Charleston suspect ‘wanted to start a race war’
The 21- year- old white man suspected of gunning down nine people at a historic black church in South Carolina has confessed to the crime, U.S. media reported Friday, citing unnamed officials.
One law enforcement official told CNN that alleged shooter Dylann Roof told investigators that he “wanted to start a race war” when he walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston on Wednesday night and opened fire on a Bible study class. All of the victims were black. Roof — who was arrested in North Carolina on Thursday and brought back to South Carolina after he opted not to fight extradition — was due in court later Friday for a bond hearing.
“We are getting cooperation at this point,” another official told local ABC affiliate WCIV.
Two sources also confirmed to NBC News that Roof — whose Facebook page includes a picture of him wearing the flags of defunct white supremacist regimes in South Africa and Rhodesia — has confessed.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said Friday she believed Roof should face the death penalty if convicted. Capital punishment is legal in the southern state.
“This is an absolute hate crime,” she told NBC’s “Today” show.
“We will absolutely will want him to have the death penalty. This is the worst hate that I’ve seen and the country has seen in a long time,” she said.
“We will fight this and we will fight this as hard as we can.”
The carnage was the worst at a U.S. place of worship in decades and recalled the darkest periods of U.S. history, in a church once burned to the ground after a failed slave revolt.
Frustrated Obama Urges US to
Re-examine Gun Culture
Barack Obama was clearly angry, but mainly frustrated. Once again he was speaking out after a murderous shooting spree, and once again he found himself powerless to act.
This time the pain was personal. The U.S. president knew the pastor at the black church in South Carolina who was cut down along with eight of his flock in an apparently racist attack.
But his anger was made all the worse by the knowledge that none of the previous series of mass shootings on his watch have pushed fellow Washington politicians to act.
“I’ve had to make statements like this too many times,” he said in brief remarks from the White House podium, flanked by an equally ashen-faced Vice President Joe Biden.
“Once again, innocent people were killed in part because some- one who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun,” he complained.
“Now is the time for mourning and for healing, but let’s be clear: At some point we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries,” Obama said.
“It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it.”
It was telling that he used the phrase “our power,” after seven years, and a half a dozen massacres, Obama knows that his power alone will not be enough to change the debate.
‘Day of shame’
In 2013, after the December 2012 slaughter of 26 people — including 20 young children — at a Connecticut school, Obama took 23 executive decisions to tweak gun rules.
The public was briefly in a state of shock, and some commentators thought a turning point had been reached, but an attempt to bring a broad gun control bill to Congress failed.
“We commenced a significant lobbying campaign to Congress, and we fell short. Congress fell short,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters as Obama left town.
Barely four months
the Sandy Hook school massacre, Congress rejected a bill that would have required tougher background checks for licenses and ban sales from gun fairs.
The president called the failure a “day of shame” and blamed the gun industry lobby.
Now, with Obama nearing the final year of his presidency and candidates jockeying to replace him, he is realistic about how much political capital he has left to spend.
“I don’t think the president is anticipating Congress moving on this anytime soon,” Schultz said.
“But that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a moment for Americans to realize the urgency of this issue and to acknowledge it.”
Obama is used to defeat on this issue, but the latest massacre may be one of the hardest to bear, striking at the heart of the AfricanAmerican experience in South Carolina.
He knew the slain pastor, Clementa Pinckney, and every historian of the struggle of former African slaves knows the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
“Mother Emanuel is, in fact, more than a church. This is a place of worship that was founded by African-Americans seeking liberty,” he said, struggling to contain his fury.
(Above) Keith McDaniel, pastor of Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, seated left, and Ron Henderson, pastor of Mt. Nebo Baptist Church, seated right, are surrounded by others in prayer for the victims of Wednesday’s shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina on Thursday, June 18 (Left) Charleston, South Carolina, shooting suspect Dylann Storm Roof is escorted from the Cleveland County Courthouse in Shelby, North Carolina, Thursday.