Beaches community plans vigil focused on healing after racially motivated attack at Dollar General

Political tensions running high in aftermath of deadly shooting that killed 3

Vigil at St. Paul's by the Sea Episcopal Church on 11-th Avenue North in Jacksonville Beach. Faith leaders from across the community shared their messages of hope, grace, protection and healing. (Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Beaches community came together Tuesday night for a prayer vigil to focus on healing after a racially motivated shooting at a Jacksonville Dollar General that investigators have called a hate crime.

Three people were killed Aug. 26 before the shooter took his own life.

Local faith leaders took a stand against racism with a prayer vigil at St. Paul’s by the Sea Episcopal Church on 11th Avenue.

In the aftermath of the racist shooting at the New Town Dollar General, some tense political moments have been on public display, and organizers want Tuesday’s vigil to bring people together.

At a vigil the day after the shooting, City Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman intervened when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was being booed while speaking.

She later took some heat when the fallout from her stepping in that day to quiet the crowd boiled over at a community meeting on Saturday. A shouting match spilled outside the church where the meeting was being held.

Dr. Stanley McAllister Jr., who pastors a church near the Dollar General, was in the middle of the argument and said he and others in the community felt frustrated and embarrassed by Pittman’s actions.

“You can’t do that. You can’t chastise the people. That is the same thing they did Saturday. They say you want to talk about healing, but you can’t talk about healing until you talk about what hurts. This is personal to me,” McAllister said. “People felt like that was a mistake. We feel embarrassed. It made national news, and it’s all over the news.”

Pittman apologized if her actions offended anyone, saying the governor was not scheduled to give remarks, but he was invited to do so by someone else. She said she stepped in to calm down the crowd NOT to defend the governor but to defend the moment.

“My main interest right now is to help the families get through and the resources that have been dedicated, not only to these families, but the survivors into the community for a long-term sustainability because that’s what we need,” Pittman said. “I was sick and tired of our communities being left behind.”

Now, community members are working to figure out how the community can move forward.

Pittman said she has spent time with families of the victims and survivors of the shooting and is working to get resources to them.

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