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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

The lives lost to the Jacksonville gunman

A memorial for Anolt Joseph Laguerre Jr., Angela Carr and Jerrald Gallion near the Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Fla., where they were shot and killed on Saturday.

By Nichole Manna and Anna Betts

There was the picture of Anolt Joseph Laguerre Jr., known as A.J., big as life at 18 in the red satin cap and gown he’d worn in May 2022 as he walked across the stage at his graduation from William M. Raines High School.

There were the broken expressions of grief across social media for Angela Michelle Carr, 52, the mother, aunt and “bright soul” who was always there for her family and whose home was always open for cookouts and other family events.

There was the weary shock from friends and family of Jerrald De’Shaun Gallion, 29, all of whom almost immediately talked about his dedication to his 4-year-old daughter, Je Asia.

All of these were ways to find meaning and solace in three lives snuffed out in an all-too-familiar American story that began with an angry man with an AR-15. But coming on the 60th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington and his “I Have a Dream” speech, it was hard for some not to see a larger context as well in the lives lost in Saturday’s shooting in Jacksonville, Florida.

So when Carr’s pastor, the Rev. David W. Green of Saint Stephen AME Church in Jacksonville, spoke to reporters on Monday night, the past seemed very much a portal through which to view the present. He remembered Aug. 28, 1963, when, as he put it, “Dr. Martin Luther King stood at the Lincoln Memorial, to share with America about a dream of racial justice.” And he reflected: “Sixty years later, we stand with families who understand today that dream to be a nightmare.”

The victims of Saturday’s rampage, killed by a gunman who left behind a sprawling series of rants full of racial hate, were all ordinary people balancing their own challenges and aspirations.

Laguerre was the youngest of seven children whose mother died in 2009 when he was 5. He had dreams of becoming a video game streamer, and he wanted to study cybersecurity. He had hoped to go to college, but he took a job at a Dollar General near the New Town neighborhood of Jacksonville to support his grandmother, who raised his family after his mother’s death.

His life was marked by “resilience and positivity, even in the face of adversity,” his brother, Quantavious Laguerre, wrote online. Despite losing his mother at a young age, he “remained positive and strong for all of us.”

“A.J. never had a record, never received a referral in school and never got into a fight,” Quantavious Laguerre wrote on a GoFundMe page. “He was a kindhearted and gentle soul who loved playing video games and supporting his family and friends.”

Carr and Gallion both lived lives shaped by their church and family.

Carr, an Uber driver, had just dropped off a friend at the store when the gunman began shooting at her car.

“She would give her shirt off her back for people,” her son, Chayvaughn Payne, said.

On social media, the adult children of Carr have described heavy hearts and profound pain.

“I am broken,” Armisha Payne, one of her children, wrote. “She was my everything even on the worst days.”

Carr’s pastor said at a news conference that she was a loving and caring mother.

“Her family was raised in this church,” Green said. “She was a person who was a provider who provided for her family.”

Alisa Carey, Gallion’s sister, said on Monday that she was in a state of shock. “It’s still unbelievable,” she said.

Carey, 46, described her brother as “a great father” and said that she wanted to keep her brother’s memory alive. “He lost his life because someone hated our race so bad,” she said.

On Sunday evening, a dozen local faith leaders, including Gallion’s pastor, Bishop John E. Guns of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, prayed for the victims. Gallion is the 33rd person from the church to be murdered during the 27 years that Guns has presided there, he said.

“He was not a gangster. He was not a thug,” Guns told hundreds of mourners on Sunday. “He was a father who gave his life to Jesus and was trying to get it together.” He added: “I wept in church today like a baby because my heart is tired. We are exhausted.”

At a vigil on Monday night Gallion’s family and friends were quiet in their grief.

Je Asia, Gallion’s 4-year-old daughter, stood by a cross with her father’s name written on it, pink and white beads hanging from her long, braided hair.

Sabrina Rozier, whose daughter had separated from Gallion but was co-parenting their daughter with him, said on Sunday that the family had not told the girl what had happened to her father. He spent weekends with his daughter and worked two or three jobs to support her, Rozier said

“She knows something has happened,” she said. “I don’t know how to tell her.”

The day before, Rozier said she wished she could tell Gallion that they will make sure his daughter has a good life.

“We will keep your daughter wrapped up,” she said. “You keep looking down on us, but we got your baby.”

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