Jason Miczek / Reuters

Charleston shooting suspect’s father speaks out

Ben Roof refutes claims that he bought his son a .45 caliber gun

The father of Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old suspected gunman in the shooting this week at the historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina that left nine dead, told Al Jazeera on Friday that he and his daughter alerted police during the manhunt for his son. 

"My daughter and I called the hotline on Thursday morning to turn my son in," Ben Roof said.

He also disputed an earlier report by Reuters, citing Dylann Roof’s uncle Carson Cowles, that Ben Roof gave his son a .45 caliber gun as a birthday present. 

"I did not buy my son that gun. In fact, he used his own money. I did not buy that gun," he said. 

A judge set $1 million bond for Roof’s weapons charge. He does not have the authority to set bond on the nine murder counts. That will be left up to a circuit judge at a later date.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said on Friday that Roof should face the death penalty if convicted.

"Watch how we handle him. That'll show you how we handle hate crimes in South Carolina, because you will see that we will push for the death penalty,” she said Friday while dodging a question regarding hate crime legislation in South Carolina. “We will make sure that we do everything we're supposed to, and we will show that that is not acceptable in South Carolina."

Meanwhile, Roof’s family members released a statement on Friday through their attorney, Boyd Young.

“Words cannot express our shock, grief and disbelief as to what happened that night,” the statement reads. “We are devastated and saddened by what occurred. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those killed this week. We have all been touched by the moving words from the victims’ families offering God’s forgiveness and love in the face of such horrible suffering."

Dylann Roof’s friends said he had talked about attacking a college campus, the Washington Post and NBC News reported on Friday.

The Washington Post reported 22-year-old Christon Scriven, a black neighbor of gunman Dylann Roof, said that during a recent night of drinking, Roof said he wanted to open fire on a school. At another point, Roof talked about shooting up the College of Charleston, according to the newspaper.

"My reaction at the time was, 'You're just talking crazy,'" Scriven told the Post. "I don't think he's always there."

Scriven also told NBC News that Roof may have changed his plans after deciding the college campus was a harder target to access.

"He just said on Wednesday, everything was going to happen. He said they had seven days," Scriven said to NBC News. "I just ran through my head that he did it [...] Like, he really went and did what he said he was going to do."

Reuters could not verify the report as Scriven could not be immediately reached for comment.

Roof, who authorities say spent an hour in Bible study with parishioners at the nearly 200-year-old Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church before opening fire on Wednesday night, appeared on Friday via video feed before a magistrate judge who ordered him held without bond.

The attack at the church nicknamed "Mother Emanuel" for its key role in African-American history followed a wave of protests across the United States in recent months over police killings of unarmed black men, focusing attention on racial bias in the criminal justice system and renewing a civil rights movement under the banner of "Black Lives Matter."

Al Jazeera and wire services. Robert Ray contributed reporting.

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