The FBI has identified the alleged gunman in the deadly shooting at a Charleston, South Carolina, church as 21-year-old Dylann Roof. He was detained in North Carolina late Thursday morning during a traffic stop. “I can confirm that there is a suspect in custody,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a news conference.
“This is a very dangerous individual,” Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said earlier on Thursday. Records show Roof, who lived in South Carolina cities, including Eastover and Lexington, and spent part of his freshman year at White Knoll High School in Lexington, was arrested twice this year. He did not graduate from either high school he attended, including Dreher High School, where he spent part of his freshman year. Officials would not say why.
The first arrest was for a drug charge on March 1 in Lexington County, and he was arrested on a trespassing charge in April, The Charleston Post and Courier reported.
Roof sat with churchgoers in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church for about an hour on Wednesday before opening fire, Mullen said. He reloaded five times, even as victims pleaded with him to stop, according to a relative of state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, a victim of the shooting. Pinckney tried to talk him out of it, she said.
The church where the attack took place was burned down nearly 200 years ago in retaliation for its members planning a slave revolt. That revolt was planned for June 16, 1822.
Images on social media on Thursday showed Roof displaying symbols commonly associated with racist and white-dominant governing systems. In one photo from his Facebook account, Roof wears a jacket with the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), whose governments enforced a stark system of racial separation and white privilege.
In another picture, shared by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights group, Roof sits on the hood of a car with a front plate commemorating the Confederate States of America.
Roof's uncle Carson Cowles said he recognized Roof in a photo released by police. Cowles described Roof as quiet and soft-spoken. Roof's father gave him a .45-caliber pistol for his birthday this year, Cowles said.
“Nobody in my family had seen anything like this coming,” Cowles said. He said he told his sister, Roof’s mother, several years ago that Roof was too introverted. “I said he was, like, 19 years old, he still didn’t have a job, a driver’s license or anything like that and he just stayed in his room a lot of the time,” Cowles said.
Lexington, South Carolina, which Roof listed as his city on Facebook, is 83.8 percent white and 12.5 percent African-American. It is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. Eastover, South Carolina, where Roof also lived, according to local media, and attended school, is 6.9 percent white and 92.3 percent African-American.
Wire services. With additional reporting by Azure Gilman.