‘Jacksonville is bleeding’: Grieving community shaken after deadly shooting at Dollar General

Community stunned over senseless murders; FBI calls attack ‘hate-filled’ crime

Residents gather for a prayer near the scene of a mass shooting at a Dollar General store, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) (John Raoux, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Northwest Jacksonville community is shaken and trying to figure out how to move forward after a shooter walked into a Dollar General store on Kings Road and fired several shots, killing three people.

As news broke about what law enforcement called a “racially-driven” attack, city leaders gathered expressing anguish and visible outrage about yet another shooting at the hands of someone who was targeting a Black community, according to police.

Law enforcement said two Black men and a Black woman were murdered when a white man walked into a Dollar General and started shooting.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations said this was a “hate-filled” crime.

Emotions were high as sadness and shock penetrated the Northwest Jacksonville community.

“I feel sad. I feel so bad that this still goes on. Hateful crimes,” Virginia Bradford said.

She said she visits the same Dollar General multiple times a day and has built a relationship with the employees.

Bradford said she was going to stop by that store this morning but changed her mind because she had to attend a program at Florida State College at Jacksonville.

Latasha Hobbs said she came to the scene to offer support and to pour love into a grieving community. Hobbs’ son was lost due to gun violence, so she relates to the pain that the three families are experiencing.

“Jacksonville is bleeding. We’re hurting. Our families are hurting. People are suffering. This has to stop,” Hobbs said.

Hobbs shared the following message to the community:

“As a community, we have to come together. We have to love on each other. If we see something, we need to say something. We need to speak up. We need to push for gun safety legislation. We need to get to know our community members. We need to make sure we’re speaking up and telling what we know.”

Mayor Donna Deegan and State Representative Angie Nixon were some of the first city leaders to gather at the scene. Multiple prayer circles also filled the streets shortly after the deadly shooting.

“I’m heartbroken,” Deegan said at the news conference. “This is a community that has suffered again and again. We must do everything that we can to dissuade this type of hate.”

Other city leaders also expressed their pain after the tragic event.

“I am lost for words. It’s like everything happens in District 10. Our community is sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman said. “I am just tired of seeing all the shooting. We want a solution. Our sheriff is doing the best that he can. We have to keep working together.”

It’s an event that most residents agree is difficult to even think about.

“It’s actually kind of scary. These days you can’t go anywhere,” a resident said. “Just to think that someone is going to the store to pick up a quick item and then they lose their life.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis said he spoke with T.K Waters after he got word about the shooting, calling the shooter a “scumbag.”

“He was targeting people based on their race. That is totally unacceptable He took the coward way out but we condemn what happened,” DeSantis said in response to the shooter taking his own life.

DeSantis also offered support to the sheriff’s office and sent his condolences to the victims’ families.

A Dollar General spokesperson sent the following statement to News4JAX:

“We are heartbroken by the senseless act of violence that occurred at our Kings Road store in Jacksonville, Florida today. At this time, supporting our Jacksonville employees and the DG family impacted by this tragedy is a top priority as we work closely with law enforcement.”

More condolences immediately started to pour in for the community.

Former Duval County Public School teacher R.L. Gundy, who recently resigned over changes to the African-American curriculum, said, in part, “This tragedy today is the result of a person who’s [sic] heart was saturated with Satan and his demons. What can we do about this? We can start by stopping the rhetoric for political expedience and love all of our neighbors which begins with each one of us.”

Jacksonville Branch NAACP also issued a statement, saying, in part:

“It’s deeply disheartening that our Black communities live in constant fear of being targeted based on the color of their skin, unable to shop at their local store without the threat of violence.”

The shooting drew responses from other civil rights leaders and advocates such as Attorney Ben Crump, Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III as well.

People who live in this area said even though this was a tragedy in their community, this incident has brought them closer together.

The St. Paul AME Church on 6910 New Kings Road is hosting a prayer vigil Sunday at the 9:30 a.m. service.

The Jacksonville Community Action Committee will also host a rally on Monday, August 28 at 6 p.m. at the James Weldon Johnson Park on West Monroe Street to unite and stand against hate.

About the Authors:

As a proud alumnus of Bethune-Cookman University, Kendra is a Jacksonville native, who loves all things lifestyle-related.