A community leader in Jacksonville defended Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Sunday amid boos at a prayer vigil held to memorialize shooting victims.
DeSantis, a GOP presidential candidate, canceled his planned campaign stops in South Carolina over the weekend to return to his home state after authorities said Ryan Christopher Palmeter, a 21-year-old White gunman, shot and killed three Black people at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville in what investigators believe to be a racially motivated attack.
At a vigil held about a block from the Dollar General store Sunday, DeSantis was welcomed to the microphone and assured a councilwoman he has already been looking to identify funds to ensure there is “adequate security” for Edward Waters University, the historically Black college near where the shooting occurred.
“We are not gonna allow these institutions to be targeted by people,” DeSantis said, above some jeers from the crowd.
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However, Jacksonville city councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman, a Democrat, quickly came and took the microphone off its podium to address the hecklers, telling them they should “put parties aside” at that time.
“‘Cause it ain’t about parties today. A bullet don’t know a party. So don’t get me started,” Pittman said.
“Now if the governor wanted to come here, and he’s bringing gifts to my community, ya’ll know I’m taking the gifts because we’ve been through enough already,” she added. “And I don’t want to go through no more. Now ya’ll just be quiet just a minute and let the governor say what he’s gonna say, and we gonna get this party started. You hear me? Okay, let’s do it.”
DeSantis had released a video statement earlier saying that after speaking with Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters, he was notified of a manifesto found that revealed the gunman was “targeting people based on their race,” and “that is totally unacceptable.”
“This guy killed himself rather than face the music and responsibility for his actions, and so he took the coward’s way out,” DeSantis added.
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At the vigil, DeSantis said that on Monday the state would be announcing financial support for security at Edward Waters University and to help the affected families.
The governor called the gunman a “major league scumbag.”
“What he did is totally unacceptable in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said. “We are not going to let people be targeted based on their race.”
Waters identified those killed as Angela Michelle Carr, 52, who was shot in her car; store employee A.J. Laguerre, 19, who was shot as he tried to flee; and customer Jerrald Gallion, 29, who was shot as he entered the store in a predominantly Black neighborhood.
Gallion attended St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Bishop John Guns told the crowd. He was the 33rd murder victim in the 27 years Guns has been there, he said.
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“In two weeks I have to preach a funeral of a man who should still be alive,” Guns said. “He was not a gangster, he was not a thug — he was a father who gave his life to Jesus and was trying to get it together.
“I wept in church today like a baby because my heart is tired. We are exhausted.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Source: FOX News