JACKSONVILLE (Fla.) — Lt. Antonio Bailey’s “normal” Saturday on the Edward Waters University campus turned into a frightening experience when a car of students pulled alongside his vehicle. They were worried about a man in a white shirt they saw at the back of the grounds, where the faculty and staff park.
The man was wearing a bulletproof vest and gloves. The students were alarmed when they found Bailey, who was doing his regular rounds on campus.
Bailey said he “got right into action” at a press conference held at the University on Monday. He said that he approached the male and, when he noticed how he was dressed, asked: “What’s wrong?” Something’s wrong.”
Bailey reported that when the man, identified later as Ryan Palmeter (21), saw Bailey in uniform he took off “at high speed”, jumping over a curb, and leaving the campus.
The man was removed from campus, and the safety of the 1,200+ students increased.
“Lt. Bailey is our hero,” said A. Zachery Faison Jr., the school’s president at a news conference.
Bailey, who was soft-spoken and appeared uncomfortable in the spotlight rebuffed this notion. He said, “I am not a hero.” “It was the students that alerted to me so that I could do my work.”
He did not stop at confronting Palmeter. Palmeter would go on to kill 3 Blacks in a Dollar General just a few miles from the campus. Bailey drove his car after Palmeter down Kings Road and a few other streets.
As a campus police officer, he is only allowed to follow the suspect up to a point.
He said, “We have excellent protocols.” “But I would like to have more authority in detaining and pursuing.”
Bailey, an EWU employee of 18 months, alerted the Jacksonville Sheriff and gave him his license plate. Bailey was informed of the shootings a short time after.
He said that he was “saddened” when he learned the man he diverted away from campus had been the murderer. It was a tragic event.
Jacksonville Sheriff T. K. Waters stated Sunday that the shooter might not have been intending to attack a school. He said, “It appears to me that the shooter went to the school to change into whatever clothes he wanted to wear.” “He could have done violence at EWU, but he didn’t.” People were very close. He didn’t do anything, he went back out and left.”
Faison, university president, tried to avoid contradicting Waters but did mention that the killer had left behind a rant where “he wrote that n ——,” Faison spelled out the N word. “He could’ve gone anywhere in Jacksonville. He didn’t choose to attend Florida’s first historically Black school by accident. It was not a random decision. He went to the first HBCU in Florida, where he believed African Americans would be. “This is the center of the Black Community in Jacksonville.”
Faison added that many students “have a difficult time” accepting the idea that a murderer was so close by.
The school provides counseling 24 hours a day.
“I wouldn’t want to even think about what would have happened if this racist started shooting on the campus.” Romana Hall is an Edward Waters University grad who works in the local area as an attorney. When our students are not safe on campus, then we have reached a new level. This cannot happen. I feel so bad for the victims and families. It’s saddening to know that the students did the right things by alerting security, and the officers responded immediately and removed him from the school.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that the state will donate $1 million dollars to the University to increase security on campus.
DeSantis, during a briefing about Tropical Storm Idalia, said: “As I have said the last few days, we will not allow our HBCUs be targeted by this people. So we are going to provide them with security help.”
Faison stated that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement visited campus on Monday to determine where best to spend resources.
Faison expressed his gratitude that the safety measures in place at the school worked and the students were alerted to suspicious behavior by the safety officers. Faison told Bailey: “Your actions will be remembered not only for today, but also for future generations.” . . Our students’ acceptance of this culture and its integration into their university experiences has saved many lives.”