A South Carolina man is behind bars after FBI officials say he discussed plans to carry out a Dylann Roof-style attack on worshipers at a Jewish temple.
Benjamin Thomas Samuel McDowell, 29, of Conway, was arrested and charged as a felon in possession of a firearm or ammunition on Jan. 25, according to court documents obtained by The Sun News. Records filed in the case indicated that McDowell, who became radicalized from association with the white nationalist movement during his time in prison, has a long history of making racist and anti-Semitic comments.
Federal officials had been tracking the South Carolina man since mid-January, after he told an undercover officer his plans to commit an attack “in the spirit of Dylann Roof,” and later purchased a firearm. In June 2015, Roof carried out a bloody attack on worshipers at a historically Black church in Charleston, leaving nine churchgoers dead.
“Dylann Roof did what these tattoo-wearing so bada– is supposed to be doing [if] they give f–k about their white race,” McDowell wrote in a Jan. 5 Facebook post lashing out at fellow white supremacists “All they wanna do is stay loaded on drugs the Jews put here to destroy white man and they feast on the drugs. You can post pictures of f—ing Viking and swords all the s–t you want … [but] if you ain’t got the heart to fight for Yahweh like Dylann Roof did, you need to shut the f–k up.”
Prior to that, McDowell published a post that read, “I love love to act what u think,” followed by a link to the Temple Emanu-El Conservative Synagogue in Myrtle Beach, according to Fox 8 News. That’s when Horry County Police alerted the FBI to McDowell’s white nationalist ties, noting his many tattoos signifying an affiliation with such groups.
Court documents indicated that the South Carolina man met with an undercover agent who he thought worked with the Aryan Nation at an unnamed Myrtle Beach hotel on Jan. 12. An affidavit filed in the case said the FBI agent told McDowell, “I have to make sure that … if you going to do what you want to do … that doesn’t come back to me.” According to the document, McDowell replied that he didn’t want the attack to be traced back to him either, adding that he didn’t want to go back to jail.
“I’m wanting to do this s–t, and I got the heart to do this,” the white extremist reportedly also told the agent. “I seen what Dylann Roof did and in my heart, I reckon I got a little bit of hatred and I want to do that s–t. Like, I got desire … not for nobody else … it just … I want something where I can say, ‘I f—ing did that.’ ”
At the time of the January meet-up, McDowell didn’t indicate where he was planning to carry out the attack. The next day, he called up the undercover agent requesting to purchase a .40-caliber handgun because he intended to carry out “an attack on an unknown location outside the county where he resided,” the affidavit read.
McDowell continued posting anti-Semitic rants on his Facebook page and engaged in multiple conversations with the undercover agent about his plan of attack. He and the FBI agent met in person once again on Jan. 25, during which McDowell purchased a .40-caliber Glock and ammo from the agent for about $109, according to court documents. Later that same day, officers arrested the would-be attacker in the parking lot of a Hamilton Inn.
The Sun News reported that McDowell is currently being held at the Florence County Detention Center in Florence, S.C. There’s no word on whether additional charges will be filed against him.
“We’re just at the arrest phase on that single [firearm possession] charge,” said Lance Crick, first assistant U.S. attorney for South Carolina. “The investigation continues.”