CHARLESTON, S.C. — As additional information surfaces surrounding the suspect in Wednesday’s shooting at a South Carolina church, friends and acquaintances of the gunman are describing the man as a racist who “wanted to start a civil war” over blacks in the country.
Dylann Roof, 21, was taken into custody on Thursday in Shelby, North Carolina after a florist spotted a vehicle matching the description of the suspect’s car and called her employer to report the matter. Roof was consequently arrested, and was transported by aircraft back to South Carolina to face the consequences of his alleged crimes.
As previously reported, the shooting occurred at Wednesday evening at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. The suspect is believed to have attended the service for about an hour before spraying the room with gunfire, reloading several times.
When police arrived on the scene, they found eight persons (six women, two men) who were already deceased, including the pastor. One church member was transported by ambulance to the hospital, but died on the operating table.
Government officials across the state have reacted in shock and horror over the violence. While motives were unknown earlier in the day Thursday, as the suspect was identified and friends and acquaintances interviewed, the belief became firmer that Roof had acted out of his disdain for African Americans.
One woman who was in the congregation the night that Roof gunned down her church family said that he had declared before opening fire, “I have to do it. You’re raping our women and taking over the country. You have to go.”
Joseph Meek, Jr., a friend of Roof’s from junior high school, said that Roof reached out to him on Facebook a few weeks ago and began to vent his racist beliefs.
“He said blacks were taking over the world. Someone needed to do something about it for the white race,” he told ABC News. “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.”
Meek reportedly contacted the FBI after recognizing Roof in the surveillance footage released by police following the shooting.
Roof’s roommate, Dalton Tyler, told reporters that the 21-year-old had been planning an attack for six months.
“He was big into segregation and other stuff,” he told ABC News. “He said he wanted to start a civil war. He said he was going to do something like that and then kill himself.”
The 21-year-old’s sullen Facebook profile picture also shows Roof wearing patches of flags for apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia, which are believed to relate to African regions that are largely inhabited by whites.
“There is no greater coward than a criminal who enters a house of God and slaughters innocent people,” said NAACP President Cornell Brooks.