on it to carry out the mass shooting
The gunman was also described as a resident of Florida, a state that has gone to extreme lengths to place Black people in its crosshairs since DeSantis took office in 2019. Most recently, DeSantis has led an initiative to revise the state’s African American studies curriculum to teach students that slaves benefited the slavery.
While local law enforcement officials said that the gunman left behind a racist manifesto before the shooting, it remains unclear if he was influenced by Florida’s political climate that, aside from upending the state’s Black history curriculum, has also had its fair share of racist violence against Black people.
In May, the NAACP issued a travel advisory for Florida in direct response to policies pushed by state lawmakers and DeSantis.
“Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, the state of Florida has become hostile to Black Americans and in direct conflict with the democratic ideals that our union was founded upon,” NAACP President & CEO Derrick Johnson said in the advisory. “He should know that democracy will prevail because its defenders are prepared to stand up and fight. We’re not backing down, and we encourage our allies to join us in the battle for the soul of our nation.”
The week prior, DeSantis signed a bill prohibiting colleges and universities in his state from spending money on diversity, equity and inclusion programs and initiatives. That followed DeSantis rejecting students’ access to AP African American studies courses in March.
In June, an allegedly racist white woman in Florida killed a Black mother of four by shooting through a front door.
In that instance, Susan Lorincz, 58, allegedly called Black children racial slurs before fatally shooting their mother, Ajike “AJ” Owens, 35. Lorincz, was charged with manslaughter with a firearm, culpable negligence, battery and two counts of assault. Notably missing from Lorincz’s criminal charges was any mention of a hate crime.
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