Accused South Carolina shooter Dylann Roof has been described by those who knew him prior to his killing rampage as “quiet” and "strange" in the years leading up to Wednesday’s events.
The 21-year-old who has now been dubbed the “South Carolina shooter,” was arrested Thursday as the suspected murderer of nine churchgoers that were fatally shot Wednesday at a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina.
This was not Roof’s first run in with the law.
In late February, Roof was arrested at Columbiana Centre mall on a drug possession charge. A few days later on March 1, Police obtained a warrant for his arrest, although KTLA reported that it is unclear why the warrant was issued.
In late April, police were again called to the same shopping center on account of Roof, and he was arrested trespassing at the mall, which he had been previously banned from.
Now, the charges and allegations Roof faces are much more serious. Roof has reportedly been initially charged with one count of murder, but additional charges are expected.
Law enforcement is investigating whether Roof had links to white supremacist or other hate groups after witnesses say the gunman announced to the church that he was there “to shoot black people,” moments before the massacre. Images of Roof found online suggest his fascination with white supremacy. In a photograph of Roof that was tweeted by authorities, Roof appears to be wearing a jacket with the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), from when the two countries were ruled by the white minority.
However, those who went to high school with the white male say the crime came as a shock.
John Mullins, who attended White Knoll High School in Columbia, South Carolina, with Roof, told CNN that although Roof occasionally made racist comments and slurs, he had black friends and would claim he was only joking. Mullins described Roof as “kind of wild” as a teenager, but not violent.
Roof’s uncle, Carson Cowles, said he had been concerned about his nephew and was worried he was cooped up in his room too much, Reuters reported. Cowles recalled telling the suspect’s mother that the boy was too introverted.
Roof reportedly bought the gun in April with birthday money.
"If it is him, and when they catch him, he's got to pay for this," Cowles said.
Law enforcement officials reportedly told CNN that Roof confessed to the shooting, and said he was trying to incite a "race war."
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