By Manny Otiko
Dylann Roof, the white domestic terrorist who massacred nine Black churchgoers in South Carolina, has confessed to his crimes. Roof was arrested yesterday during a traffic stop after Debbie Dills, an alert citizen, called in a tip. Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder and possession of a firearm during commission of a violent crime, according to a tweet from the Charleston Police Department. If convicted, he faces the death penalty. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the U.S. Justice Department is also investigating the shooting as a hate crime.
According to CNN, Roof confessed to two law enforcement officials that he carried out the shooting. He said he did it because he wanted to spark a race war.
Roof, a heavy drug user, was known to friends for his racist comments and far-right political views. Even though Roof’s car had Confederate license plates and he was pictured wearing white supremacist patches, no one seemed to take his threats seriously. It’s disturbing that several people didn’t think a young man with access to weapons, making jokes about killing Black people, was a serious threat. If Roof had made jokes about shooting up an elementary school, would his friend have reacted differently? CNN said Roof’s high school associates viewed his racist comments as a “joke.”
“John Mullins recalls ‘racist slurs in a sense’ that Roof made while the two attended White Knoll High School in Lexington, South Carolina, though he also remembers him having Black friends,” said a CNN article. “‘He would say it just as a joke,’ Mullins told CNN. ‘I never took it seriously. But… maybe they should have been.’”
Roof’s friend, Joey Meek, said the attack had been planned for a while.
Joey Meek told ABC that talk of reinstating segregation was nothing new for Roof, his roommate, and that he’d been plotting something for six months, though authorities were never alerted.
“I think he wanted something big like Trayvon Martin,” Meek told CNN, referring to the Black Florida teen whose shooting death at the hands of George Zimmerman—who was acquitted of murder—provoked huge protests. “He wanted to make something spark up the race war again.”
In an interview with the Associated Press, Meek said he recently reconnected with Roof and they went drinking. After Roof made racist comments and told him he had a .45 caliber Glock, Meek took the gun away. But he returned it the next day, when Roof had sobered up. Meek said he didn’t see his friend again until his image showed up on security footage after the attack .
“I didn’t think it was him. I knew it was him,” he said.
While some politicians and media figures seem to be downplaying the racial angle, it is clear the massacre was an act of terrorism staged by a white supremacist. Roof’s attack was carried out to terrorize Black people and designed to generate maximum publicity. Unfortunately, his name and face are now on every computer screen, TV set and newspaper in the country. He even left at least one victim alive, so she could tell what happened.
“Before Roof left the church, he asked one of the elderly members whether he had shot her, and she said ‘no’,” CNN reported. “And he said, ‘Good, because we need a survivor because I’m going to kill myself.’”
The Southern Poverty Law Center said it was not clear if Roof was connected to one of the 16 white supremacist groups operating in South Carolina. In an AP story, Southern Poverty Law Center President Richard Cohen said that while the U.S. was focused on terrorism carried out by Islamic fundamentalists, it was ignoring domestic terrorists like Roof. Cohen added there had been a spike in membership in hate groups since 2000.
“The increase has been driven by a backlash to the country’s increasing racial diversity, an increase symbolized for many by the presence of an African American in the White House,” Cohen told the AP.