Dylann Storm Roof was arrested in North Carolina Thursday after a horrific act of racially charged terrorism left nine people dead a night earlier.
Dylann Storm Roof. Photo via his Facebook page
Dylann Storm Roof looks like a menacing version of Macaulay Culkin. In his Facebook profile photo, he sports a bowl cut so silly-looking it's easy to miss the Apartheid-era African flags on his jacket. In another picture, Roof looks like any other college-aged kid showing off his car—except his is outfitted with a Confederate-flag vanity plate.
Reportedly coming in at 5'9" and 120 pounds, Roof is scrawny, his bone structure childlike. But you don't need to be a robust physical specimen to carry out a mass slaughter in America. For Roof, all it took was a gun and plenty of racial animus.
On Wednesday night, the 21-year-old allegedly shot up the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing six women and three men, including beloved pastor and state senator Reverend Clementa Pinckney. Charleston police chief Greg Mullen promptly labeled the massacre at the historic black church a hate crime, an assertion that was bolstered after a survivor relayed the shooter's horrifying words.
"I have to do it," Roof, who was arrested during a traffic stop Thursday in Shelby, North Carolina, reportedly explained to his victims. "You rape our women and you're taking over our country, and you have to go."
Roof was born in April 1994 to Ben and Amy Roof; it's unclear whether his parents are still together. One classmate who went to middle and high school with Roof described the suspect as "emo" and said he had long blond hair and kept to himself. At age 19, Roof had no job or driver's license, according to an uncle named Carson Cowles, who worried about him spending too much time in the house.
Cowles said that Roof's dad gave him a .45-caliber gun for his 21st birthday, which seemed to make the morose kid perk up a bit, theNew York Daily News reported.
Back in February, Roof started posing strange questions to employees of a local Bath & Body Works and a store called the Shoe Depot. When freaked-out mall workers called the cops, Roof was caught with an unlabeled bottle containing what he initially claimed were Listerine strips before admitting they contained Suboxone, a drug used to treat opiate dependence that's classified as a Schedule III narcotic. He was arrested and banned from the mall for a year. (Roof violated the ban two months later and was picked up again for trespassing.) A man named John Mullins told the Daily Beast that Roof, his former high school classmate, was "kind of wild" and a pill popper.
When Roof lived in a Lexington, South Carolina, trailer park, he bragged to friends about a plan to shoot people at a local college. No one there took him seriously, however, because he was known for a "deadpan" sense of humor, a friend named Christon Scriven told the Daily News.
As he was led away in cuffs from the Shelby police station Thursday afternoon, Roof appeared to smile, grimly, at the assembled cameras.
Follow Allie Conti on Twitter.