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Florida bishop condemns racially motivated shooting in Jacksonville

Bishop Erik T. Pohlmeier of St. Augustine, Fla., preaches from the pulpit June 10, 2023, during the diocese's Eucharistic Congress. (OSV News photo/Fran Ruchalski)

(OSV News) — A Florida Catholic bishop condemned a racially motivated shooting that took place late Aug. 26 at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, saying, “Violence and bigotry have no place in our hearts or our society.”

“A senseless act of violence claimed the lives of three individuals in our community,” Bishop Erik T. Pohlmeier of St. Augustine, Florida, said in a statement shared Aug. 27 with OSV News. 

“It has come to light that the shooter’s motivations were fueled by hatred and bigotry, as he targeted innocent lives solely because of their race,” said Bishop Pohlmeier, whose diocese has its offices in Jacksonville. “This reprehensible act reminds us of the deep-seated wounds that still afflict our society — wounds rooted in prejudice and racism.”

A white gunman,  identified by authorities as 21-year-old Ryan Christopher Palmeter,   fatally shot three Black people at the Dollar General store in an attack authorities said they were investigating as a racially motivated hate crime. Authorities said he fired 11 rounds at one woman sitting in her car, before he entered the store and shot two more people.

Palmeter was armed with an “AR-15 style” rifle with swastikas on it, as well as a handgun, and was wearing a tactical vest, authorities said. The gunman died after shooting himself. 

Sheriff T.K. Waters of Jacksonville said at a press conference that “this shooting was racially motivated, and he hated Black people,” Waters said, adding there were “several manifestos” by the killer detailing his hatred of Black people.

“The hate that motivated the shooter’s killing spree adds an additional layer of heartbreak,” Waters said.

Bishop Pohlmeier called on Catholics to “pray for the victims and their families during this painful time.”

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