A few days ago, we learned how the assailant in the white supremacist attack on the Dollar General store in Jacksonville, FL avoided a hard target and went for an undefended one instead. From the previous article:
Jacksonville assailant found a soft target after security scared him away from the first
Prior to the shooting, the gunman had been turned away from the campus of a nearby historically Black university, Edward Waters University. There, he refused to identify himself to an on-campus security officer and was asked to leave, the university stated in a news release.
“The individual returned to their car and left campus without incident. The encounter was reported to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office by EWU security,” the school said.
It was obvious why the assailant ran away from there. An armed on-campus security officer arrived. That would have meant an immediate confrontation, which the assailant did not want. He wanted to take his own sweet time ending the lives of innocent, unarmed victims.
It turns out, however, that this was not a one-off occurrence. The assailant had initially planned to attack a different Family Dollar store and ran away from there also because he saw the possibility of immediate armed resistance. CNN’s newer report states this (archived links):
The Jacksonville gunman’s dad called 911 after the deadly rampage started. Here’s what he said about his son
Authorities have released details from a 911 call made by the father of [***] – the gunman who killed three people in what authorities called a racially motivated rampage at a Dollar General store in Florida. […]
After the gunfire started, [***] texted his father and told him to go into his room, where the father found a will and a suicide note, Jacksonville’s sheriff said. […]
[***] had been getting psychiatric help and was on medication, but it looked like his son had stopped taking his medication because there was a full bottle that was filled on July 23, his father told the operator.
The father said he called the Clay County Sheriff’s Office a few years ago when his son threatened to kill himself.
[***] flunked out of college, then worked at Home Depot and was “pretty much been living in his room” after losing that job, his father told the operator.
The same factors – mental illness, self-isolation, unemployment – play out in a lot of these incidents. Clearly, this man was sick to begin with. At some point, he also went down the path of hate.
Investigators believe the gunman originally intended to attack a different dollar store – a Family Dollar he visited just minutes before driving to the university, Waters told CNN’s Abby Phillip on Monday night.
Waters believes the sight of a security vehicle arriving at the store and parking outside deterred the shooter.
“I don’t think he wanted to have any confrontation with someone that would create an issue for him or stop him from doing what he wanted to do,” Waters said.
“He had a goal in mind,” the sheriff said. “I think he wanted those stores – one of those stores. I don’t know why.”
So, the assailant first went to a Family Dollar store, saw a security vehicle, drove away to Edward Waters University. a Historically Black College/University (HBCU), again encountered security there, and finally ended up at the Dollar General where he committed his atrocity.
Duval County Sheriff T. K. Waters does not think that the assailant intended to attack the HBCU:
Surveillance footage shows two young African American men getting into the car next to the suspect’s as he was sitting in the lot, the sheriff noted. That bolsters Waters’ belief that the gunman didn’t intend to carry out an attack at the university, he said.
“He had the opportunity to do so, and he did not,” Waters told CNN on Monday.
The shooter immediately started to drive away after being approached by a security officer, and he was followed until he left campus, Edward Waters University President and CEO A. Zachary Faison Jr. said.
This is where I disagree with the Sheriff. We have seen enough assailants target universities and colleges. I am skeptical that this man parked by a HBCU just to prepare and drive two minutes down the street to a dollar store for his attack.
Assailants love target-rich environments with unarmed targets. They are on a kamikaze mission, and all they want to do is take as many people as possible with them. That’s why they avoid hard targets and go for softer ones instead. It’s not much different from a thief who encounters two bicycles, one securely locked and another poorly secured, and goes for the “low-hanging fruit.”
The lesson learned here is to harden targets and for the people to be prepared. Statistically, public mass shootings by a stranger are exceedingly rare. But if you are concerned about it, take steps to arm yourself, get trained, practice regularly, and be prepared to shoot back.