US & Canada

Charleston shooting: Dylann Roof named as suspect

Dylann Roof Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Dylann Roof, 21, is suspected of killing nine people at a Charleston church

Dylann Roof, the suspected gunman in the South Carolina church shooting, had recently purchased a weapon with money he received for his birthday, according to a relative.

His uncle, Carson Cowles, said he tried to mentor his nephew, who had no job or driver's licence, but Mr Roof was not receptive to this idea.

"I actually talked to him on the phone briefly for just a few moments and he was saying well I'm outside target practicing with my new gun," Mr Cowles said, describing a phone call around the time of Mr Roof's birthday in April.

He told the Washington Post that his nephew was a quiet person and that his mother had "never raised him to be like this".

"I'd be the executioner myself if they would allow it," he said.

'White supremacist'

Richard Cohen, president of Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in Montgomery, Alabama, says Mr Roof wasn't known to his organisation, and it is unclear whether he is connected to any of the 16 white supremacist organisations the SPLC has identified as operating in South Carolina.

Image copyright Other
Image caption Dylann Roof reportedly got in trouble with the police over a trespassing incident in April

But Mr Cohen says that based on his Facebook page, Mr Roof appears to be a "disaffected white supremacist".

His Facebook page says the suspect went to White Knoll High School in Lexington, South Carolina, a two-hour drive from Charleston. It says he lives in the state capital Columbia.

Local media report that he transferred to Dreher High School in Columbia but that there are no records of him finishing at either school.


What do the flags on Dylann Roof's jacket symbolise?

An image found on Dylann Roof's Facebook page shows the Charleston shooting suspect posing for the camera in a black jacket with two flags stitched to it.

The flags are both old - one belonged to apartheid-era South Africa and the other to the state of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.

Rhodesia became Zimbabwe in 1980 and South Africa rejected apartheid in 1994 - the year Mr Roof was born. But during the time they flew the flags worn by him, both nations were segregated and ruled by white minorities.

White supremacist organisations have celebrated both nations, claiming them to be examples of the benefits of white rule. The flags can be a subtle way for white supremacists to reveal support for their cause, analysts say.


A woman who answered a mobile phone belonging to the suspect's mother, Amelia Roof, declined to comment to Reuters.

"We will be doing no interviews ever," she said, before hanging up.

Police identified Mr Roof after receiving tip-offs from friends and family who claimed to recognise him in surveillance footage from the church.

He was caught in Shelby in North Carolina. Why he fled there is still unclear but local media say that he was captured only a few miles away from the house of his sister's fiance.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Roof was caught about 200 miles (322 km) away from the scene of the attack

Officials circulated the image, appealing for help finding a suspect in a grey sweatshirt, blue jeans and Timberland boots.

Mr Roof's childhood friend, Joey Meek, alerted the FBI when he saw the grey top he was wearing, according to Mr Meek's mother, Kimberly Kozny.

She told the Associated Press that Mr Roof had worn that sweatshirt over to their house many times as they played Xbox videogames in recent weeks.

"I don't know what was going through his head," Ms Kozny said. "He was a really sweet kid. He was quiet. He only had a few friends,'' she added.

Previous arrests

Mr Meek told AP that he and Mr Roof had been friends in secondary school, and then lost touch for years before reconnecting a few weeks ago.

"All the sudden out of the blue, he started talking about race," he said.

"He said he wanted segregation between whites and blacks. I said, 'that's not the way it should be'. But he kept talking about it."

Mr Meek told the New York Times that he had been so concerned by what his friend was saying that he had confiscated his gun.

But he later returned it because he had been afraid of getting into trouble while on probation.

Image copyright ABC
Image caption Mr Roof waived his right to extradition and was flown back to South Carolina

On his car licence plate Mr Roof reportedly displayed the Confederate flag, which was flown by the southern, slave-owning side in the US Civil War (1861-65).

Court records in South Carolina show that he had been in trouble with the law before.

In February, he drew the attention of police at a shopping mall. According to reports, Mr Roof walked into the mall dressed all in black and began asking strange questions to shop employees, such as how many people were working at the mall and what time they would be leaving for the night.

He was found to be carrying a drug for treating opiate addiction in his pocket without prescription and was charged for drug possession and banned from the mall. Two months later, he was arrested for trespassing at the same shopping centre.

'Hate crime'

NBC News has published an interview with Sylvia Johnson, Pastor Clementa Pinckney's cousin, who said she had spoken to one of the survivors.

She was told that the gunman "reloaded five different times" and that the gunman told the victims: "I have to do it... You rape our women and you're taking over our country, and you have to go."

The US Justice Department says it is investigating the shooting at the church as a hate crime.

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