A 21-year-old man named Dylann Roof shot and killed nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He then fled the scene but was arrested about 14 hours later in Shelby, North Carolina, after a woman recognized his car, license plate, and haircut (a ‘bowl cut’). She followed him for miles until police arrived.
Who is Dylann Roof?
He's from Lexington, South Carolina. He has two previous arrests, both this year, one for possession of a control substance and one for trespassing. From his clothing to his car, there are heavy traces of racism. He was also allegedly thought to be a heavy drug user. A former high school classmate, John Mullins, says, “he used drugs heavily a lot...he was, like, a pill popper, from what I understood. Like Xanax and stuff like that.
Who are the victims?
There were nine victims total, six women, three men: Clementa Pinckney, 41, pastor of the church, who also served as a South Carolina State Senator; Tywanza Sanders, 26, a 2014 graduate from University in Columbia, SC; Cynthia Hurd, 54, the Charleston County Public library manager; Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, a mother; Myra Thompson, 59, wife Rev. Anthony Thompson, vicar of Holy Trinity Reformed Episcopal Church in Charleston; Ethel Lee Lance, 70, grandmother and Emanuel AME sexton; Susie Jackson, 87, a grandmother; Daniel L. Simmons, 74, retired pastor from another church; and Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49, former manager of the U.S. Dept. of Commerce.
Eight of the nine victims died at the scene, while Simmons died at the hospital. A 5-year-old girl was also in the church and was told by her grandmother to play dead during the shooting spree.
What’s the reaction so far?
Reactions to this tragedy vary. Some political figures made remarks about gun control, including President Barack Obama and Charleston Mayor Joe Riley. While addressing the situation on Thursday, Obama said:
"We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun…and at some point, it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.”
Others in Charleston reacted by showing up at the church for a lunch-hour prayer and worship vigil. Morris Brown AME was at capacity.
What was Roof’s motive?
Roof has admitted he committed the crime, telling investigators he wanted to start a race war. According to CNN, “Roof admitted he attacked unarmed civilians for political purposes in an act of terror.” When one man pled with Roof, survivors claim he said, "No, you’ve raped our women and you are taking over our country … I have to do what I have to do.” His roommate told ABC News that Roof was “big into segregation,” and a photo was released showing him wearing a jacket featuring pro-apartheid paraphernalia.
What’s next for Roof?
He has been charged with nine counts of murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has called for the death penalty.