The Necessary Sanctification of Ryan Palmeter – By Federico Borgonovo & Silvano Rizieri Lucini

On the 26th August 2023, a new far-right terrorist attack occurred in the United States. The attacker, Ryan Palmeter drove to a supermarket in a predominantly African-American neighbourhood and then opened fire with a PSA-15 semi-automatic rifle and a Glock G20. He then committed suicide when the police arrived.  Evidence of the modus operandi adopted emerged from the information gathered in open source. We identified two types of information sources:

  • law enforcement (Jacksonville, Florida) and newspapers;
  • online extremist actors.  

Extremist actors, in particular the accelerationist collective Terrorgram, are a reliable source of information in the reconstruction of extreme right-wing attacks: it is in their strategic-communicative interest to capitalise on the attack and its celebration. The collective needs to keep its community as affiliated as possible exploiting the sanctification process; therefore, Terrorgram members conduct real OSINT operations to provide reliable information.

In terms of the features of the attack, Ryan Palmeter killed three African-Americans, two men and a woman. The episode has many similarities with previous attacks of the same matrix, in particular with the 2022 shootings in Buffalo (Payton Gendron) and in Bratislava (Juraj Krajčík). Despite the lack of a live stream and the absence of a manifesto published online, there are elements of continuity with the previous ones:

  • premeditation of the attack resulting in a specific choice of targets and location;
  • drafting of multiple writings, referred to as manifestos by law enforcement agencies. The manifestos were entrusted to his father via a text message;
  • weapons’ decorations similar to that of Brenton Tarrant and Peyton Gendron. This element was not done as meticulously as that of his predecessors.

Figure 1: comparison between Gendron weapon (above) and Palmeter weapons

This was the first sanctification of 2023, a necessary boost for their propaganda flow that they have been missing since Juraj Krajčík’s attack.  Despite that, the absence of propaganda material provided directly by him (no photos of the training and no reference to any inspiration for the attack) limited the media potential of the attack and prevented Terrorgram from producing a massive amount of new propaganda. The analysis of communications within the collective, already shows a decline in the engagement concerning the ‘Saint’ Ryan Palmeter. This decline is even more evident when compared to what the Terrorgram produced regarding the Gendron and Krajčík attacks.

Figure 2: comparison between Tarrant, Gendron, Krajčík and Palmeter attacks