Dylann Storm Roof, the man accused of shooting and killing nine people inside a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, is an introvert with a mixed educational record who had had previous brushes with the law.
The 21-year-old resident of Columbia, South Carolina, was captured in Shelby, North Carolina, on Thursday after a manhunt lasting more than 14 hours.
Authorities believe that Roof went into the Emanuel AME church at 9pm Wednesday evening, and sat next to the church’s pastor, Clementa Pinckney, in a Bible study for almost an hour before allegedly opening fire.
Nine people were killed, three men and six women, including Pinckney , who is also a South Carolina state senator. The identities of the other victims are slowly being confirmed by families, libraries, schools and churches.
Roof fled the scene and was captured in Shelby, more than 240 miles away. Police pulled over Roof’s car after a tip from the public described the vehicle as suspicious. Police believe he was the lone assailant and described him as “cooperative” during the traffic stop.
The shooting is being investigated as a hate crime, and a picture of Roof as potentially racist and deranged is emerging.
Pinckney’s cousin Sylvia Johnson told NBC News a survivor of the mass killing had told her Roof said he “had to” keep shooting, as another churchgoer attempted to talk him out of shooting while he reloaded.
“He just said, ‘I have to do it,’” she said. “‘You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go,’” she said.
Roof’s family members described the 21-year-old, who apparently received a .45-caliber pistol for his 21st birthday, as introverted. Roof’s uncle Carson Cowles told his sister, Roof’s mother, that the boy was overly withdrawn, Reuters reported.
“I said he was like 19 years old, he still didn’t have a job, a driver’s license or anything like that and he just stayed in his room a lot of the time,” Cowles said.
“I don’t have any words for it. Nobody in my family had seen anything like this coming,” he said. “I said, if it is him, and when they catch him, he’s got to pay for this.”
Joey Meek, one of Roof’s childhood friends, said he alerted the FBI after recognising him in a surveillance camera image that was widely circulated by law enforcement agencies early on Thursday, Meek’s mother, Kimberly Konzny, told the Associated Press. Roof had worn the same sweatshirt while playing Xbox videogames in their home recently, she said.
“I don’t know what was going through his head,” Konzny said. “He was a really sweet kid. He was quiet. He only had a few friends.”
Though police say Roof lived in Columbia, South Carolina, he apparently had ties to the nearby Lexington area. Roof had a mixed educational record in the Lexington school district, attending White Knoll high school in both the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years. He repeated ninth grade both years, but was pulled and re-enrolled more than once. He also attended White Knoll elementary school for fourth grade in 2003-04.
The Lexington school district said it was unable to find annual photos of Roof, and that it has no records of other schools he might have attended.
Roof also had at least two run-ins with the law. The Lexington County district attorney’s office confirmed that Roof was charged with possession of a controlled substance in a 2 March incident, but the circumstances surrounding that arrest remain unclear.
He was also arrested in April for misdemeanor trespassing in Lexington County.
Police released a mugshot of him.
Reuters reports that Roof lived with his older sister Amber and their father part-time, until his father and stepmother divorced. A profile on TheKnot.com shows that Amber Roof is scheduled to be married shows her wedding is scheduled for Sunday in Lexington, South Carolina, Reuters reported.
The social media picture of the man also remains murky.
A picture widely circulated in the media from a Facebook account identified as Dylann Roof shows the man wearing a black jacket adorned with two flags associated with white supremacy: that of apartheid-era South Africa, and that of Rhodesia, the white-ruled country that later became Zimbabwe .
The picture shows a man identified as Roof scowling in front of a swamp.
A number of his Facebook friends are black. There is little more personally identifying information on the page.
The profile has not been independently confirmed by the Guardian, and media reports indicate that law enforcement may not be aware of the account.
It’s unclear what other social media Roof may have used – at least one Instagram profile with Roof’s name and likeness exists, but is locked as a private user.