Jacksonville’s conservative sheriff calls 'Black-on-Black crime' a 'genocide in our communities': report

Jacksonville’s conservative sheriff calls 'Black-on-Black crime' a 'genocide in our communities': report
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - AUGUST 27: Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters speaks to members of the media near the Dollar General store where three people were shot and killed the day before on August 27, 2023 in Jacksonville, Florida. Police say that the attack by a gunman on Black customers at the store is being investigated as a hate crime. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images).

Barely two weeks ago, Jacksonville, Florida's Sheriff TK Waters responded to the August 26th racially-motivated mass shooting at a Dollar General that left three Black residents dead and a community devastated. President Joe Biden called Waters shortly after the massacre and told him that he was "doing a good job" and that he was a "pro." But it was Biden's next remark that struck a nerve within Waters, a Black conservative, The Messenger's Marc Caputo reports.

"White supremacy is our biggest terrorist threat," Biden said. According to Caputo, however, Waters holds a different perspective.

"There's more problems in inner city, urban America than the threat of white supremacy," Waters told Caputo. "A genocide in our communities is taking place, and no one wants to talk about it. When you have thousands of young Black men killing each other in our inner cities every year – and a bunch in Jacksonville and all over the place – that's an issue inside the community that needs to be taken care of."

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Caputo explains, "Unlike most Black political leaders in the city, state or nation, Waters is a pro-gun Republican. His response to the nationally watched shooting made him such a rising political figure that he got a call from the White House. And his uncommon combination of demographic and political identities – a conservative Black sheriff in a Deep South metropolis who talks about intra-racial Black crime – places him at the intersection of uncomfortable conversations about race and guns, making the 53-year-old political newcomer as celebrated in Republican circles as a pariah in Democratic politics since his election last year."

Though the "national media is gone from Jacksonville," Caputo continues, "nerves are still raw and anger so palpable in the city that a Black man Thursday confronted Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate, at a press conference and accused him of complicity in the murders."

Caputo recalls that following the Dollar General murders, Waters said that the assailant "wanted to kill n****rs,"

State Representative Angie Nixon (D-13th District) too placed the blame on DeSantis, stating that he "has blood on his hands" and criticized how Waters addresses race.

READ MORE: 'I am not going to take that': Ron DeSantis lashes out

Waters' "role is to carry the water for the Republican Party to be, unfortunately, that Black figurehead for them. He is going to be someone that they allow to speak about how bad the Black community is," Nixon said. "I'm very appalled that he's saying that there's all these issues within the inner city, but he does not talk about the direct correlation to systemic racism as to why maybe folks in the inner city are under-resourced. There's crime within the inner city, right? Well, it's because our schools have been underfunded. We don't have adequate access to food and to quality medical providers."

Nixon said that Waters "kind of toned things down and pulled back from saying that the shooter was a racist. Many leaders in the Black community, many Black pastors, have had conversations with me and they wondered if DeSantis called him and told him 'Hey, tone that rhetoric down.'"

Caputo notes that Waters "scoffed at the accusation, denying he changed his rhetoric and said he never downplayed that the killer was a racist. He said he was not pressured by DeSantis to say anything."

Conversely, Caputo adds, Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research praised Waters' response to the crisis.

"I don't know anyone else who could use the n-word at a press conference and not get any grief," Coker said. "But Waters is very popular. Last year in the political races in the county, Republicans had a difficult time in the general election and the only card they could play was the Waters card because of his brand."

Besides, the clash over race, Caputo points out that Waters also "used his press conference" the day after the shooting "to push back on the notion of gun control."

Waters opined, "The story's always about guns. It's the people that [are] bad" and that "this guy's a bad guy. If I could take my gun off right now and lay it on this counter, nothing will happen. It'll sit there. But as soon as a wicked person grabs ahold of that handgun and starts shooting people with it, there's the problem. The problem is the individual."

READ MORE: Miami newspaper urges FL GOP to reflect on contribution to the 'full story' behind racist shooting

Caputo's full report is available at this link.

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