Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) was heckled Sunday during a vigil for the three victims killed at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville.
The Justice Department is investigating the shooting as a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism. The 21-year-old shooter, who killed himself at the store, used a swastika-emblazoned assault rifle in the attack and left behind racist writings, according to authorities.
A vigil was held Sunday to honor the lives of Angela Michelle Carr, 52, Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr., 19, and Jerrald Gallion, 29, who were killed in the shooting.
“What he did is totally unacceptable in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said in the wake of the shooting. “We are not going to let people be targeted based on their race.”
DeSantis also announced Monday the state would offer financial support to support affected f amilies as well as for security at Edward Waters University, the historically black college the gunman visited before Dollar General. He left after an encounter with campus security.
But DeSantis’ appearance at Sunday’s vigil was not warmly welcomed. Video captured the governor being booed and heckled before Jacksonville City Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman intervened.
“It ain’t about parties today,” she said. “A bullet don’t know a party.”
In the wake of the shooting, some critics pointed to DeSantis’ policies regarding gun access and “anti-woke” education standards that, among other things, banned the teaching of critical race theory.
Democratic state Rep. Angie Nixon shared a photo of DeSantis at the vigil, commenting, “It’s the audacity for me. [DeSantis] is here and needs to apologize for his part in this.”
In an interview with MSNBC, Nixon said, “the Governor has blood on his hands.”
“He has had an attack—an all-out attack—on the Black community with his anti-woke policies, which we know very well was nothing more than a dog whistle to get folks up and riled up in the way in which it happened yesterday,” she said.
“We have repeatedly told him what his rhetoric was going to do, and that is exactly what transpired yesterday,” Nixon added. “This is absurd, it’s ridiculous. He is one of the causes to this. This is an agenda that he has been pushing since he has gotten into office.”
Rep. Maxwell Frost, the 26-year-old Democrat from Florida, commended the booing saying: “This is the energy needed.”
“I understand that some electeds + pastors want “unity”, but folks have to understand that for Gov DeSantis, this is a campaign stop,” Frost wrote. “Don’t let your community be used as a prop. If he wanted to help, he’d do something.”
Fred Gutenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was murdered during the 2018 Parkland school shooting, condemned “the despicable Republicans in Florida, under leadership of [DeSantis],” for continuing to “try and weaken the very basic gun safety laws passed after Parkland.”
“The fact that there are millions of AR 15’s in circulation, combined with racist ideology, & someone who should not have had the gun is the issue,” Gutenberg wrote in a separate post. “The reality is that this level of AR 15 circulation in America is a new phenomenon, less that 20 years in the making, and we do not need to accept this as our American reality.”
*First Published: Aug 28, 2023, 12:59 pm CDT
Katherine Huggins is a New York-based journalist and freelance contributor to the Daily Dot’s tech and politics section. She helps cover the United Nations for the Japanese newspaper Mainichi and previously reported on the 2022 midterm elections for Marketwatch. Her work has appeared in USA Today, Forbes, OpenSecrets and more.