After a roughly 12-hour search, the man who attacked Charleston, South Carolina’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is now in police custody. Twenty-one-year-old Dylann Storm Roof was arrested on Thursday morning in Shelby, North Carolina, about 250 miles from where he fatally shot nine people as they attended a Wednesday night bible study. “I have to do it,” Roof reportedly told members of the historic black congregation just before he fired on them. “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country and you have to go.” Here’s what we know about Roof so far:
- Surveillance video shows a man who appears to be Roof opening the door to the church at 8 p.m., and he reportedly asked for the pastor when he entered. Kristen Washington, a relative of the survivors, told the New York Times that about an hour into the prayer meeting, Roof stood up and pulled a gun. Her cousin Tywanza Sanders, 26, said, “You don’t have to do this.” The gunman responded, “Yes. You are raping our women and taking over the country.” When he pointed his gun at Sanders’s aunt, 87-year-old Susie Jackson, the young man told him to point the gun at him instead. “It doesn’t matter. I’m going to shoot all of you,” the gunman answered. Sanders dived in front of his aunt and was the first person shot. Jackson was killed as well, but Sanders’s mother and niece survived by playing dead. According to several reports, Roof purposely avoided murdering one churchgoer, telling her, “I’m not going to kill you, I’m going to spare you, so you can tell them what happened.”
- Mashable obtained a Snapchat video of the Bible study group that Tywanza Sanders posted shortly before the shooting. A white man matching Roof’s description is visible in the right side of the frame.
- According to the Columbia State, “a tip from a citizen about a suspicious vehicle” led to Roof’s arrest. (The authorities reportedly knew he had made his way to North Carolina, as they were able to trace his cell phone.) “Mullen would not talk about whether the suspect admitted to the crime or whether police found any weapons in the vehicle,” the State reports. “Mullen said Roof was cooperative with the officer who stopped him. Authorities believe that Roof acted alone.” CNN reports that Roof was “armed with a gun” when he was apprehended.
- Roof grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, and attended White Knoll High School. Records show he attended ninth grade twice, and it appears he dropped out after that. A former classmate told the Daily Beast that Roof “used drugs heavily a lot.” “It [was] obviously harder than marijuana. He was like a pill popper, from what I understood. Like Xanax, and stuff like that.” The classmate, John Mullins, also said Roof “had that kind of Southern pride, I guess some would say. Strong conservative beliefs. He made a lot of racist jokes, but you don’t really take them seriously like that. You don’t really think of it like that.”
- Roof worked in landscaping and sometimes slept in his car, according to a friend. In recent weeks his behavior became more bizarre and he began talking about wanting to burn an American flag and get the word dagger tattooed on his neck.
- The Associated Press reports Roof was arrested in March for drug possession. According to a police report, an officer began questioning Roof at a Columbia mall after he frightened several employees by asking them “unusual” questions. He consented to a search, which turned up painkillers for which he did not have a prescription. After two days in jail, Roof was released on $5,000 bond and banned from the mall. He was spotted in the building a month later, resulting in a tresspassing charge and a longer ban.
- In his Facebook photo (below), Roof wears a jacket featuring the flags of Apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia, a British colony that was ruled by a white minority until 1980, when it gained independence and became Zimbabwe. (The patches are frequently worn by white supremacists.) In another photo posted to Facebook, Roof poses with a Confederate-flag license plate. According to media reports, about half of his Facebook friends are black.
- An unnamed relative told The Wall Street Journal that Roof “apparently told people that he was involved in groups, racist groups.” The relative, described as “the mother of Mr. Roof’s former stepmother,” added, “He was kind and sweet and polite to my daughter. He didn’t even want her to know what kind of things he was doing. She told him she didn’t approve.”
- Roof’s uncle, Carson Cowles, seems to have contacted the police after recognizing his nephew in a surveillance still. Cowles told Reuters that Roof’s father recently gifted the 21-year-old a .45-caliber pistol. “Nobody in my family had seen anything like this coming. I said, if it is him, and when they catch him, he’s got to pay for this,” said Cowles. When reached on her cell phone, Roof’s mother told a reporter, “We will be doing no interviews, ever.”
- The Washington Post reports that Roof’s sister called the police when she saw her brother’s photo on TV. She was set to marry Michael Tyo, a recruiter for the U.S. Army Reserve, on Sunday. Tyo’s home was located three miles from where Roof was captured. Carson Cowles told the Post that his nephew didn’t have a problem with black people (despite evidence to the contrary) and his mother “never raised him to be like this.” “The whole world is going to be looking at his family who raised this monster,” Cowles said, wiping away tears. He added, “I’d be the executioner myself if they would allow it.”
- Roof’s roommate, Dalton Tyler, told ABC News, “He was big into segregation and other stuff. He said he wanted to start a civil war. He said he was going to do something like that and then kill himself … [He’d been] planning something like that for six months.” In an interview with the Times, Tyler recalled that one time Roof saw a black woman, used a racist word, and said, “I’ll shoot your ass.” “I was just like, ‘You’re stupid,’” Tyler said. “He was a racist; but I don’t judge people.”
- Joseph Meek, 20, a childhood friend who reconnected with Roof earlier this year, told the Times that recently his friend had started ranting about racist ideas and talking about wanting to “hurt a whole bunch of people.” “He was saying all this stuff about how the races should be segregated, that whites should be with whites,” Meek said. “I could tell there was something inside him, there was something he wouldn’t let go. I was trying to tell him, ‘What’s wrong?’ All he would say was that he was planning to do something crazy.” At first Meek thought Roof was joking, but at few weeks ago he got worried and hid Roof’s .45-caliber handgun. Then Meek returned it at his girlfriend’s insistence because he’s on probation and didn’t want to get in trouble. Now they both feel guilty that they didn’t stop the shooting. “I feel we could have done something and prevented this whole thing,” Fry said.
Correction: A previous version of this story noted that a man claiming to be Roof’s cousin said that he “kind of went over the edge when a girl he liked starting dating a black guy two years back.” The Intercept has retracted that story, which reflected a “pattern of misattributed quotes” in stories written by former staff reporter Juan Thompson.