Anger, sad­ness and re­solve

‘Creepy’ man with baf­fling back­ground

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By John M. Glionna, Brit­tny Me­jia and Noah Bier­man

EAS­TOVER, S.C. — Al­ready in his young life, 21-year-old Dy­lann Storm Roof was a study in con­tra­dic­tions.

He lived in this tiny cen­tral South Carolina com­mu­nity, which is 90% black, and for­mer class­mates said he had many African Amer­i­can friends. But they also said he made racist jokes.

John Mullins, a for­mer high school class­mate, said that Roof didn’t seem dan­ger­ous but that he would make com­ments some­times that were trou­bling, talk­ing about “South­ern pride.”

“It was just jokes he would make, racist jokes,” Mullins said.

But now Roof will face mur­der and hate­crime charges in Wed­nes­day night’s slaugh­ter of nine African Amer­i­cans who had gath­ered for a Bi­ble class in­side a his­toric church in Charleston, 100 miles away. And author­i­ties were scram­bling to sketch out a pro­file of a man who, even in an age of con­tin­u­ous self-ad­ver­tise­ment and public

shar­ing, left lit­tle trail.

He ap­par­ently re­peated ninth grade and had re­cently been ar­rested for petty crimes, and it’s un­clear whether he had a job.

Many who knew Roof are baf­fled.

Reached by phone Thurs­day af­ter­noon, Roof ’s un­cle Car­son Cowles said he felt “blind­sided” and was “still try­ing to deal with all of this.”

On Face­book, Roof ’s pro­file is gothic dark, its sin­gu­lar pol­i­tics racially sug­ges­tive.

The pro­file photo shows Roof, skinny and pale, look­ing glum and men­ac­ing, in a swamp alone. His dark jacket bears em­blems pop­u­lar with white su­prem­a­cists.

They’re f lags that f lew over two African coun­tries when they were ruled by whites, one from aparthei­dera South Africa, the other from Rhode­sia, now Zim­babwe

Twice this year Roof was ar­rested in Columbia, S.C.

On Feb. 28, se­cu­rity at the Columbiana mall called po­lice be­cause Roof was dressed in “all black” and act­ing bizarrely in sev­eral stores, ac­cord­ing to re­ports.

In that in­ci­dent, an of­fi­cer ques­tioned Roof, who con­sented to be searched, and po­lice re­cov­ered sev­eral strips of Sub­ox­one, a pow­er­ful med­i­ca­tion used to treat ad­dic­tion to heroin and painkillers, in his pos­ses­sion. He was later ar­rested and banned from the mall.

Chris Spears, man­ager of the Shoe Depart­ment store, said in an in­ter­view that Roof ap­proached his as­sis­tant while she was work­ing.

“He was ask­ing her all kinds of per­sonal ques­tions, want­ing to know work sched­ules. She was busy work­ing and she felt un­com­fort­able, so she called se­cu­rity and they came and got him,” Spears said. He said Roof was “want­ing to ba­si­cally see how we ran things” and acted “like he was on drugs ... re­ally creepy.”

On April 26, Roof was ar­rested a sec­ond time for tres­pass­ing at the mall, court records show. Roof turned 21 that month, and author­i­ties say he re­ceived a gun for his birth­day from his fa­ther.

Af­ter Roof was tied to the shoot­ing, a friend shared on Face­book a photo of him seated on a black car, dressed in black pants and a white T-shirt, his hands placed on his hat as he peers down over his sun­glasses. Be­tween his set-apart legs is the front li­cense plate, read­ing “Con­fed­er­ate States of Amer­ica.”

“This is what you need to be on the look­out for...thats his car and him...NO i dont know where he is,” wrote Derrick D. Gutta Pear­son. He added, “NO i dont talk to him.”

Although Roof listed White Knoll High School on Face­book, over the years he moved back and forth be­tween schools in two coun­ties, ac­cord­ing to school records.

He re­peated his ninth­grade year at White Knoll in Lex­ing­ton County, but trans­ferred to Dre­her High School in Rich­land County in March to fin­ish his fresh­man year. Nei­ther school dis­trict had any fur­ther records of him.

South Carolina Sen. Lind­sey Graham, in an in­ter­view with CNN, said his niece knew Roof. “My sis­ter ... said that my niece Emily went to school with him in the eighth grade and went to the same high school. I don’t know if he fin­ished high school but [he was a] strange, dis­turbed young man.”

Roof has about 80 Face­book friends, many of them African Amer­i­can. One of them, Pear­son, posted about wak­ing up to find 15 friend re­quests, all ask­ing about Roof. He ad­vised any­one who saw Roof to call the author­i­ties.

“It’s ob­vi­ous lives do not mat­ter to him,” Pear­son posted.

On Thurs­day, the at­mos­phere was quiet in Eas­tover.

On the stretch of Garn­ers Ferry Road where author­i­ties say Roof lived, two ad­ja­cent homes sit along a fourlane high­way, both with pick-up trucks and an Amer­i­can flag, com­mon in this ru­ral area of farm­ers and sol­diers who work at the nearby McEn­tire Na­tional Guard Base.

Kim Flem­ing, the man­ager of a nearby Mr. Bunky’s Mar­ket, said that she had seen Roof shop there but that he did not stand out at the gen­eral store, res­tau­rant and gas sta­tion com­plex, set among the pine trees, that sells bumper stick­ers with the slo­gan “Where the Hell is Eas­tover at ...?”

“He’s just a nor­mal cus­tomer,” she said of Roof, un- able to re­call when he came in or what he bought.

Another lo­cal, a man work­ing at a nearby road­side mar­ket selling farm pro­duce and boiled peanuts, had a dif­fer­ent take. “He ain’t from around here, I can prom­ise you that,” he said.

At the end of the phone in­ter­view, Roof ’s un­cle Cowles said, “I’ve done said ev­ery­thing I can say.... I’m still try­ing to put this all to­gether. My fam­ily is dev­as­tated.

“God bless us,” Cowles said be­fore hang­ing up.

David Gold­man As­so­ci­ated Press

MOURN­ERS at Mor­ris Brown AME Church in Charleston, S.C., ap­plaud dur­ing a me­mo­rial for vic­tims at nearby Emanuel AME.

Chuck Bur­ton As­so­ci­ated Press

SUS­PECT Dy­lann Storm Roof in po­lice cus­tody in Shelby, N.C. He has many black friends on Face­book but also dis­plays racist sym­bols there.

Todd Sum­lin Char­lotte Ob­ser ver

THE CAR re­port­edly driven by Roof when he was stopped in Shelby, N.C. He was ar­rested twice this year at a shop­ping cen­ter in Columbia, S.C.

AN UN­DATED photo of Dy­lann Roof. His un­cle Car­son Cowles said he felt “blind­sided” and was “still try­ing to deal with all of this.”

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