August 28 (Reuters) – A campus cop helped thwart a white gunman’s plan to “wreak murderous havoc” at Florida’s first historically black university, the school’s president said on Monday, two days after the gunman killed three black people in a Dollar General Store in Jacksonville.
The shooter, 21-year-old Ryan Christopher Palmer, was parked on campus and was donning gloves and a vest when students saw him and called officers, Edward Waters University President A. Zachary Faison Jr. said. , at a press conference where he released new details about what happened at school.
Palmer then sped off campus, being pursued by the officer and jumping a curb en route before heading to a nearby store to commit a shooting that authorities say was motivated by racial hatred.
Faison thanked the officer Monday for thwarting “what we believe was the original objectives of this white supremacist domestic terrorist.”
After the shooting, Palmer died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. According to authorities, he left several manifestos for the media, his parents and law enforcement, detailing his hatred of black people.
Federal and state officials condemned the shooting Monday.
“We cannot allow hatred to prevail. He’s on the march,” President Joe Biden told a White House gathering of civil rights leaders, including the family of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., gathered to mark the 60th anniversary of the march in Washington.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pledged $1 million to increase security at Edward Waters University and said another $100,000 would be donated to a charity supporting the families of the bomber’s victims.
“We will not allow our (historically black colleges and universities) to be targeted by these people,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis said the money for additional security would come from the Volunteer Florida Foundation, a nonprofit organization that receives state and federal funding.
According to DeSantis, staff from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement were at the university Monday to assess campus security and make recommendations for security infrastructure improvements.
Some black leaders have denounced DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate, for his administration’s attack on black history.
Florida banned an advanced placement course in African American history for high school seniors in January. In July, the state ordered history teachers in kindergartens and high schools to teach classes on how enslaved black people “developed skills that in some cases could be used to their personal advantage.”
The governor was booed at a vigil for victims of the shooting on Sunday, telling the crowd the gunman was “a scumbag of the highest order”.
Jeffrey Rumlin, a pastor at Jacksonville’s Dayspring Church who spoke after DeSantis, disagreed. “At the end of the day, respectfully, Governor, he wasn’t a scumbag,” Rumlin said. “He was a racist.”
In an interview Monday, Rumlin said previous statements by DeSantis and other government officials that “spit out hatred and division” contributed to racial violence.
Rumlin said law enforcement’s quick response to the shooter’s presence on campus showed there was no lack of security at the university.
“The solution is not to increase security,” he said. “The primary solution is to change our rhetoric.”
Reporting by Julia Harte; Edited by Colleen Jenkins and David Gregorio
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