Ralph Ellis et al., CNN, June 18, 2015
They got him.
The man suspected of killing nine people Wednesday night at a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, was arrested Thursday morning about 245 miles (395 kilometers) away in Shelby, North Carolina, law enforcement authorities said.
Roof was armed with a gun when he was arrested, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation. It’s not clear if it’s the same firearm used in the shooting.
A senior law enforcement source told CNN the suspect’s father had recently bought him a .45-caliber gun for his 21st birthday in April.
President Barack Obama mourned the violence and the victims, saying, “Any death of this sort is a tragedy. Any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy. There is something particularly heartbreaking about death happening in a place in which we seek solace, we seek peace.”
The slayings took place inside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, near the heart of Charleston’s tourist district. 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 survivors, according to CNN affiliate WIS.
Johnson said survivors recounted the man coming into the church, asking for Pinckney and sitting next to him during a prayer meeting for an hour. He started shooting and reloaded five times, she said.
When a man pleaded with him to stop, the shooter replied, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go,” she said.
A law enforcement official says witnesses told authorities the gunman stood up and said he was there “to shoot black people.”
Authorities released a mug shot of him from Lexington County 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.
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 told CNN. She said she heard this from the victim’s family members.
Federal authorities have opened a hate crime investigation into the shooting at the oldest AME church in the South, the Department of Justice said.
There were 13 people inside the church when the shooting happened–the nine people who were killed and three survivors, South Carolina state Sen. Larry Grooms, who was briefed by law enforcement, told CNN. Two of the survivors were not harmed, he said.