HBCU Security Officer Hailed As Hero After Confronting Jacksonville Shooter

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An HBCU campus security officer is being hailed as a hero after he potentially saved over 1,000 students from the 21-year-old white gunman who shot and killed three Black people at a nearby Dollar General in Jacksonville, Florida, per NBC News.

Lt. Antonio Bailey described Saturday (August 26) as a "normal" day on the Edward Waters University campus until a group of students approached him with concerns about a man wearing a bulletproof vest, gloves, and a mask.

Bailey, who was making his usual rounds around campus, recalled jumping "right into action" at the university's press conference on Monday (August 28). Soon after the man, now identified as Ryan Palmeter, spotted Bailey in uniform, he jumped a curb and exited the campus at a "high rate of speed,” the security officer said.

Getting the man away from campus potentially saved the lives of nearly 1,200 students. Less than an hour later, the gunman launched a racially motivated attack against customers at a Dollar General store, authorities said.

“Lt. Bailey is our hero,” Edward Waters University president A. Zachery Faison Jr. said at Monday's news conference.

Bailey, however, believes he was simply doing his job.

“I’m no hero,” he said. “If anything, it’s the students who alerted me so I could do my job.”

Even after Palmeter left campus, Bailey followed his car as far as campus policy allowed.

“We have outstanding protocols,” the security officer said. “But I wish I had more authority to detain and pursue.”

Following protocol, Bailey contacted a Jacksonville sheriff and shared the man's license plate.

Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters said Sunday (August 28) that the gunman may have not intended to attack the HBCU.

“It looks to me that he went there to change into whatever he needed to change into,” he said. “He had the opportunity to do violence at EWU; he did not. There were people very close, in very close proximity. He did not do anything there, he backed out and he left.”

The university president, however, noted that the shooter left behind racist writings where he said "we want to kill n------.”

“He could have gone anywhere in Jacksonville," Faison said. "It wasn’t by happenstance that he chose to come to Florida’s first historically Black college. It wasn’t on a whim. He came to where he thought African Americans would be, and that’s Florida’s first HBCU. This is the heart of the Black community in Jacksonville.”

To Bailey, Faison added: “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.”

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