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Charleston church shooting suspect, 21-year-old Dylann Roof in custody; nine victims identified

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CHARLESTON, South Carolina  — Before he allegedly opened fire on members of a Bible study group at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, Dylann Roof sat with them. He might have prayed with them.

A Snapchat video from Wednesday night at the historic African-American church shows Roof at a table with the small group. Nothing in the footage suggests the carnage to come.


Police say Roof shot and killed nine people inside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, near the heart of Charleston’s tourist district. Eight died at the scene; a ninth died at a hospital.

Authorities were shocked not only by the killings but that the violence occurred in a house of worship.

Dylann Roof

Dylann Roof

“People in prayer Wednesday evening. A ritual, a coming together, praying, worshiping God. An awful person to come in and shoot them is inexplicable,” said Charleston Mayor Joe Riley.

Six women and three men were killed, including the church’s politically active pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney.

Sylvia Johnson, a cousin of Pinckney, said she heard about what happened inside the church from a survivor, a close friend.

Johnson told CNN her friend recounted the man coming into the church, asking for the minister.

“My cousin, being the nice, kind, welcoming person he is, he welcomed him to his congregation, welcomed him to the Bible study, and he sat there for an hour … At the conclusion of the Bible study, they just heard just a ringing of a loud noise, and it was just awful from what I heard,” Johnson said.

When the son of her friend pleaded with the shooter to stop, Johnson said the gunman replied: “‘No, you’ve raped our women, and you are taking over the country … I have to do what I have to do.’ And he shot the young man.”

Her friend pretended she was dead.

“But she watched her son fall and laid there. She laid there in his blood,” Johnson said.

From what she heard, the gunman reloaded five times.

Before he left the church, he asked one of the elderly members whether he had shot her, and she said no.

“And he said good, because we need a survivor because I’m going to kill myself,” Johnson told CNN.

A law enforcement official said witnesses told authorities the gunman stood up and said he was there “to shoot black people.”

The president of the NAACP expressed his outrage at the violence.

“There is no greater coward than a criminal who enters a house of God and slaughters innocent people engaged in the study of scripture,” Cornell William Brooks said.

Data pix.

The suspect

Roof, 21, of Lexington, South Carolina, was arrested Thursday morning about 245 miles (395 kilometers) away in Shelby, North Carolina. He waived extradition and arrived back in South Carolina late Thursday.

He was taken into custody without incident shortly before 11 a.m., Shelby police said in a statement. Authorities got a call about a possible sighting of the suspect. A local newspaper filled in some of the details.

Police got a tip from Debbie Dills, who reportedly spotted Roof on her way into work. She followed him for 35 miles, the Shelby Star reported.

"I had been praying for those people on my way to work," Dills told the newspaper about victims of the church shooting. "I was in the right place at the right time."

At 10:43 a.m., officers saw the suspect's vehicle, and stopped it at 10:44 a.m., police said. Roof was the vehicle's only occupant.

He was armed with a gun when he was arrested, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation. It's not clear if it's the same firearm used in the shooting.

A senior law enforcement source told CNN the suspect's father had recently bought him a .45-caliber gun for his 21st birthday in April.

Police are searching for more information about Roof, whose last name is rhymes with "cough," and trying to determine whether he had any links to hate groups.

Authorities released a mug shot of him from Lexington County on Thursday. It was taken after a trespassing arrest in April. According to an arrest warrant from a February incident, Roof had an unlabeled pill bottle with a drug believed to be suboxone, which is used to treat opiate addiction. Roof told police a friend gave him drugs. The status of the cases is unclear.

In an image tweeted by the Berkeley County, South Carolina, government, Roof is wearing a jacket with what appear to be the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and nearby Rhodesia, a former British colony that was ruled by a white minority until it became independent in 1980 and changed its name to Zimbabwe.

Data pix.

The victims

Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten identified the nine victims as follows: Cynthia Hurd, 54; Susie Jackson, 87; Ethel Lance, 70; Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49; Hon. Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45; Myra Thompson, 59.

Wooten told reporters that the victims all suffered gunshot wounds and died as a result of them.

Three people survived the shooting, including a woman who received a chilling message from the shooter.

"Her life was spared, and (she was) told, 'I'm not going to kill you, I'm going to spare you, so you can tell them what happened,' " Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott told CNN. She said she heard this from the victim's family members.

Federal authorities have opened a hate crime investigation into the shooting at the oldest AME church in the South, the Department of Justice said.

"The only reason someone would walk into a church and shoot people that were praying is hate," Charleston Mayor Riley said.

It was not clear if the gunman targeted any individual.

"We don't know if anybody was targeted other than the church itself," Charleston police Chief Greg Mullen said.

Data pix.

The church

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has been a presence in Charleston since 1816, when African-American members of Charleston's Methodist Episcopal Church formed their own congregation after a dispute over burial grounds. Known as "Mother Emanuel," it's been the headquarters for civil rights activity over the decades.

It was burned to the ground at one point but was rebuilt. Throughout its history, it overcame obstacle after obstacle -- destroyed by an earthquake, banned by the state. But its church members persevered, making it the largest African-American church in terms of seating space in Charleston today.

"Any death of this sort is a tragedy. Any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy. There is something particularly heartbreaking about death happening in a place in which we seek solace, we seek peace," said President Barack Obama.

Data pix.

Call for healing

The killing put the nation's spotlight once again on the Charleston region. Several months ago, Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, was fatally shot in the back by a North Charleston police officer, a killing that was captured on video.

Pinckney, the pastor, backed a bill to make body cameras mandatory for all police officers in South Carolina.

Riley, who's seen Charleston go through ups and downs during his 40 years as mayor, said the city must immediately start the healing process. A community prayer meeting will be held Friday at the College of Charleston, not far from the church, he said.

"We are going to put our arms around that church and that church family."

The church sits in an area of Charleston densely packed with houses of worship and well-preserved old buildings. The streets of the neighborhood are normally filled with tourists.

Charleston, as several church leaders pointed out, is known as the "Holy City" because of its numerous churches and tolerant attitude toward different denominations.

"Like everybody out here, we're sick to our stomachs that this could happen in a church," said Rep. Dave Mack, a friend of the church's pastor.

Data pix.

A brief history of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church:

According to it's website, in 1787, Richard Allen and others of African descent withdrew from St. George's Methodist Church in Philadelphia because of unkind treatment and restrictions placed upon the worshispers of African descent. After Allen left St. George's Methodist Church, he and his followers purchased a blacksmith shop for thirty-five dollars. From the blacksmith shop they worshipped and helped the sick and the poor. The blacksmith shop was converted into a church. They called the new church Bethel.

In 1816 Allen called together sixteen representatives from Bethel African Church in Philadelphia and African churches in Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey to meet in Philadelphia. The movement blossomed and the African Methodist Episcopal Chucrh was organized. Richard Allen was the first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The AME Church has never strayed from the course charted by Richard Allen. The church is wedded to the spiritual doctrine of "God our Father, Christ our Redeemer, Man our Brother".

An excerpt from the autobiography of Richard Allen is posted to the church's website. It reads:

"We had not been long upon our knees before I heard considerable scuffling and loud talking. I raised my head up and saw one of the trustees having hold of the Rev. Absalom Jones, pulling him off his knees, and saying, 'You must get up, you must not kneel here.' Mr. Jones replied, 'Wait until prayer is over, and I will get up and trouble you no more.' With that he beckoned to one of the trustees to come to his assistance. He came and went to William White to pull him up. By this time prayer was over, and we all went out of the church in a body, and they were no more plagued by us in the church."

The following statement is posted on the church's website -- going further into the church's history -- dating back to the 1800s:

"The history of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church reflects the development of religious institutions for African Americans in Charleston. Dating back to the fall of 1787 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Richard Allen founded the Free African Society, adhering to the Doctrines of Methodism established by John Wesley. In 1816, black members of Charleston's Methodist Episcopal church withdrew over disputed burial ground, and under the leadership of Morris Brown. The Rev. Morris Brown organized a church of persons of color and sought to have it affiliated with Allen's church. Three churches arose under the Free African Society and were named the "Bethel Circuit". One of the Circuit churches was located in the suburbs of Ansonborough, Hampstead, and Cow Alley, now known as Philadelphia Alley in the French Quarters of Charleston. Emanuel's congregation grew out of the Hampstead Church, located at Reid and Hanover Streets.

In 1822 the church was investigated for its involvement with a planned slave revolt. Denmark Vesey, one of the church's founders, organized a major slave uprising in Charleston. Vesey was raised in slavery in the Virgin Islands among newly imported Africans. He was the personal servant of slavetrader Captain Joseph Vesey, who settled in Charleston in 1783. Beginning in December 1821, Vesey began to organize a slave rebellion, but authorities were informed of the plot before it could take place. The plot created mass hysteria throughout the Carolinas and the South. Brown, suspected but never convicted of knowledge of the plot, went north to Philadelphia where he eventually became the second bishop of the AME denomination.

During the Vesey controversy, the AME church was burned. Worship services continued after the church was rebuilt until 1834 when all black churches were outlawed. The congregation continued the tradition of the African church by worshipping underground until 1865 when it was formally reorganized, and the name Emanuel was adopted, meaning "God with us". The wooden two-story church that was built on the present site in 1872 was destroyed by the devastating earthquake of August 31, 1886. The present edifice was completed in 1891 under the pastorate of the Rev. L. Ruffin Nichols. The magnificent brick structure with encircling marble panels was restored, redecorated and stuccoed during the years of 1949-51 under the leadership of the Rev. Frank R. Veal. The bodies of the Rev. Nichols and his wife were exhumed and entomed in the base of the steeple so that they may forever be with the Emanuel that they helped to nurture."

CLICK HERE to learn much more about the AME church.


  • Fred

    Find this dirtbag and put him away for life with no possibility of release. Let his room mates in prison comfort him.

    • Mitch

      Yes. Let his hair grow long, style and condition it so it smells nice, put lipstick and eyeliner on him, and just let “prison” takes it course. 👍

  • Steve Yuhas

    Dylann Storm Roof was arrested on drug charges and trespassing (different arrests), but he was still on the streets at the age of 21? He must have spent no time in jail for his previous offenses (and who knows what it is his juvenile record) for his prior lawbreaking and now nine people are dead and a city in fear. Perhaps people calling for consequences for drug offenses to be lowered ought to consider the potential for violence some of these same offenders have. He’s not new to law enforcement and he’s only 21-years-old.

    • Thomas

      Such comments are simply inflammatory and distract from the real issue. A human being committed a heinous crime against several other human beings. Whether or not justice happens this side of heaven, Mr. Roof will eventually be held accountable for his actions. Perhaps there is a more constructive use of your time then throwing fuel on an ever-widening racial divide in this country. You are part of the problem, in fact, rather than part of the solution.

    • Lillie

      Actually in the city i work in I can not count how many people that are arrested black/white/middle eastern/asian/few Hispanic that commit crimes like these and are back on the streets and repeatedly arrested because the court system lets them go whether it’s for similar crimes, worse crimes or warrants for contempt and probation violations. The system is flawed and over run so they just keep releasing them.

    • Doug Richar

      And if drinking were illegal we’d have a lot of potential criminals off the streets too. As well as literally thousands of non-violent offenders. As heinous as his actions were, you can’t predict violent behavior based on non-violent offenses. He may have had a parking ticket too, should we have locked him up and thrown away the key, to prevent anyone who breaks the law from deciding to go bananas one day and kill innocent people?

    • paul

      Trespassing rarely has jail time and as far drug charges go it depends on how much, what kind and if they think you are dealing. First time offenders for possession of a small amount of pot face a max of 30 days, and if they prior record is not bad likely will get less.

    • Mostly Harmless

      Not in any way to excuse the shooter’s behavior, but considering that most young offender who survive their induction into that particular ‘fraternity’ come out more violent, more disconnected from normal social structure, and less concerned for their own personal future, I say that your statement does INDEED warrant consideration. How, indeed, would this have played out if we weren’t putting experimenting kids in with hardened killers?

    • Reasonless

      The fact that you would even think that, let alone post it, tells the rest of us that you are nothing but a bitter fool.

  • Shears-of-Atropos

    “The suspect was seen leaving the church in a black four-door sedan, the flier says. “The vehicle you will see has a very distinctive front license plate,” Mullen added.”

    Well, that make everything clear… we all know what a “distinctive” license plate looks like, don’t we?

    Middle name is “Storm”? Like in “Storm Trooper” or “Stormfront”?

  • fedup

    now tell us about his past. his perfect patents and how he’s simply misguided.
    fed up. 😒
    the media had a way of sympathizing these crazy fu***

  • Lorenzo

    Isn’t every premeditated murder a “hate crime” by definition? When did we get to the point where we politicize EVERYTHING?

    • CARAIN

      Half of this kids facebook friends are black. More likely he was just angry and used race as an excuse when he snapped.

      • Peter

        So you’re suggesting that because he had black fb friends he was not racist? Tell that to the nine black people he killed for no reason other than race…

      • DrBB

        Maybe not a racist? Witnesses told authorities the gunman stood up and said he was there “to shoot black people.” I think we can take his own word for it.

  • Elizabeth

    May he rot in hell, the creepy little sh$t. His parents should be jailed, as well, for raising this creature.
    There is no excuse for this….I feel for these people.

  • colgam01

    How do you figure he was “an accurate shot”? We don’t know yet how many rounds were fired, what weapon(s) he was using and how close he was to the victims…

  • Paul Vincent Zecchino

    Find this gutless pile of human garbage and bring him to justice. He obvious is a criminal, judging by his orange jumpsuit in the photo. Why was he ever released?

    Isn’t it interesting, he bears a striking resemblance to the skinny-merink coward who shot up Sandy Hook? Isn’t that just extraordinary? And he actually delivered a message? Who scripted it for him?

  • John

    And the front distinctive license plate says…..??? Why not tell us so we can possibly identify this dirtbag?

  • Duane Lawton (@BigDCvx)

    “Investigating it as a Hate Crime” merely means “Here come the Feds.” While this unspakable lowlife desperately needs to be taken down, “Investigating it as a hate crime” will just ratchet up the hype, which he doesn’t deserve. Hell, they already have the “oh, another tragedy caused by a gun.” meme.

  • Knot Jammin, Jr.

    And Adam Lansa (Sandy Hook) and my sister-in-law. Doesn’t look any better on her either.

    • memykidsandi

      Funny, I was thinking that too. Why is it NO ONE has addressed the unusual markings on his right sleeve? Was that blood? If so, how did he get that much blood on him BEFORE the shooting? His patches are about apartheid Africa. Jade Helm?

  • Kevin Murray

    Mark, you ignore the facts. This is not about left, right, or Obama. This is about a hate crime. Your response is disturbing.

  • Tony

    It would REALLY help us all if the media, so good at defining race, would have given the public a cue as to the “Distinctive License Plate.” What is it??? Help us help you help the nation.
    Who writes this stuff anyway? Seriously – they left out one very important detail for which they obviously information of.

  • Sammy Davis Jr.

    That b*tch with the page-boy haircut will get what’s coming to him, here on earth and beyond.

  • Sunday

    They should take a plastic knife and cut little slits all over his body and then spray him with alcohol

  • Gama Xul

    I wonder if Dylann Roof is on antidepressant medication like the other perpetrators of mass shootings.

    • Matt

      That’s highly likely. It’s known that they increase risk of both homicide and suicide considerably.

  • Gama Xul

    Dylann Roof was wearing two layers of clothes in summer time; I suppose to obscure the firearm. Some people wear suits around the year. A suit would have been less conspicuous. – Interesting to note: I can’t recall a mass shooting event in the USA where the perpetrator was wearing a nice suit. Ah never mind, I just remembered the mafia.

  • jay a

    Dennis, try to stay on the same page with the rest of us. No need to start a pointless new topic. What is clear, black or white nine people are dead, their families are suffering.

  • Jeremy

    What’s funny is that because he did it in a church you think he is more of a POS. I think ANY one who commits murder is a POS. That includes video violence like GTA.

  • Joe

    I would almost bet he came from a broken home with divorced parents. Thanks women of America for all your selfish decisions that left us with a nation of children that would never grow up in a healthy family environment. It raises SUCH WONDERFUL CHILDREN.

  • Joe

    I don’t think you understand what a race based hate crime is… it means that it is motivated by race. Blacks don’t kill other blacks because they are black. They kill them for other reasons. Same as most cases of blacks killing whites and most cases of whites killing blacks (In case you didn’t know, most black crimes against whites have been found to be crimes of opportunity and not hate. This means they wanted something the other person has). The reason why white hate crimes are more prevalent is do to the fact that they are the majority race and therefore would have a higher number of incidents than hate crimes caused by minorities.

  • Joe

    No to the death penalty here. Send him to prison and let the brothers have at him….he WILL learn to pray.

  • suzy

    My Sweet Lord. When shall it end. Just unbelievable..travesty ..horrid. no words ..just pure evil… my heart cries for you Charleston

  • juan garc

    I if the father gave him a gun at his birthday, I tend to think there was some influence of what happened from the father.

    It is sad. But if I am correct, then this father destroyed the life of his son forever.

  • carol jackson

    America has to come with truth, that their is a problem, has been a problem. Stop trying to cover the truth up. When it comes out it comes with force. Hate is The opposite of love. Start with love .

  • mark traina (@obessed56)


    NAAWP CHICAGO CRIME NEWS: 5 killed, 29 wounded in Chicago weekend shootings (06-20-2015)

    It started when three men were shot, one fatally, by gunmen who jumped from a maroon van in the Chatham neighborhood Thursday afternoon.

    Seven hours later and just a mile away, two men were shot in apparent retaliation, one of them fatally, by a man who knocked on their door, police said.

    The revenge shooting was part of a burst of violence that killed three people in all and wounded 17 others overnight in Chicago, a toll usually seen on weekends. Nine of the people shot were in the Englewood neighborhood on the South Side.

    “What is this?” asked a woman as she came upon the Chatham shooting scene. “What is the world coming to?”

    The three men were shot as they stood near 79th Street and Langley Avenue around 3:10 p.m. Thursday, police said. Two men got out of a maroon van and began firing, then sped off, police said.

    Read the whole article:



  • John

    I am from Canada and first. I would like to say how sorry I am of the loss of these lives, it is most sad and my heart goes out to all the people affected. May you find a way to heal. Second, I would like to say I like the U.S, but when will you change your culture of guns, have not enough people died or been killed?
    And hating this person that did the shooting is not right. Everyone had a hand in this and every other shooting: The gun manufactures and everyone that owns a gun had a hand in it. And the ease of acquiring a gun.
    You still have a great country and it would be even greater, if you would put the guns down.

  • Karl

    At first I was horrified by what Dylann Roof did. But the fact is we are in a race war now and no one in the government or the media really cares when blacks slaughter white children. So we should whites not start retalitating? White lives matter! Put me down as a “friend of Dylann”.

  • Carrie

    I bet you that our gov’t is getting people to kill to make a commotion. There always sick liberal people that are doing these, people that hate america. The day after this shooting Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement that failed the first time was voted on and passed. Hmmm Not one story to inform the people til after the fact.

    In the beginning they said the father bought the gun and now they say the kid did. Our society is so corrupt, welcome to Obama world.

  • mark traina (@obessed56)

    NAAWP CHICAGO CRIME NEWS 08-16-2015: 13 wounded in separate shootings!

    NAAWP MOVIE REVIEW: Please go to see “STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON”? The NAAWP gives this MAJOR MOTION PICTURE 16-million “THUMBS UP”! This movie clearly defines “RACE RELATIONS in AMERICA”, as well as, tells U.S. why WHITE POLICE OFFICERS should not be allowed to work in COMPTON, or any other REDOMINATELY BLACK CRIME & CRACK-INFESTED $HYTHOLES throughout AMERICA in 2015

    At least 13 people have been wounded in shootings since Saturday morning across the city, police said.

    Most recently, three men were wounded in a shooting around 5:10 a.m. Sunday in the South Austin neighborhood on the West Side, said Officer Bari Lemmon, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Police
    Department. All three were in the 4800 block of West Van Buren Street when they were shot, Lemmon said.

    A 32-year-old man was wounded in his right forearm. He was treated on the scene but refused medical attention and police service, police said.

    A 27-year-old man was grazed in the left foot and managed to get himself to West Suburban Medical Center, where his condition stabilized, police said.

    Chicago police shoot man in Chatham during traffic stop.

    Chicago police shot and wounded a man Saturday evening in the Chatham neighborhood on the South Side.

    Chicago police shot and wounded a man Saturday evening in the Chatham neighborhood on the South Side.

    A 24-year-old man suffered two gunshot wounds to his right armpit and walked into Stroger Hospital for treatment, police said.

    All three men are being uncooperative with police, and no other information about the shooting was available.

    • About 3 a.m. Sunday, four people were shot during a birthday party in the North Austin neighborhood on the West Side, police said.

    Three men were at a party held at a park in the 5400 block of West Division Street when an argument started and someone fired gunshots, police said.

    A 33-year-old man was shot in the leg and was taken in good condition to Loyola University Medical Center. A 26-year-old man was also hit in the leg, and he got himself to West Suburban
    Medical Center, where his condition stabilized, Gaines said.

    A 25-year-old woman was grazed in the shoulder by a stray bullet while she was driving in a car on Division past the party, Gaines said. The woman was taken to West Suburban Medical Center, where her condition stabilized.

    At the scene of the shooting, police officers cordoned off a section of Division Street.

    Several balloons, which said, “the party is here,” were attached to the black metal fence surrounding Davis Park, where the party appeared to have been held, police said.

    Follow U.S. on FACEBOOK: NAAWP


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