The callow young white man accused of shooting nine people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina “almost didn’t go through with it” because he had been treated so kindly by the mostly-black congregation, police sources said on Friday.
Dylann Roof, 21, sat for nearly an hour in a bible study group at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, before opening fire and killing three men and six women, including the church’s charismatic pastor and an 87-year-old woman parishioner.
Roof described his second thoughts during interviews with police before he was charged with nine counts of murder. He “almost didn’t go through with it because everyone was so nice to him,” the sources told NBC News, but ultimately he decided to “go through with his mission”.
That “mission” and the picture of social dislocation and race hate that apparently drove Roof to mass murder became clearer on Friday as friends and family emerged to describe a deeply troubled young man harbouring white supremacist views.
Joseph Meek, a former Middle School friend who had gone on a night of heavy drinking with Roof a few weeks ago, told the Associated Press: “He said blacks were taking over the world. Someone needed to do something about it for the white race.
“He said he wanted segregation between whites and blacks. I said, ‘That’s not the way it should be.’ But he kept talking about it.”
Mr Meek added that he had taken away Roof’s .45 calibre Glock pistol that night, but returned the weapon to his friend when he had sobered up the next morning.
Roof’s older sister, Amber, was among the first to call police after recognising her brother in surveillance footage. He was arrested in Shelby, four hours drive from Charleston, on Thursday morning following a tip-off from a local florist who recognized his black saloon car.
Miss Roof was scheduled to be married on Sunday and left her job as preschool teacher ahead of the wedding but the ceremony now appears to have been postponed.
Chained hand and foot and dressed in a black-and-white striped jumpsuit, Roof was flown back to Charleston where he appeared in court via videolink last night for a brief, but dramatic bail hearing.
There were extraordinary scenes as, one after the other, the sobbing families of the nine victims offered their forgiveness to Roof, whilst expressing their own pain and anger at the loss his actions had inflicted on them.
“You have killed some of the most beautifulest people that I know. Every fibre in my body hurts and I’ll never be the same,” said Alecia Sanders, describing her lost 26-year-old son Tywanza as her “hero”, adding: “May God have mercy on you.”
Other family members urged Roof to repent, but the young man, his once-floppy hair now greasy and matted, showed no emotion, staring back into the camera flanked by two heavily armed police officers.
“My family forgive you but we would like to take this opportunity to repent, to confess and give your life to the one who matters the most, Christ,” said the family of Myra Thompson, 59. “Do that and you’ll be OK.”
As the courtroom filled with the sound of tears, Roof continued to look on impassively. He spoke only to confirm his age and address, and was remanded in custody until his next hearing on October 23.
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: The Telegraph, Raf Sanchez