The white suspects are being held in an isolation wing of the same jail: a four-storey fortified facility that sits next to a swampy river bend on the outskirts of Charleston, surrounded by razor wire and patrolled by police dogs.
The prisoner in cell 1140B at Charleston County detention center is Michael Slager, 33, the North Charleston police officer who was charged with murder 10 weeks ago, after video footage surfaced showing him shooting a black man, Walter Scott, in the back as he fled, unarmed.
On Thursday, Slager was joined in the Administrative Segregation Unit by Dylann Roof, less than 48 hours after the 21-year-old allegedly walked into a historically black church in the city, prayed with worshipers and then opened fire. He reloaded up to five times. By the end of his shooting spree nine congregants, all of them black, were dead. Their ages ranged from 26 to 87.
At the jail on Friday, after an emotionally charged bond hearing at which family victims stood up to express their grief but offer forgiveness, Mitch Lucas, the jail’s administrator, was frank in explaining why two of his newest and most notorious inmates were held in such close proximity.
“It’s so they don’t get killed before we get them to court,” he told reporters.
While Slager and Roof stand accused of very different crimes, both are charged with gunning down black victims in shootings that intensified a national debate about race in America.
The geographical proximity of the two tragedies, if nothing else, invites comparisons. The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church, where Roof killed his victims after reportedly telling friends he wanted to spark “a race war”, is less than 12 miles from the unremarkable grassy knoll where Slager was filmed shooting Scott five times in the back.
Technically, they were in separate cities – North Charleston, where Scott was killed, is its own jurisdiction. But it was the same, sprawling conurbation.
“The community has still not healed from what happened to Walter Scott,” said Tamika Myers, who works for a group that comforts victims of gun violence. “This is devastating.”
But Myers said she was uncomfortable about linking the two tragedies.
“There is a big racial issue here, and people need to open their eyes to that,” she said. “But these were two different deaths.”
Source: Guardian | Paul Lewis and Oliver Laughland in Charleston and Mahita Gajanan in New York