New York Daily News
Racist S.C. church shooter captured
ONE WEEK before his arrest for a racist rampage at a revered Southern church, Dylann Storm Roof shared an apocalyptic vision of mass murder with a trailer park neighbor.
“He was looking to kill a bunch of people,” recalled Christon Scriven, 22, just hours before his bigoted buddy’s arrest for a racially motivated killing spree. “He flat out told us he was going to do this stuff. He’s just off in the head . . . Weird.”
The hate-fueled white gunman was busted Thursday morning after a 14-hour manhunt, suspected in the execution of nine helpless black worshippers inside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.
The innocent, unarmed victims ranged in age from 26 to 87 — and included the venerable church’s pastor, an acquaintance of President Obama and First Lady Michelle.
Chilling details emerged about Roof’s racist rants inside the church, the ignored pleas of his victims as he reloaded his handgun five times — and his release of one terrified woman to serve as a witness to the carnage.
“The shooter said, ‘I’m not going to shoot you because I want you to tell everyone what happened,’ ” Charleston NAACP chapter President Dot Scott told a local newspaper — the Post and Courier — the survivor said.
Roof arrived at 8 p.m. for the Wednesday prayer meeting, bringing a heart filled with evil and a fully loaded handgun, officials said. He spent an hour with his victims before declaring his murderous intent with a merciless four-word announcement: “You have to go.” Sylvia Johnson, a cousin of the slain pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, told MSNBC that a survivor recounted how Roof delivered one final crazed comment before the shooting started.
“I have to do it,” he was quoted as saying. “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country.”
Eight of the victims were found dead inside the house of worship with two centuries of history, while the ninth died in the operating room of a nearby hospital. Three people survived the bloodshed.
Roof, 21, a high school dropout and accused drug user, was nabbed after driving 245 miles from the church parking lot to the town of Shelby, N.C. — where a woman recognized his black Hyundai and Three Stooges-style bowl haircut.
“A terrible human being who would go into a place of worship where people are praying and kill them is now in custody — where he will always remain,” said Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley.
The mass slaying of the pastor and his flock during an evening Bible study session was immediately labeled a hate crime, even as it echoed sad chapters from America’s violent past.
President Obama invoked the killing of four black girls in a 1963 Birmingham, Ala., church bombing by the Ku Klux Klan. And the shooting spree harkened to mass killings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, a Colorado movie theater and the carnage at Virginia Tech.
“The fact that this took place in a black church obviously . . . raises questions about a dark part of our history,” the President declared. But he also took aim at a Congress that has repeatedly rebuffed White House efforts on gun control.
“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,” he said. “And it is in our power to do something about it. I say that, recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now.”
Obama noted that he and his wife personally knew some parishioners at the church — including its slain pastor, who was also a South Carolina politician. In other developments: The FBI learned of Roof’s identity when childhood friend Joey Meek, 20, recognized his skinny friend’s face and grimy gray sweatshirt in a surveillance camera frame grab from the church.
“I didn’t THINK it was him,” Meek said. “I KNEW it was him.”
Roof waived both his right to extradition and his right to counsel and was being held pending a bond hearing in South Carolina Thursday night. l Cops released Roof’s 2015 rap sheet: A Feb. 28 bust for possession of a controlled substance in the local mall and an April 26 arrest for trespassing at the same mall.
An ominous Facebook photo showed the demented mass murder suspect glaring into the camera while wearing a black jacket decorated with an apartheid-era South African flag.
Roof’s father, Ben, refused to comment, calling the cops on a reporter at his South Carolina home. The suspect’s uncle said the dad’s 21st birthday present to Roof in April was a .45-caliber handgun.
The South Carolina state Legislature came under fire when the Confederate flag, a symbol of the Civil War and slavery, flew at full staff above the Statehouse after the racist murders.
The multiple murder suspect’s sister, 27-year-old Amber, is scheduled to get married Sunday.
None of the GOP presidential hopefuls — Sens. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz — linked gun control to the mass killing at the annual Faith & Freedom Coalition’s convention.
But Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton said the time for legislation was now. “We have to be honest,” she said Thursday. “How many people do we need to see cut down before we act?”
Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten read off the sad litany of victims’ names, noting all were shot to death.
The best known was the well-respected Rev. Pinckney, 41, who served as both pastor and state senator. Pinckney, the father of two girls and a preaching prodigy since age 13, was elected to the Statehouse at 23 — making him the youngest member of the House at the time.
Three other church officials were also killed: Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45; Rev. Daniel Simmons, 74; and Myra Thompson, 59. Other victims included longtime parishioner Susie Jackson, 87, and one-time church janitor Ethel Lance, 70.
The others killed were identified as public library branch manager Cynthia Hurd, 54; college enrollment counselor DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49; and recent college grad Tywanza Sanders, 26.
Jackson’s niece, Cynthia Taylor, said she had spoken to a survivor, Felecia Sanders, who said she had played dead as she lay on top of her granddaughter to protect them both during the carnage.
Roof’s appearance at the church meeting did not alarm any of the worshipers, who are used to drop-ins from tourists visiting the historical building.
Authorities said the arrest of the suspect came without incident at 10:49 a.m. after a local citizen spied Roof in his getaway car.
Roof, roughly 25 minutes after he was stopped by cops, surrendered quietly. Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen characterized the killer as “cooperative” as he was taken into custody by local officers. Police said the suspect was still armed when approached by cops. Authorities believe Roof acted alone in planning and executing the lethal attack.
The eagle-eyed citizen, a woman on her way to work at a Shelby florist, recognized Roof’s black Hyundai on Highway 74 and called her boss — who dialed cops.
“I knew it was a black car . . . I saw pictures of him with the bowl cut,” a teary Debbie Dills told the Shelby Star newspaper after spotting the alleged murderer. Roof was fitted by cops with a bulletproof vest and shackles on his hands and feet before he was taken from the local police station to court.
Roof’s trailer park pal Scriven, who is black, said the suspected shooter initially plotted to target the College of Charleston and not the church.
“You don’t know when to take him seriously and when not to,” said Scriven. “To be honest, I didn’t react (to the news). I was like, ‘Awww man, he did that s---.’ ”
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said his niece Emily was once in the same eighth-grade class as Roof — described by the GOP presidential hopeful as “one of these whacked out kids.”
Graham, after speaking with his sister Darline Nordone and his niece, told CNN that his relatives had nothing positive to say about Roof.
“He was quiet, strange, very anti-social and everyone thought he was on drugs,” said Graham. “It’s about a young man who is obviously twisted.”
Roof could face the death penalty under South Carolina law or federal hate crime statutes if the case goes that route.