‘Racially motivated’ Dollar General shooting comes exactly 5 years after deadly mass shooting at Jacksonville Landing

Flowers and a candle placed by the main entrance of the since-demolished Jacksonville Landing were the only signs that remained 36 hours after a mass shooting.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A shooting attack Saturday inside a Dollar General on Kings Road that the sheriff said was “racially motivated” came five years to the day of a deadly mass shooting at The Jacksonville Landing.

Mayor Donna Deegan indicated during a news conference with city leaders Saturday that, according to the Dollar General shooter’s manifesto, that was likely not a coincidence.

RELATED: 3 people killed in ‘racially-motivated’ shooting attack at store on Kings Road: Sheriff

“This, as you know, was the anniversary of when we had the shooting at the Landing, and I believe that was also indicated in the manifesto that he was aware of that and perhaps chose this day in alignment with that,” Deegan said.

On Aug. 26, 2018, a gunman from Baltimore opened fire during a video game tournament at the Chicago Pizza restaurant inside the Landing, killing two and injuring 11 others before taking his own life. The Landing has since been demolished.

Elijah Clayton, a 22-year-old former high school football player, and 27-year-old Taylor Robertson, a husband and father, were killed in the attack when the 24-year-old gunman burst into the Good Luck Have Fun game bar inside the restaurant and opened fire on rival gamers at a “Madden NFL 19″ tournament.

Days after the Landing shooting, the city fire marshal shut down Chicago Pizza, citing it for three fire code violations:

  • Blocking exits with video game machines and other objects.
  • Using strip plugs as permanent wiring.
  • Using extension cords as a substitute for permanent wiring.

A total of 32 lawsuits were filed following the 2018 mass shooting.

Timothy Anselimo, a video game competitor from Wisconsin who survived being shot three times, claimed in a lawsuit that Electronic Arts failed to screen players who entered the tournament, The Landing did not have adequate security and Chicago Pizza was not approved to host the gaming tournament.

While the shooter at the Landing five years ago targeted rival gamers, the Dollar General shooter on Saturday “hated Black people,” according to Sheriff T.K. Waters.

Waters said the shooter, who was in his 20s, used a Glock handgun and an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle with at least one of the firearms painted with a swastika. The shooter died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.

Photo of AR-15 with swastikas drawn on it, and Glock used in mass shooting at store in Northwest Jacksonville. (Jacksonville Police Department)

“As the sheriff said, this was a hate-filled crime, and we just shouldn’t have that kind of hate in Jacksonville,” Deegan said. “It’s just something that should not and must not continue to happen in our community. It’s too often the same folks, and this type of hate -- you see the swastikas on the gun -- we must do everything that we can to dissuade this type of hate.”

Waters said there was “absolutely no evidence the shooter is part of any larger group.”

Investigators said the shooter drove to Jacksonville from Clay County and was seen on the campus of Edward Waters University before opening fire at the nearby Dollar General just before 2 p.m.

Shortly before the attack, the shooter had sent his father a text message telling him to check his computer. The father found writings and the family notified 911, but the shooting had already begun, Waters said.

Sherri Onks, the special agent in charge of the FBI-Jacksonville field office, said that the shooting is being investigated as a hate crime.

“Hate crimes will always remain a top priority for the FBI because they are not only an attack on a victim, they are also meant to threaten and intimidate an entire community,” Onks said. “Everyone has a right to feel safe in their communities and in their homes, and I assure you, the FBI will bring every resource we have to bear to bring justice to the families of those innocent lives we lost today.”

The deadly shooting took place within hours of the conclusion of a commemorative March on Washington in the nation’s capital, where organizers drew attention to the growing threat of hate-motivated violence against people of color.

Such attacks in recent memory include a shooting targeting Black Americans at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket in 2022, and one at a historic African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.

The Buffalo supermarket shooting, in particular, stands apart as one of the deadliest targeted attacks on Black people by a white lone gunman in U.S. history. Ten people were killed by the gunman, who has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

About the Authors:

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.