The uncle of Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old who allegedly shot and killed nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina, church Wednesday, has announced that he will “push the button himself” if his nephew receives the death penalty.
Prior to the news of Roof’s arrest for allegedly opening fire on a Bible study group in Charleston, his uncle Carson Cowles told reporters, “If what I am hearing is true, he needs to pay for it.”
Now, after his nephew was taken into custody in North Carolina Thursday, and since extradited to South Carolina—where the death penalty is legal—, Roof’s uncle says he cannot forgive the alleged killer.
“I’ll be the one to push the button. If he’s found guilty, I’ll be the one to push the button myself,” Cowles said.
Cowles worried his nephew was too introverted and had tried to “mentor” Roof in earlier years, according to Reuters.
“He didn’t like that, and me and him kind of drifted apart,” Cowles said.
The 56-year-old initially found the news hard to believe, saying, "Nobody in my family had seen anything like this coming." However, Cowles stated on Thursday that his nephew is “guilty as hell,” according to WHIO.
During an interview with the LA Times, the 56-year-old said his nephew would “ride the lightning,” meaning he would get the death penalty.
Roof has been charged with one count of murder to start the legal process, ABC news reports. Solicitor Scarlett Wilson confirmed that more charges are expected to be added later.
Roof is now in protective custody at the Al Cannon Detention Center in North Charleston where the jail’s protocol dictates that he will be placed on suicide watch immediately, according to Maj. Eric Watson, the spokesman for the Charleston County Sherriff’s office. Watson added that because of the sensitivity and high-profile nature of the crime, Roof with not have contact with general jail population, for his own safety, reported ABC News.
Experts estimate that the case could last between six months to three years, depending on whether or not he pleads guilty, and if the death penalty is pursued, according to ABC News.
Two law enforcement officials have reportedly said that Roof confessed to the crime, and said he was aiming to incite a "race war," CNN reports.
Photo Credit: ABC News, Charleston County Sheriff