UPDATE:  10/24/2015

On his website, Dylann Storm Roof, 21, left a 2,000 word manifesto in which he identified himself as a “white nationalist” and said he was “truly awakened” after reading materials by the Council of Conservative Citizens, an American “political” organization that supports separatism (a.k.a. segregation).

“I have no choice.  Someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world…” he wrote.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit that tracks hate groups, Roof fits the profile of a right wing domestic terrorist.  Read the SPLC Age of the Wolf study on lone wolf domestic terrorism released earlier this year. He also wrote that he heavily researched what he termed “Black on White crime” and referenced the Trayvon Martin case, “pages upon pages of these brutal Black on White murders,” then discovered the “same things were happening” in Western Europe.

On June 17, 2015, Roof is accused of walking into Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston during a bible study being led by state Senator Clementa Pinckney, shooting and killing 9 and injuring 1.  The church is one of the oldest African American churches in the U.S. Roof was arrested in North Carolina.  The U.S. Dept. of Justice is investigating whether the crime was a hate crime or an act of domestic terrorism. Roof has been charged with 9 counts of murder and could face the death penalty.

The shooting is the largest mass murder at an American place of worship since the 1991 Buddhist temple massacre in Waddell, AZ.

For nearly an hour before he attacked, Roof was present at the Bible study.  A total of 13 people attended.  According to accounts by survivors, the shooter asked if he could sit next to Senator Pinckney.  He listened as the group discussed scripture and then began disagreeing with them.  That’s when he stood up and pulled a handgun from his fanny pack. He aimed the gun first at Susie Jackson, 87, Jackson’s nephew, Tywanza Sanders, 26, tried to talk him out of it and asked why he was attacking them.

He responded, “I have to do it.  You rape our women and you’re taking over our country.  And you have to go.”

Sanders dove in front of his aunt and was the first killed.

The victims were:

  • Tywanza Sanders, 26
  • Susie Jackson, 87
  • Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, 54, manager of the Charleston County Public Library system
  • Ethel Lee Lance, 70
  • Depayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, a pastor, school administrator, and admissions coordinator at Southern Wesleyan University.
  • Clementa C. Pinckney, 41, a pastor and South Carolina senator.
  • Daniel Simmons, 74, a pastor, who also served the Greater Zion AME Church
  • Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, a pastor, speech therapist, and track coach at Goose Creek High School
  • Myra Thompson, 59

While shooting the victims, the shooter yelled racial epithets.

He also said, “Y’all want something to pray about? I’ll give you something to pray about.”

Sander’s mother and his 5-year-old niece survived the shooting by pretending to be dead.

Dot Scott, president of the local branch of the NAACP, said that the shooter asked Sanders’ mother if she was shot, when she replied no, he said, “Good, ’cause we need someone to survive…” to tell others what happened.  The shooter attempted to commit suicide, but was out of bullets, according to reports. Before leaving the church, he “uttered racially inflammatory statements” over the bodies. Dylann Roof was named as the suspect when his father and uncle called police identifying him from publicly released security videos.

Roof could have been planning his attack for 6 months or more and he targeted the Emanuel AME Church because of its rich history. The day after the attack, Roof was apprehended while he was stopped at a traffic light 245 miles away.  Police received a tip from Debbie Dills who recognized Roof driving his car, a black Hyundai Elantra with SC plates and Confederate States of America bumper decorations.  She recalled images taken at the church through security footage that were disseminated through the media.

She later recalled, “I got closer and saw that haircut. I was nervous. I had the worst feeling. Is that him or not him?” The police trailed him for 35 miles in order to safely move in for the arrest. Roof reportedly told police that he almost didn’t go through with it because everyone at the church was so nice.

According to Heidi Beirich, the director of the Intelligence Project for the Southern Poverty Law Center, “for several years South Carolina has been the place with the highest density of hate groups.”

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