CHARLESTON, S.C. — Dylann Roof has confessed to authorities to shooting and killing nine people Wednesday night at a historically black church in Charleston, S.C., two law enforcement officials said Friday.
One of the officials said Roof, who is white, told investigators that he wanted to start a race war.
He bought the .45-caliber handgun used in the shooting in April at a Charleston gun store, according to the officials.
Earlier, a senior law enforcement official had indicated Roof’s father bought him a Glock firearm for his birthday.
Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder and one count of weapon possession. He is due in court at noon MDT Friday.
The question of why
It’s not so much why Roof allegedly did what he did. Authorities say he apparently was motivated by hate, telling the African-American congregants, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country.”
It’s more how the shooting came to be, and the events that precipitated it.
Roof’s roommate, Joey Meek, told ABC News that Roof “was big into segregation” and was plotting for six months.
“I think he wanted something big like Trayvon Martin,” Meek told the network. “He wanted to make something spark up the race war again.”
But Meek never alerted authorities.
A tip, an arrest
Roof was arrested Thursday morning about 245 miles away in Shelby, North Carolina. He waived extradition and arrived back in South Carolina late Thursday.
Police got a tip from Debbie Dills, who reportedly spotted Roof on her way into work. She followed him for 35 miles.
“I don’t know what drew my attention to the car,” she said.
She saw it had a South Carolina license plate.
“In my mind I’m thinking, ‘That can’t be.’ … I never dreamed that it would be the car.”
Dills followed Roof for more than 30 miles, keeping authorities updated along the way.
Shelby police eventually caught up with Roof, pulled him over and took him into custody before returning him to Charleston.
Before he allegedly opened fire at the church Wednesday night, Roof sat with them. He might have prayed with them.
A Snapchat video from Wednesday night at the historic African-American church shows Roof at a table with the small group. Nothing in the footage suggests the carnage to come.
Six women and three men were killed, including the church’s politically active pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney.
Sylvia Johnson, a cousin of Pinckney, said she heard about what happened inside the church from a survivor, a close friend.
Johnson said her friend recounted the man coming into the church, asking for the minister.
“My cousin, being the nice, kind, welcoming person he is, he welcomed him to his congregation, welcomed him to the Bible study, and he sat there for an hour. … At the conclusion of the Bible study, they just heard just a ringing of a loud noise, and it was just awful from what I heard,” Johnson said.
When the son of her friend pleaded with the shooter to stop, Johnson said the gunman replied: “‘No, you’ve raped our women, and you are taking over the country … I have to do what I have to do.’ And he shot the young man.”
A deadly scene
Her friend pretended she was dead.
“But she watched her son fall and laid there. She laid there in his blood,” Johnson said.
From what she heard, the gunman reloaded five times.
Before he left the church, he asked one of the elderly members whether he had shot her, and she said no.
“And he said good, because we need a survivor because I’m going to kill myself,” Johnson said.
A law enforcement official said witnesses told authorities the gunman stood up and said he was there “to shoot black people.”
Connection to hate groups
Police are now trying to determine whether Roof had any links to hate groups.
Authorities released a mug shot of him from Lexington County on Thursday. It was taken after a trespassing arrest in April. According to an arrest warrant from a February incident, Roof had an unlabeled pill bottle with a drug believed to be suboxone, which is used to treat opiate addiction. Roof told police a friend gave him drugs. The status of the cases is unclear.
In an image tweeted by the Berkeley County, South Carolina, government, Roof is wearing a jacket with what appear to be the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and nearby Rhodesia, a former British colony that was ruled by a white minority until it became independent in 1980 and changed its name to Zimbabwe.
Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten identified the nine victims as follows: Cynthia Hurd, 54; Susie Jackson, 87; Ethel Lance, 70; Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49; Hon. Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45; Myra Thompson, 59.
Wooten told reporters that the victims all suffered gunshot wounds and died as a result of them.
Three people survived the shooting, including a woman who received a chilling message from the shooter.
“Her life was spared, and (she was) told, ‘I’m not going to kill you, I’m going to spare you, so you can tell them what happened,’ ” Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott said.
She said she heard this from the victim’s family members.
Hate crime investigation
Federal authorities have opened a hate crime investigation into the shooting at the oldest AME church in the South, the Department of Justice said.
“The only reason someone would walk into a church and shoot people that were praying is hate,” Charleston Mayor Riley said.
It was not clear if the gunman targeted any individual.
“We don’t know if anybody was targeted other than the church itself,” Charleston police Chief Greg Mullen said.