Funerals got underway Friday for three Black people killed by a racist gunman at a Florida discount store, with friends and relatives sharing warm memories while ministers and activists called for action against rising hate crimes and gun violence.
Mourners at the funeral service for Angela Michelle Carr applauded the Rev. Al Sharpton as he criticized laws that allowed the gunman to buy an assault-style rifle years after he was involuntarily committed for a mental health examination. He also denounced white supremacists who demonstrated outside Disney World a week after the Aug. 26 killings in Jacksonville.
"How many people have to die before you get up — whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat — and say we’ve got to stop this and we’ve got to bring some sanity back in this country?" Sharpton said. “Have we gotten so out of bounds that we’ve normalized this stuff happening?”
Carr, 52, worked as an Uber driver and was sitting in her idling car outside a Dollar General store when she was shot multiple times. The gunman then went inside and killed A.J. Laguerre, a 19-year-old store employee, as he tried to flee. Jerrald Gallion, 29, was fatally shot after walking through the front door with his girlfriend, who escaped.
The shooter, Ryan Palmeter, killed himself. Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters said 21-year-old Palmeter targeted his victims because they were Black and left behind white supremacist ramblings that read like “the diary of a madman.”
On Friday, Gallion's 4-year-old daughter sat with her maternal grandmother in the pews at Carr's funeral. Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan also attended the service at The Bethel Church, where the pastor thanked Jacksonville's sheriff for providing extra security.
“We gather together as a hurting community because this was not just an attack on the Carr family and our other two families who lost their loved ones,” said the Rev. David Green Sr., Carr's pastor at St. Stephens AME Church. "This was an attack on our entire community.”
Carr was remembered during the church service as a devoted mother of three grown children who was loving but also fiercely tough.
Carr’s son, Chayvaughn Payne, called her “my strong, beautiful queen.”
“She was a hardworking woman,” Payne said. “I watched her do everything as a child. We talked every day no matter what — mad, sad, happy, it didn’t matter.”
Tommy Dixon said he met Carr nearly 30 years ago when he bought a house next door to her brother. Carr, Dixon said, would defiantly park her car in his yard. They ended up becoming close friends.
“What that guy took when he took her, he made an earth angel,” Dixon said. “A lot of people never knew who Angela was. Now the world knows.”
While they insisted the focus should be on Carr's life, ministers speaking at her funeral repeatedly criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate who had made a "war on woke” a central issue of his campaign while downplaying the existence of racism.
“Rhetoric and other policies and governors have made it comfortable for people to come out of the closet with their hatred of those of us whose skin has been kissed by nature’s sun,” Bishop Rudolph McKissick Jr., The Bethel Church's senior pastor, said during Carr's funeral.
DeSantis’ campaign has dismissed those who say he has emboldened white supremacists like the Jacksonville shooter. The governor attended a Jacksonville prayer vigil the day after the shootings and told the crowd: “We are not going to let people be targeted based on their race.”
The funeral service for Laguerre was also held Friday at a different Jacksonville church. Laguerre graduated from high school last year and worked at Dollar General to help support the grandmother who raised him and his four siblings after their mother died in 2009.
His older brother, Quan Laguerre, previously told The Associated Press that A.J. Laguerre spent his downtime trying to build an online following by playing video games on the streaming platform Twitch.
Gallion’s funeral was scheduled for Saturday. His family called him a doting father who worked two to three jobs, including as a restaurant manager, to provide for his young daughter, Je Asia Gallion. Gallion and his family were planning the girl’s fifth birthday party when he was slain.
“I don’t feel like I should have to say goodbye,” Jasmine Mable, a cousin of Gallion’s, told WJAX-TV. “I don’t feel like we should be having to part ways just because of the color of his skin. He didn’t deserve that.”
Russ Bynum, The Associated Press