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Deadly Shooting At S.C. Black Church Leaves Many Unanswered Questions


We've been listening this morning to the sounds from inside Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., yesterday. The church was targeted last week in a heinous crime. Nine members were shot and killed. Yesterday, the church reopened its doors. The reverend leading Sunday services said, no demon can close those doors. Let's focus now on the young white man accused of carrying out the crime. He's 21-year-old Dylann Roof. He's been charged with murder and is now being held in jail. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang has been reporting on the suspect's life, and he joins us from Charleston. Hansi, good morning.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So what have you learned about Dylann Roof?

WANG: Well, we know that in February, he registered for a website using his last known address. That website has since been taken down. You can't go on it anymore. But NPR was able to download the photos and text on that website. We don't know exactly who wrote that text, but it's a long rant that ranks different racial and ethnic groups. It says that black people are inferior to white people, that segregation protected white people from being harmed by black people and that black people are, quote, "the biggest problem for Americans." The photos showed Dylann Roof posing at different plantations around South Carolina. In one, he's actually standing on top of a burial site for slaves. And in others, he's posing with a gun and holding a Confederate flag. And he's often seen wearing this black jacket with the flags of apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia, which is now known as Zimbabwe. And those are symbols that are commonly used by some white supremacist groups.

GREENE: Well, all of that makes me wonder if he had any clear connections to white supremacy groups.

WANG: Well, what we do know is that in this manifesto, there is a mention of one white supremacist group, the Council of Conservative Citizens. But as far as we know right now, there is no direct connection tying the shooting with any white supremacist groups.

GREENE: So he's in jail now. I mean, has he had run-ins with the law in the past or is this a first?

WANG: Well, police records show that he's been arrested twice in a mall in Columbia, S.C. The first time, he was caught asking odd questions at a store. He asked employees there, how many people worked there and what time they left the store. And police arrived, questioned him, and ultimately they searched him and found him in possession of a narcotic drug. So he was charged with a felony, and he's - that case is still currently pending in court.

GREENE: You know, Hansi, our colleague Steve Inskeep, who's sitting next to me, likes to talk about collecting dots before you connect dots, and I love that phrase. And we're in the collecting dots phase of this. But - I mean, anything more about his family, his background that just might suggest how this might have happened?

WANG: Well, we know that the family has been very cooperative with the Charleston Police here ever since the investigation began. Just hours after the shooting last week, they - the father and other family members - reached out and identified Dylann Roof as the suspect in this case. And they also told the police that Dylann Roof owned a .45-caliber handgun, and police found .45-caliber casings in the lower level of Emanuel AME Church, where the shooting took place. There is one question, though, as far as how did Dylann Roof get a hold of this gun. And there have been reports that his father gave him this gun as a birthday present, but his father told Al Jazeera America this weekend that he did not give his son a gun and that his son used his money - his own money to buy a gun.

GREENE: Just a few seconds left, Hansi. What's next for Dylann Roof?

WANG: Well, in about four months, he's expected in court again. His next court appearance is scheduled for October 23. And until then, this investigation continues.

GREENE: All right, that's NPR's Hansi Lo Wang, who is reporting from Charleston, S.C. Thanks, Hansi.

WANG: You're welcome, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.