A campus security guard at Edward Waters University, a historically Black college, is speaking out after being credited as a “hero” for confronting the Jacksonville gunman on campus.
Lieutenant Antonio Bailey approached the vehicle of the suspected gunman on Saturday after several students alerted him to the young white man who was wearing a tactical vest, gloves and a hat when he arrived on the campus.
Though the students did not see a weapon, they became suspicious leading Mr Bailey to approach the gunman’s vehicle.
As soon as the gunman, identified as 21-year-old Ryan Palmeter, saw Mr Bailey he sped away which led Mr Bailey to call the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to report the vehicle.
Zachary Faison, the president of Edward Waters University called Mr Bailey “our hero” for acting immediately.
Mr Faison said that the gunman sped off campus when he saw Mr Bailey and hit a curb, narrowly avoiding a brick column.
At a news conference on Monday, Mr Bailey said: “I’m no hero. If anything, it’s the students who alerted me so I could do my job.”
Just minutes later, the gunman drove to a Dollar General store where he shot and killed three Black people: Angela Michelle Carr, 52, AJ Laguerre, 19, and Jerrald Gallion, 29.
“It’s not just on a whim that he chose to come to Florida’s first historically Black college or university,” Mr Faison said.
Directing his comments toward Mr Bailey, Mr Faison said: “Your actions are beyond commendable and they will resonate not just for today but for generations to come.”
“We have attempted to create a culture of caring among our student body that champions, ‘See something, say something,’ And our students’ acceptance and integration of that culture into their university experience surely saved countless lives,” he added.
Mr Bailey said he relied on his training to respond to the student’s concerns. Though he did not see a weapon on the gunman at the time, he felt strange about the incident.
Jacksonville Sheriff TK Waters said that investigators believe the shooter specifically targeted the store and that he does not believe Edward Waters University was the intended location for the rampage.
Authorities said the gunman was armed with an AR-15-style rifle and Glock handgun fully prepared to carry out an attack on Black people. Mr Waters said a journal from the gunman was “the diary of a madman.”
“I don’t understand his rhyme or reason for why he did what he did and the way that he did it,” Mr Waters said. “I know that for a fact he was targeting Black people.
Russ Bynum and Valerie Gonzalez from The Associated Press contributed to this report