KINGS MOUNTAIN, N.C. — The North Carolina woman who helped police find the gunman who shot and killed nine members of a historic African American church on Wednesday is crediting God for placing her in the right place at the right time.
Debbie Dills, 51, works as a bookkeeper for Frady’s Florist in Kings Mountain. After attending church herself Wednesday night, she watched the news and learned of the shooting that took place in Charleston, South Carolina—several hours away. The next morning, she viewed the unfolding descriptions of the suspect and his vehicle, and her heart broke as she saw images of the grieving congregation huddled together to ask God to find the killer.
Dills told reporters Thursday that she was moved with compassion for those affected by the shooting and began praying for them as she drove to work.
“They were on my heart and my mind heavy,” she said. “I just was praying for them and hoping it would help them to find a little peace in such a terrible horrific situation.”
But all of a sudden, as she traveled the four-lane highway, her attention was drawn to a vehicle that matched the description that she had seen on the news that morning.
“I said, ‘I’ve seen that car for some reason.’ I look over, and it’s got a South Carolina tag on it,” Dills told the Shelby Star. “I thought, ‘Nah, that’s not his car.'”
However, when she was able to catch a glimpse of the driver, she recognized the gunman’s distinct haircut.
“I [had seen] the pictures of him with the bowl cut,” Dills recalled. “I was nervous. I had the worst feeling. Is that him or not him?”
She called her employer, Todd Frady, who called a police officer that he knew, who in turn contacted additional authorities. Dills felt compelled to continue the follow the vehicle to obtain the license plate number.
“I was nervous. I was scared. I’m normally not that kind of person, and I got back on the bypass to go see just if I could get a tag number,” she said. “I just had a feeling and I’m sure that was divine intervention.”
Dills followed the suspect’s car for 30 miles, and at one point, got right behind him at a red light. She remained on the phone with Frady, who relayed information to the police.
After a time, she saw police also begin to follow the vehicle, and backed off to let them do their job. When Dills passed by the police again, she saw that they had apprehended the gunman.
While some have hailed Dills as a hero for helping police locate suspect Dylann Roof, she gives all the credit and glory to God.
“It wasn’t me. It was God,” she told reporters. “He used me as a vessel. If anybody’s a hero, it is Him. It was through Him that everything happened.”
“It was Him from the time I left my house [that] morning. It was Him that made me look at that car. It was God who made this happen,” Dills stated. “God heard the prayers of those people.”