On the night of June 17, 2015, a hate-filled white supremacist, Dylann Roof, quietly attended an Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church bible study for nearly an hour, he then unholstered a .45 caliber Glock semi-automatic handgun and fired mercilessly on the parishioners, killing nine in his carnage.
One mother’s surviving testimony claims that amid the bloodshed, her youngest son, Tywanza Sanders, boldly stood to his feet and addressed the shooter by asking “Why are you doing this?” In which Dylann Roof replied “I have to do this y’all raping our women and taking over the world.”
The mother, Felicia Sanders, then watches Roof pump five bullets into her son. “I watched my son come into this world, and I watched my son leave this world.”
As I write this from my home in Mount Pleasant (20 miles away from the Episcopal Church murder scene), I wonder how this South Carolina born and raised citizen could have become so delusional and how he became so radicalized.
South Carolina, especially Charleston, has a long history of racial tension and inequality. Tourist will often stop by Market Street, at the site of one of the oldest slave trade ports, for a horse carriage ride on cobble streets and buy a handmade sweetgrass basket from one of the local sellers.
The point is, Charleston South Carolina has a long-history of racial inequality, sometimes even resulting in wrongful executions.
However, the vast majority of South Carolinians do not possess such racial and hate-filled convictions. The bloodshed that happened on June 17, 2015, was an anomaly conducted by one crazed gunman whose beliefs do not reflect those of any normal citizen.
So how did Dylann Roof become so entrenched in his white supremist beliefs?
Dylann Roof was a troubled individual whose life was going nowhere but inside a bottle of hard liquor. Some may choose to blame Dylann’s parents, absent, divorced, and showing no emotional support for their son.
Before the shooting, Roof had dropped out of highschool and at 19, was bouncing between trailer parks and staying wherever he could. His alcohol consumption was becoming excessive, and he started looking for a reason for living. That’s when he heard of the Trayvon Martin case.
From Dylann Roof’s manifesto, "The event that truly awakened me was the Trayvon Martin case," he writes. "I kept hearing and seeing his name, and eventually I decided to look him up. I read the Wikipedia article and right away I was unable to understand what the big deal was."
Roof used the Trayvon Martin murder as his own stepping stone into what he considered his “research” on the true societal order of blacks and whites.
One source that impressed Roof was a website called the Council of Conservative Citizens in which he recalls, "There were pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders. I was in disbelief. At this moment I realized that something was very wrong. How could the news be blowing up the Trayvon Martin case while hundreds of these black on White murders got ignored?"
Dylann Roof told a fellow drinking buddy, Christon Scriven, that he was planning to hurt “a bunch of people” by shooting them. However, his initial target was the College of Charleston.
Scriven and another buddy, Joey Meek, were so unsure that their friend was serious in his threats and even once hid his .45 caliber from Dylann, at least until he sobered up.
"I don't think the church was his primary target because he told us he was going for the school," Scriven said. "But I think he couldn't get into the school because of the security ... so I think he just settled for the church."
It was more of an impulse decision when Roof finally chose the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Dylann Roof stated, “I chose Charleston because it is [the] most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country.”
Before the shooting, Dylann posted a Facebook photo of himself adorning a white supremacy flag representing Rhodesia, a former white-ruled South African country.
Dylann told his friends that he had “seven days” left before he put his plan into action.
Immediately after the 2015 shooting murders Greg Mullen, the Charleston Police Chief, told reporters via a press conference that he was declaring the incident a “hate crime.”
Reporters quickly found a manifesto linked to Dylann Roof on a deleted website called the Last Rhodesian. Written in a rushed tone and filled with many grammatical errors, Roof explained that other white supremacist believe the American South is “beyond saving”, but he disagrees.
His plan to save the South was to incite a race-war.
Dylann’s sister, Morgan Roof, was also arrested shortly after the arrest of her brother while in class at her AC Flora High School. Morgan, then 18, posted a Snapchat response to a planned ‘walkout’ in remembrance of the Church’s victims.
"Your walking out of the allowed time of 17min, they are letting you do this, nothing is going to change what tf you think it's gonna do? I hope it's a trap and y'all get shot we know it's fixing to be nothing but black people walkin out anyway," she posted.
Authorities caught her with a knife and pepper spray on her, which resulted in two counts of carrying a weapon on school grounds.
They also charged Morgan with one could of marijuana possession.
Dylann Roof is awaiting his death at the Terre Haute Indiana Correctional Facility. Even if he somehow avoids the death penalty through the appeals process, he still has to serve out his nine life sentences for his horrific actions on the night of June 17, 2015.