Police in Shelby, North Carolina arrested Dylann Storm Roof, the man law enforcement officials allege is responsible for the horrific attack on Emanuel AME Church. Roof, who has been described as a “monster” by his uncle, was apprehended during a routine traffic stop nearly 250 miles away from the scene of the shooting.
Witnesses say Roof sat through the hour-long church meeting before he opened fire on worshipers, telling them, “You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country.”
Six women and three men, including the church’s pastor, state Senator Clementa Pinckney, were killed in the horrendous massacre.
President Obama called the shooting at Emanuel AME “heartbreaking.”
“There’s something particularly heartbreaking about a death happening in a place we seek solace and peace,” he said. “The fact that this took place in a Black church obviously raises questions about our history.”
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley once again called the shooter “an awful person” and said, “We are going to put our arms around that church and that church family.”
President Obama echoed the mayor’s unifying sentiment.
“I’m confident that the outpouring of unity, strength, fellowship and love from all races indicates that those old vestiges of hatred can be overcome,” the president said.
In addition to passing his condolences onto the victims and their families, the president spoke about Emanuel AME’s long and storied history.
“Mother Emanuel is more than a church, it’s a place founded by African Americans seeking liberty,” Obama said. “Mother Emanuel will rise again as a place of peace.”
The president also used the tragedy as a moment to call for gun control, although he acknowledged it is almost impossible to pass even basic reform measures in the current political climate.
“At some point we’ll have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence doesn’t happen in other advanced countries,” Obama said, “It would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it.”
Roof, 21, had previously been arrested for drugs and trespassing and received a gun for his birthday in April. John Mullins, a high school classmate of the shooter, said he was a heavy drug abuser and “a pill popper.”
Mullins also said Roof had a history of making racist remarks, but he didn’t think it would lead to anything serious.
“I never heard him say anything, but just he had that kind of Southern pride, I guess some would say. Strong conservative beliefs,” Mullins said. “He made a lot of racist jokes, but you don’t really take them seriously like that. You don’t really think of it like that.”
On his Facebook page, Roof is pictured in a black jacket with the flags of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and apartheid-era South Africa emblazoned on the lapel, which the Anti-Defamation league calls “a symbol of white supremacy.”