A campus security officer at Edward Waters University is being hailed as a hero for preventing a potential massacre on campus by the same gunman who allegedly killed three Black people in a racially motivated attack near the school.
Lt. Antonio Bailey confronted the alleged shooter and chased him off campus after a group of students alerted him to an “unwelcome and unauthorized intruder” on Saturday, according to ABC News.
“We preach if you see something, say something,” Bailey said. “And they did just that.”
Dr. A. Zachary Faison, Jr., president and CEO of Edward Waters University in the New Town neighborhood of Jacksonville, called Lt. Bailey a “hero” for confronting the alleged gunman and chasing him off campus.
But Bailey rejected the “hero” label and instead praised students who flagged him down and alerted him about the suspicious campus intruder they spotted wearing a bulletproof vest, latex gloves, and a mask.
T.K. Waters, the Sheriff of Jacksonville, reported that 21-year-old Ryan Christopher Palmeter stopped at the university before shooting three individuals inside a Jacksonville Dollar General store. According to the sheriff, the evidence supports the idea that Palmeter only went to the school to put on a bulletproof vest and then head to the nearby store to carry out the shooting.
However, Edward Waters University President and CEO Dr. A. Zachary Faison believes the historically Black Christian school was the suspect’s initial target.” He could have gone anywhere. It’s not by happenstance, it’s not on a whim that he chose to come to Florida’s first historically Black college and university,” Faison said of the shooter’s presence on campus.
Faison also noted that the suspect claimed in writings police discovered in the aftermath of the massacre that he wanted to kill Black people.
“He came to where he thought African Americans would be, and that’s Florida’s first HBCU,” Faison said. “It’s also not lost on us that he came to the New Town community. This is the heart of the Black community in Jacksonville. I won’t take qualms with what Sheriff Waters said, but that is what we believe.”
Bailey took quick action as the suspect fled, noting the license plate number and the direction in which the suspect fled. He resumed pursuit of the suspect’s car after returning to his vehicle and also reportedly ran into a sheriff’s officer in Jacksonville and immediately shared information about the suspect.
Waters stated that the deputy was writing an alert for authorities to keep an eye out for the alleged suspect when the incident occurred at Dollar General.
Bailey was “saddened” to find that the shooting was carried out by the same individual he had pursued out of the campus parking lot.
Palmeter killed Angela Michelle Carr, 52, when he opened fire on a car outside the Dollar General shop just minutes after leaving the campus, according to Waters. He then entered and murdered store employee Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr., 19, and customer Jerrald De’Shaun Gallion, 29.
The shooting spree lasted just over 11 minutes, according to the sheriff, and the suspect committed suicide after contacting his father, who discovered his son’s final will and testament and a suicide note in his bedroom.