But for the timely intervention of a campus officer, the Jacksonville shooting incident would have recorded more casualties. Lt. Antonio Bailey, who was on a routine patrol, was alerted by students of Edward Waters University who spotted a white man, later identified as 21-year-old Ryan Palmeter, in the staff parking lot wearing a bulletproof vest, gloves, and a mask.
In response to the students’ alert, Bailey promptly approached the unidentified man causing fear among students. When Palmeter saw Bailey in his campus security uniform, he quickly fled in his vehicle, driving over a curb and eventually leaving the campus grounds.
The Jacksonville shooting was a tragic incident that claimed the lives of three Black individuals on Saturday. Before attacking a Dollar General store, the shooter, Palmeter, visited Edward Waters University (EWU), an HBCU in the area. Fortunately, Bailey intervened and prevented any possible harm from occurring on the campus.
Removing the man from campus ensured the safety of nearly 1,200 students, preventing them from becoming potential victims. School president A. Zachery Faison Jr. hailed Bailey as a hero during the news conference, according to NBC News.
Bailey, uncomfortable with the hero label, gave credit to the students who alerted him. He emphasized that his role was to do his job. After confronting Palmeter on campus, Bailey continued to pursue him in his car, even though his policy only allowed him to follow a suspect to a certain point.
The pursuit eventually ended a few blocks from the campus and following standard campus police procedures, Bailey informed a Jacksonville sheriff about the situation and shared the man’s license plate. Later, he was informed about the shootings at a Dollar General store down the street from the University.
When he realized that the same man he had diverted from campus turned out to be the killer, he expressed deep sadness and emphasized the tragedy of the situation. The Jacksonville Sheriff, T. K. Waters, suggested that the shooter may not have intended to target the school. He believed the shooter had gone there to change, not to commit violence, even though there were people nearby.
However, the university president, Faison, while not directly contradicting Waters, highlighted that the shooter left behind a disturbing rant indicating a desire to harm African Americans. Faison emphasized that the choice to target Florida’s first historically Black college was not random and that it was located in the heart of the Black community in Jacksonville, implying a deliberate intent to harm African Americans.
Many students at Edward Waters University are struggling with the unsettling realization that a killer was in close proximity to their campus, causing a high level of apprehension. The school is offering continuous access to counseling services to support affected students.