CHARLESTON — When Dylann Storm Roof turned 21 in April, his father bought him a .45-caliber gun, a senior law enforcement source briefed on the investigation said Thursday.
It’s not known whether that handgun was used when Roof allegedly opened fire Wednesday night at a prayer meeting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine people.
“You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go,” Sylvia Johnson, a cousin of the church’s slain pastor, said the gunman told his victims, according to CNN affiliate WIS. She cited survivors of the shooting.
In the sparse details that have emerged about his life, none would suggest that he was capable of such hatred and violence.
Police in his hometown of Columbia — about 120 miles northwest of Charleston — obtained a warrant for his arrest in early March. He had been picked up by police on drug charges a few days earlier at Columbiana Centre mall, according to a police report.
Workers at two stores told mall security that Roof was acting strangely, asking “out of the ordinary questions” such as the number of sales associates and what time they left the mall, the police report said.
When a police confronted him, Roof “began speaking very nervously and stated that his parents were pressuring him to get a job,” according to the police report. Roof told the officer that he had not picked up any employment applications.
Banned from mall
Roof initially said he was not carrying anything illegal. But after he agreed to be searched, the officer found “a small unlabeled white bottle containing multiple orange … square strips” in his jacket, the police report said.
Roof told the officer the bottle contained Listerine breath strips.
When the officer asked again, Roof said the strips were suboxone, which is used to treat opiate addiction, according to the police report. Roof said he got the strips from a friend.
Though Roof was arrested on a drug possession charge that day in late February, it’s unclear why the March 1 arrest warrant was issued.
On April 26, police were again called to Columbiana Centre because of Roof, who had been banned from the mall for a year after his drug arrest, a police report said. The mall ban was extended to three years.
Roof was arrested that day in late April on a charge of trespassing; his car was turned over to his mother. The disposition of that case is also unclear.
John Mullins, who attended White Knoll High School with Roof, told CNN on Thursday that the suspect sometimes made racist comments and was “kind of wild” but not violent. Mullins also said Roof had some black friends.
“He was … calm,” Mullins said. “That’s why all this is such a shock.”
Roof repeated the ninth grade at White Knoll High School in Lexington County, according to Mary Beth Hill of the Lexington School District. She described him as “very transient,” adding that he “came and went.”
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said his niece, Emily, was in an eighth-grade English class with Roof.
“He was quiet, strange, very unsocial and everyone thought he was on drugs,” Graham said of the suspect, relaying the description from his Emily and sister Darline Graham Nordone.
The niece did not recall Roof making statements related to race, Graham said.
“I just think he was one of these whacked-out kids. I don’t think it’s anything broader than that,” said Graham, who is running for president. “It’s about a young man who is obviously twisted.”
On Wednesday night, the white and slightly built gunman was at the historic African-American church for about an hour, attending a meeting with his eventual victims, before the massacre, according to Charleston police Chief Greg Mullen.
Witnesses told investigators the gunman stood up and said he was there “to shoot black people,” a law enforcement official said.
The victims “were killed because they were black,” Charleston police spokesman Charles Francis told CNN on Thursday. Francis was asked what led authorities to investigate the shooting as a hate crime.
Investigators are looking into whether Roof had links to white supremacist or other hate groups, a law enforcement official said. There is no indication so far that he was known to law enforcement officials who focus on hate groups.
In an image tweeted by authorities in Berkeley County, South Carolina, Roof seen is wearing a jacket with what appear to be the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and nearby Rhodesia, a former British colony that a white minority ruled until it became independent in 1980 and changed its name to Zimbabwe.
Roof was armed when he was arrested Thursday in Shelby, North Carolina — about a 3½-hour drive north-northwest of Emanuel AME Church, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation. It’s not clear if it’s the same firearm used in the shootings.
Police had earlier said that Roof, of Lexington, South Carolina, might have been driving a black Hyundai with vehicle tag LGF330. He was arrested after a traffic stop prompted by a tip from a citizen, police said.
Charleston Police Chief Gregory Mullen told a news conference that officers “have obtained surveillance videos of the suspect in this case and a suspect vehicle.”
Mullen said the suspect was a “younger white male between 21 and 25 years of age, 5-foot-9 in height” and “has a very distinctive sweatshirt that has markings.”
Mullen emphasized the suspect is “a very dangerous individual.”
Woman spared by shooter to give account?
A female survivor told family members that the gunman told her he was letting her live to tell everyone else what happened, Dot Scott, president of the local branch of the NAACP, told CNN.
Scott said she had not spoken to the survivor directly but had heard this account repeated at least a dozen times as she met with relatives of the victims Wednesday night. Scott added that she didn’t know if the survivor had ended up at the hospital or being questioned by police.
Because of the church’s historic significance, it is not unusual for visitors, whether white or black, to visit it, Scott said. She said she’d had no indication that any children were among the victims.
Mullen told the news conference the suspect had been in the church attending a meeting that was going on — and “stayed there almost an hour with the group before the actual event.”
But he declined to comment on whether the suspect had let one woman escape.
‘Distinctive’ license plate
The suspect was seen leaving the church in a black four-door sedan, the flier says. “The vehicle you will see has a very distinctive front license plate,” Mullen added, but did not give further details on what made it stand out.
He appealed for the media to help in circulating the suspect’s image and for the public to be vigilant. The clean-shaven man pictured wears a gray sweatshirt over a white T-shirt, blue jeans and Timberland boots.
Police are “going through all kinds of video” and trying to identify any private or public video that may show anything useful for the investigation, Mullen said.
“No one in this community will ever forget this night and as a result of this and because of the pain and the hurt this individual has caused this entire community, the law enforcement agents are committed and we will catch this individual,” he said.
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley described the suspect as “somebody filled with hate and with a deranged mind.”
The man is a “no-good, horrible person,” he said. “Of course we will make sure he pays the price for this horrible act.”
Six of those killed in Wednesday night’s attack at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were female and three male. The victims included the church’s pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney.
A statement from the Georgia branch of the NAACP said, “There is no greater coward than a criminal who enters a house of God and slaughters innocent people engaged in the study of scripture.”
"Mother Emanuel" A.M.E. Church History
The history of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church reflects the development of religious institutions for African Americans in Charleston. Dating back to the fall of 1787 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Richard Allen founded the Free African Society, adhering to the Doctrines of Methodism established by John Wesley. In 1816, black members of Charleston's Methodist Episcopal church withdrew over disputed burial ground, and under the leadership of Morris Brown. The Rev. Morris Brown organized a church of persons of color and sought to have it affiliated with Allen's church. Three churches arose under the Free African Society and were named the "Bethel Circuit". One of the Circuit churches was located in the suburbs of Ansonborough, Hampstead, and Cow Alley, now known as Philadelphia Alley in the French Quarters of Charleston. Emanuel's congregation grew out of the Hampstead Church, located at Reid and Hanover Streets.
In 1822 the church was investigated for its involvement with a planned slave revolt. Denmark Vesey, one of the church's founders, organized a major slave uprising in Charleston. Vesey was raised in slavery in the Virgin Islands among newly imported Africans. He was the personal servant of slavetrader Captain Joseph Vesey, who settled in Charleston in 1783. Beginning in December 1821, Vesey began to organize a slave rebellion, but authorities were informed of the plot before it could take place. The plot created mass hysteria throughout the Carolinas and the South. Brown, suspected but never convicted of knowledge of the plot, went north to Philadelphia where he eventually became the second bishop of the AME denomination.
During the Vesey controversy, the AME church was burned. Worship services continued after the church was rebuilt until 1834 when all black churches were outlawed. The congregation continued the tradition of the African church by worshipping underground until 1865 when it was formally reorganized, and the name Emanuel was adopted, meaning "God with us". The wooden two-story church that was built on the present site in 1872 was destroyed by the devastating earthquake of August 31, 1886. The present edifice was completed in 1891 under the pastorate of the Rev. L. Ruffin Nichols. The magnificent brick structure with encircling marble panels was restored, redecorated and stuccoed during the years of 1949-51 under the leadership of the Rev. Frank R. Veal. The bodies of the Rev. Nichols and his wife were exhumed and entomed in the base of the steeple so that they may forever be with the Emanuel that they helped to nurture.
The Reverend Honorable Clementa C. Pinckney was born July 30, 1973 the son of Mr. John Pinckney and the late Theopia Stevenson Pinckney of Ridgeland, South Carolina. He was educated in the public schools of Jasper County. He is a magna cum laude graduate of Allen University with a degree in Business Administration. While there, Reverend Pinckney served as freshman class president, student body president, and senior class president. Ebony Magazine recognized Rev. Pinckney as one the "Top College Students in America". During his junior year, he received a Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson Summer Research Fellowship in the fields of public policy and international affairs. He received a graduate fellowship to the University of South Carolina where he earned a Master's degree in public administration. He completed a Master's of Divinity from the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.
Rev. Pinckney answered the call to preach at the age of thirteen and received his first appointment to pastor at the age of eighteen. He has served the following charges: Young's Chapel-Irmo, The Port Royal Circuit, Mount Horr-Yonges Island, Presiding Elder of the Wateree District and Campbell Chapel, Bluffton. He serves as the pastor of historic Mother Emanuel A.M.E. in Charleston, South Carolina.
Rev. Pinckney was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1996 at the age of twenty-three. In 2000, he was elected to the State Senate at the age of twenty-seven. He is one of the youngest persons and the youngest African-American in South Carolina to be elected to the State Legislature. He represents Jasper, Beaufort, Charleston, Colleton, and Hampton Counties. His committee assignments include Senate Finance, Banking and Insurance, Transportation, Medical Affairs and Corrections and Penology. Washington Post columnist, David Broder, called Rev. Pinckney a "political spirit lifter for suprisingly not becoming cynical about politics."
Rev. Pinckney has served in other capacities in the state to include a college trustee and corporate board member. In May 2010, he delivered the Commencement Address for the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.
He and his wife Jennifer have two children - Eliana and Malana.
As of the census of 2000, there were 216,014 people, 83,240 households, and 59,849 families residing in the county. The population density was 309 people per square mile (119/km²). There were 90,978 housing units at an average density of 130 per square mile (50/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 84.18% White, 12.63% Black or African American, 0.34% Native American, 1.05% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.79% from other races, and 0.98% from two or more races. 1.92% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 83,240 households out of which 35.50% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.60% were married couples living together, 11.60% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.10% were non-families. 22.50% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.90% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.56 and the average family size was 3.01.
In the county, the population was spread out with 26.10% under the age of 18, 8.30% from 18 to 24, 31.60% from 25 to 44, 23.80% from 45 to 64, and 10.20% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 94.50 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.30 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $44,659, and the median income for a family was $52,637. Males had a median income of $36,435 versus $26,387 for females. The per capita income for the county was $21,063. About 6.40% of families and 9.00% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.10% of those under age 18 and 9.30% of those age 65 or over.