Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Charleston Church Shooting One Week Later -- Part I: What We Know

The victims killed in the shooting.
(UPDATED -- See below)

It has been just over a week since, yet again, another lone-wolf, disturbed young man armed himself with a gun and committed mass murder. 

This week, the bodies of the nine innocent victims, six males and three females, are being buried in the soil of South Carolina.  Two survivors are dealing with the trauma of the event.  And the families, friends, and fellow citizens of Charleston are having to come to grips with the tragedy.

Friday, President Obama himself led the eulogy for the Pastor of the church and ex-state senator, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, and even led the congregation in "Amazing Grace."

According to the Gun Violence Archive, which carefully tracks media reports of shootings in our country, there have been at least 140 mass shootings so far this year.  It has become so commonplace in America to have three or more people shot to death in a single incident that most of these hardly even make national headlines!

But this shooting was different than many of them -- not just in the number of victims, but also due to the obvious racism expressed by the shooter, the race of the victims, and the widespread media coverage. 

Here is what we know of the shooter: 

Dylann Roof's roommate stated that Roof had been planning a shooting of this sort for as much as six months, yet he did not alert authorities.  

In late February, Roof had been arrested at a mall, dressed in all black, asking suspicious questions and carrying illegal narcotics, for which he was arrested and jailed and charged with misdemeanor possession of controlled substances. 

A week or so later, Roof was found acting suspiciously at a park, again dressed in all black.  When his car was searched, the officer found a number of assault rifle magazines and an accessory used to hold a gun by the hot barrel.  

Roof very much wanted an AR-15 assault rifle, but could not afford one.

Later in March, despite having been banned from that mall, he was found there and charged with trespassing -- another misdemeanor crime.

In April, Roof turned 21.  Despite his recent run-ins with the law, unstable behavior, how he "seemed adrift" and cooped up in his room too much, and his on-and-off relationship with his parents, Roof's father nonetheless gave him a .45-caliber handgun for his birthday, according to an uncle.  Roof also received cash, which he immediately spent to purchase another .45-caliber handgun -- the one used in the shooting.  Because he had just turned 21, and because his misdemeanor charges did not prohibit him buying a gun, the purchase was legal.  He then enjoyed going target shooting with these guns.

Concerned about Roof's state of mind, and because Roof had said that he "wanted to hurt a whole lot of people," a friend of Roof's hid the gun, but then returned it (since the friend had a felony conviction).  But the friend did not alert authorities.

Roof expressed to a friend an interest in "shooting up" a local college, the College of Charleston, but thought he couldn't get past security. The friend dismissed the statement as drunken rambling, and did not alert authorities.

Just two months after buying his gun, Roof entered the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church with the gun and extra ammo magazines, sat with a Bible study group for about an hour, then as the meeting ended, despite having fleeting thoughts of not going through with it, Roof pulled his gun and started shooting, reloading five different times. It seemed that his main target was Rev. Simmons. He then tried to kill himself, but the gun was empty.  

Nine people lay dead or dying.  Two survived.  Roof then fled, but was later captured in North Carolina and arrested without incident.  He confessed to the crime.

The victims:
  • Rev. Clementa Pinckney, ex- state senator and pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Tywanza Sanders, 26, a 2014 graduate of Allen University in Columbia, which Pinckney also attended.
  • Cynthia Hurd, 54, manager of St. Andrews Regional Library.
  • The Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, an assistant pastor at the church and girls track coach at Goose Creek High School.
  • Susie Jackson, 87, a longtime church member.
  • Ethel Lance, 70, a sexton at the church.
  • The Rev. Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49, a church singer and former Charleston County community development employee.
  • The Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74, a member of the church's ministerial staff, who died in the operating room at the hospital.
  • Myra Thompson, 59, wife of the vicar of Holy Trinity Reformed Episcopal Church.

Obvious racism:

Roof's racism is obvious.  A childhood friend said:

"He said blacks were taking over the world. Someone needed to do something about it for the white race," .... "He said he wanted segregation between whites and blacks. I said, 'That's not the way it should be.' But he kept talking about it."

One of Roof's friends stated:

“He was big into segregation and other stuff,” ... “He said he wanted to start a civil war. He said he was going to do something like that and then kill himself.” 
But the friend did not report this to authorities.
Roof's roommate, who had briefly hid the gun, stated:
“He was saying all this stuff about how the races should be segregated, that whites should be with whites,” he said. “I could tell there was something inside him, there was something he wouldn’t let go.”
At some point before the shooting, Roof wrote a 2,444-word manifesto website [which you can find HERE] wherein he expressed his views that he thought the U.S. was being taken over by minorities, that there would be a coming race war, that he wanted to eradicate Jewish culture, and that he was "awakened" by the Trayvon Martin killing by George Zimmerman.  He also wrote about African-Americans:

In the text, which he implies was written not long before the killings, he declares: 'N****rs are stupid and violent.... Black people view everything through a racial lense [sic].'
He later continues: 'Anyone who thinks that White and black people look as different as we do on the outside, but are somehow magically the same on the inside, is delusional.
'How could our faces, skin, hair, and body structure all be different, but our brains be exactly the same? This is the nonsense we are led to believe.
'Negroes have lower Iqs [sic], lower impulse control, and higher testosterone levels in generals. These three things alone are a recipe for violent behavior.'
At the end of the text, he wrote: 'I have no choice. I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight.
He bemoaned the lack of skinheads or "real KKK" in his area, and seemed stimulated by a white supremacist group, the Council of Conservative Citizens.

Roof posed for numerous photos with his guns, confederate flags, with Confederate and slave props, and with jacket patches showing the flags of white-minority-ruled African nations.

Then, during the actual shooting, where he targeted a traditional Black church and its congregation, Roof is quoted by survivors as saying, "I have to do it. You rape our women and you're taking over our country."

It's only been a week, so doubtless many other facts will come out soon about this deranged young man and his motives.  But, like just about every other mass shooting "lone wolf," it's clear that Roof had many warning signs.

Further thoughts:  In Part II, I will give my thoughts about how the church may not have been his original target, and how his racism may not have been his initial driving purpose.  In Part III, I will take a look at the response by the pro-gun and Conservative forces and how they have dodged or even made light of the tragedy, and how the case morphed into a discussion about removing Confederate flags.

UPDATE (7/10/15):  Roof was initially turned down for buying a gun when a background check was initiated, due to the FBI investigating his drug arrest.  But because there is only a 3-day window before the sale has to be approved (thanks to the NRA), and the FBI wasn't able to make that window, Roof returned and was allowed to buy the gun used in the crime. From an article:
Mr. Roof first tried to buy the gun on April 11, from a dealer in South Carolina. The F.B.I., which conducts background checks for gun sales, did not give the dealer approval to proceed with the purchase because the bureau needed to do more investigating about Mr. Roof’s s criminal history. 
Under federal law, the F.B.I. has three days to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to deny the purchase. If the bureau cannot come up with an answer, the purchaser can return to the dealer and buy the gun. 
In the case of Mr. Roof, the F.B.I. failed to gain access to a police report in which he admitted to having been in possession of a controlled substance, which would have disqualified him from purchasing the weapon. The F.B.I. said that confusion about where the arrest had occurred had prevented it from acquiring the arrest record in a timely fashion. 
Mr. Roof’s application was not resolved within the three-day limit because the F.B.I. was still trying to get the arrest record, and he returned to store and was sold the gun.

UPDATE (12/15/16): Roof has been found guilty.  From an article:

Mr. Roof, 22, stood, his hands at his side and his face emotionless, as a clerk read the verdict aloud in Federal District Court, where he had been charged with 33 counts, including hate crimes resulting in death.
Mr. Roof, whose lawyers conceded his guilt, will face the same jurors when they gather on Jan. 3 to begin a more suspenseful phase of his trial to decide whether he will be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.

The jury deliberated for only about two hours...
UPDATE (1/10/17):  Roof represented himself during sentencing, and has been sentenced to death.