Months after three people were killed in a racially motivated shooting inside a Jacksonville, Florida, Dollar General, the families of the victims have filed a lawsuit against the store, saying it acts as a ”criminal’s safe haven” in the community.
The lawsuit, filed Dec. 4 in Florida state court, said Dollar General failed to provide a safe place for its employees and customers from “reasonably foreseeable criminal acts” when a man walked into the store in August and fatally shot three people inside.
McClatchy News reached out to Dollar General and did not receive an immediate response.
On Aug. 26, Ryan Palmeter, 21, walked into a Dollar General in a predominantly Black neighborhood of Jacksonville wearing a tactical vest, holding an AR-style rifle and handgun adorned with swastikas and opened fire on the people inside, officials told Forbes.
The man killed three Black people – Angela Carr, Jerrald Gallion and Anolt Laguerre, according to a news release from Ben Crump, co-counsel for the victims’ families.
“This totally preventable accident took the lives of Jerrald Gallion, 29 years old, who was simply shopping in the aisles of that Dollar General that day; Angela Carr, 52 years old, who was an Uber driver dropping off her fare in the parking lot who was shot just for being Black; and Anolt Laguerre, the 19-year-old clerk who was sitting behind the desk just doing his job,” co-counsel Michael A. Haggard said in a Dec. 5 news conference streamed by ABC News.
The suspected gunman died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound following the shooting, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said in an August news conference.
In the days following the shooting, investigators found multiple manifestos and messages on his computer that led them to believe the shooting was racially motivated, the sheriff’s office said.
The victims’ families said the suspected gunman had “embarked on a mission motivated by hate,” according to the lawsuit.
Sheriff T.K. Waters also said he had been the subject of a Baker Act, a Florida law that allows families and loved ones to involuntarily commit a family member who is impaired by mental illness and unable to seek their own treatment.
The lawsuit filed by the victims’ families lists Dollar General subsidiaries DolGenCorp and DG Strategic II, LLC. It also names Interface Security Systems as the security contractor for the store, the property owner for the store location and the suspected gunman’s parents, Maryann Palmeter and Stephen Wayne Palmeter.
The man went to two other locations before the Dollar General on Aug. 26, the lawsuit says. He first went into a Family Dollar store but was stopped by a uniformed security guard, then “shifted his plan” to Edward Waters University, a historically Black college in Jacksonville, where he was again stopped by security, according to the suit.
“A criminal’s safe haven, this Dollar General was devoid of meaningful security measures. While Palmeter was deterred from harming the public at his two preceding stops, at this Dollar General, there was nothing in place to again deter Palmeter from attacking and killing innocent persons,” the families said in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also says Ryan Palmeter’s family knew he had previously struggled with his mental health and knew about his “obsession regarding firearms and violence” but did not do enough to stop the “ticking time bomb.”
The families are seeking damages in excess of $50,000 on behalf of the victims, the lawsuit says.
“These families have lost everything,” Haggard said in the news conference. “They are here so that this never happens again.”
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