It’s clear that Charleston terror suspect Dylann Roof was inspired by white supremacist organizations – but how closely tied was he to the groups and leaders who lived just miles from his South Carolina home?
The confessed gunman is believed to have written a rambling manifesto that describes his racist radicalization after reading about black-on-white crime posted online by the Council of Conservative Citizens.
Roof claims in his manifesto that he decided to carry out his deadly plot – which left nine black churchgoers dead – because other hate group members were too timid to take action.
“We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet,” he claims.
However, Roof lived in a state where at least 19 known hate groups operate – including two factions of the Ku Klux Klan and six neo-Confederate organizations – and he lived within about a dozen miles of two white supremacist leaders.
Roof’s hometown, Columbia, is both the state capitol and home to Robert Whitaker – the author of the racist “Mantra” cited by white supremacists across the country and equates diversity with white genocide.
Whitaker, who claims to have been a Reagan Administration appointee, is the organizer of Bob’s Underground Graduate Seminar, or BUGS – which has attracted young followers who share his racist slogans on social media and roadside billboards across the country.
There’s no evidence at this point that Roof had any contact with Whitaker, who denies knowing the shooter and accuses civil rights activists of trying to blame him for the massacre.
However, he shared an admiration for the apartheid governments of South Africa and Rhodesia – now Zimbabwe – whose flags Roof wore on a jacket in his Facebook profile.
“South Africa made the same mistake that we do in the U.S. -- they tried to work with republican moderates,” Whitaker told The Intercept. “South Africa and Rhodesia were doomed from the start.”
Whitaker said he was against “cold-blooded murder,” but he described Roof’s actions as part of an ongoing conflict against a cultural and racial genocide against white people.
“When you see the mob, hear the mob constantly screaming, people like me respond with their voices,” said Whitaker, who is running as the American Freedom Party candidate for vice president. “When you have a screaming mob outside, most people are going to start screaming, but others respond with shooting.”
Roof also lived for a time in Lexington, just a few miles away, which is home to onetime Aryan Nation leader and Christian Identity pastor August Kreis – whose activity and influence has waned as a result of severe diabetes and his arrest last year on child sex abuse charges.
An analysis of Roof’s writings suggests that he was an active participant in The Daily Stormer white nationalist message board.
The Southern Poverty Law Center ran this manifesto through the plagiarism detection software Grammarly – which found 98 percent of his writings were original, but 2 percent showed up in similar comments posted online by a Daily Stormer user called “AryanBlood1488.”
Roof posted photos of himself posing alongside the number 1488 – which carries coded significance among white supremacists.
The first two digits refer to a 14-word slogan coined by American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell -- "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children" – and the last two signify H, the eighth letter in the alphabet, as shorthand for “Heil Hitler.”
That user posted comments about the Council of Conservative Citizens, Jews, and white culture that were nearly verbatim to statements believed to have been written by Roof before launching the mass killing.
The Daily Stormer, which is published by Andrew Anglin, shrugged off the connection by pointing out the SPLC is headed by a Jewish leader and an article about Roof’s posting history was written by a black woman.
The white supremacist clearinghouse site claims it “rejects violence as its policy statement” and portrays Roof as a “skinny loser” and “basketcase” who was more influenced by racist rivals David Duke and Jared Taylor.
The post’s author dismissed the influence of Daily Stormer content on its readers with an attempt at dark sarcasm.
“So even if you don’t know it, right now you’re being subliminally programmed to go out and shoot blacks, or some other innocents,” wrote blogger Hamish Patton. “This is what we do — these very words are loaded with coded messages designed to be filtered out by your conscious mind. By the time you get to sleep tonight, you’ll be dreaming yourself in camos and army fatigues, crawling on your belly along the rooftop of a Chicago Chuck E. Cheese. When you wake up tomorrow morning, the armament stockpiling will begin, and you’ll be mentally indexing passages for your upcoming manifesto. It’s a given.”