CHARLESTON, South Carolina– Accused Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof looked solemn as he appeared remotely by video before a judge in a striped, button-down prison shirt on Friday. Magistrate James Gosnell Jr. informed Roof of what will happen next for him legally. In his first comments since being arrested, Roof briefly answered a number of basic questions asked by the judge regarding his age, address and employment status.
Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime for this week’s shooting at a historically black church in the city, according to police.
A daughter of Charleston church shooting victim Ethel Lance addressed Dylann Roof in court, “I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people but God forgives you, and I forgive you.” Felicia Sanders — the mother of Charleston shooting victim Tywanza Sanders — said in court Friday that “every fiber in my body hurts, and I will never be the same.” “As we said in the Bible study, we enjoyed you,” she said of shooter Dylann Roof. “But may God have mercy on you.”
Roof‘s friends are speaking out abut his behavior — they say his talk of sparking a race war or wanting segregation reinstated was nothing new. But then again, they didn’t think he was serious.
“He never said the N-word; he never made racial slurs; he never targeted a specific black person,” his roommate Joey Meek told ABC News. “He never did any of that, so it was just pretty much a shock.”
Police say it was Roof who opened fire at a prayer meeting Wednesday night at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine people.
Meek didn’t take his claims about Roof to authorities before Thursday morning, the day after the shooting, ABC reported.
Roof was arrested Thursday morning about 245 miles (395 kilometers) from Charleston in Shelby, North Carolina. He waived extradition and returned to South Carolina late Thursday.
He might still be on the run if police hadn’t received a tip from Debbie Dills, who reportedly spotted Roof on her way into work.
“I don’t know what drew my attention to the car,” Debbie Dills told CNN’s Don Lemon. 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.
Friends and family
A more comprehensive picture of Roof is developing as police pursue the case.
John Mullins, who attended White Knoll High School with Roof, told CNN on Thursday that the suspect was “kind of wild” but not violent.
“He was … calm,” Mullins said. “That’s why all this is such a shock.”
Mullins said Roof occasionally made racist comments, although he had black friends.
“They were just racist slurs in a sense,” he said. “He would say it just as a joke. … I never took it seriously, but now that he shed his other side, so maybe they should have been taken more seriously.”
Roof repeated the ninth grade at the Lexington County high school, said Mary Beth Hill of the Lexington School District, west of Columbia, South Carolina. She said he was “very transient,” that he “came and went.”
In a Washington Post interview, Roof’s uncle, Carson Cowles, said his mother “never raised him to be like this.”
Police are investigating the shooting as a hate crime.
“The whole world is going to be looking at his family who raised this monster,” Cowles told the Post. “I’d be the executioner myself if they would allow it.”
Before opening fire
Roof spent about an hour at the historic African-American church before the massacre, attending the prayer meeting with his eventual victims, Charleston police Chief Greg Mullen said.
Witnesses told investigators the gunman stood up and said he was there “to shoot black people,” a law enforcement official said.
“You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go,” Sylvia Johnson, a cousin of the church’s slain pastor, said Roof told his victims, according to CNN affiliate WIS-TV in Columbia.
Investigators are looking into whether Roof had links to white supremacist or other hate groups, a law enforcement official said. There’s no indication so far that he was known to law enforcement officials who focus on hate groups.
In an image tweeted by authorities in Berkeley County, South Carolina, Roof is seen wearing a jacket with what appear to be the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and nearby Rhodesia, a former British colony that a white minority ruled until it became independent in 1980 and changed its name to Zimbabwe.
Banned from mall
The months leading up to the shooting were a mix of troubling and odd.
Police in his hometown of Columbia — about 120 miles northwest of Charleston — obtained a warrant for his arrest in early March. He had been picked up on drug charges a few days earlier at Columbiana Centre mall, according to a police report.
Workers at two stores told mall security that Roof was acting strangely, asking “out of the ordinary questions,” the police report said.
Roof initially said he wasn’t carrying anything illegal. But he agreed to be searched, and an officer found “a small unlabeled white bottle containing multiple orange … square strips” in his jacket, the police report said.
They turned out to be Suboxone, which is used to treat opiate addiction, according to the police report. Roof said he got the strips from a friend.
He was arrested on a drug possession charge that day in late February, but it’s unclear why the March 1 arrest warrant was issued.
On April 26, police were again called to Columbiana Centre because Roof, who had been banned from the mall for a year after his drug arrest, had returned, the police report said. The ban was extended to three years after his second arrest.
Roof turned 21 in April, and a short time later he had a gun.
On Thursday, investigators did a trace of the handgun used in Wednesday’s shooting and determined that it was a .45-caliber handgun Roof purchased from a Charleston gun store in April, two law enforcement officials said.
His grandfather says Roof was given “birthday money” and that the family didn’t know what he did with it
Roof confessed to the shootings in interviews with the Charleston police and the FBI, two law enforcement officials said.
One law enforcement official told CNN that Roof told investigators he wanted to start a race war.
CNN’s Ray Sanchez, Laura Smith-Spark, Paul Murphy and Brian Todd contributed to this report.