Anti-Defamation League says 21-year-old gunman’s Facebook page suggests white supremacist leanings

April 2015 photo released by the Lexington County (S.C.) Detention Center shows Dylann Roof, 21. (Lexington County Detention Center/via AP)
April 2015 photo released by the Lexington County (S.C.) Detention Center shows Dylann Roof, 21. (Lexington County Detention Center/via AP)


US Jewish organizations joined in condemning the shooting that left nine dead at a prayer meeting in one of the nation’s oldest black churches in Charleston, South Carolina, labeling it as “a hate crime.”

US police on Thursday identified Dylann Roof of Columbia, South Carolina, as the captured 21-year-old white gunman suspected of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting, one of the worst attacks on a place of worship in the country in recent years, which comes at a time of lingering racial tensions.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch confirmed the suspect had been taken into custody, but gave no further details. US media reports said Roof was apprehended at a traffic stop in Shelby, North Carolina.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, speaking at the ADL Centennial Summit in Washington, April 29, 2013. (David Karp/via JTA)
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, April 29, 2013. (David Karp/via JTA)

“From what we know about this unspeakable crime, it is hard to imagine that there could have been any motive other than hate,” Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham H. Foxman and Southeast Regional Director Mark Moskowitz said in a statement Thursday.

“We should all be looking in the mirror this morning and asking ourselves how such a tragedy could happen in America in 2015, and what we can do to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”

The ADL officials said the rampage “evokes memories of the bombing that killed four black schoolgirls at a church in Birmingham, Alabama, more than 50 years ago. That tragedy was a wake-up call for all of us, and this one should be too.”

B’nai B’rith International also released a statement condemning the shooting, saying that “attacking people as they pray is the height of depravity.”

According to ADL’s Center on Extremism, a photo of Roof on Facebook may indicate he has white supremacist leanings. In the photo, Dylan is seen wearing a jacket with two patches — one is of the flag of the apartheid-era government of South Africa; the other is the flag of the former white-controlled government of Rhodesia, which later became Zimbabwe after white rule ended.

Both flags are now used as hate symbols by white supremacists, according to the ADL.

The mother of a childhood friend said Roof also drove a car with a confederate flag license plate.

Churchgoers had gathered Wednesday evening when the shooter walked into the building, sat in the congregation for about an hour and then opened fire, Charleston Police Chief Gregory Mullen said.

Three men and six women were killed, and several other people were wounded. Among the dead was the church’s pastor, Clementa Pinckney, who was also a Democratic state senator.

President Barack Obama, who personally knew the slain pastor, said these shootings have to stop.

“At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries,” Obama said.

Pinckney, 41, was a married father of two who became the youngest member of the South Carolina state House when he was elected as a Democrat at 23.

“He had a core not many of us have,” said Sen. Vincent Sheheen, who sat beside Pinckney in the Senate. “I think of the irony that the most gentle of the 46 of us — the best of the 46 of us in this chamber — is the one who lost his life.”

The other victims were identified as Cynthia Hurd, 54; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Sharonda Singleton, 45; Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; and DePayne Doctor.

Worshippers embrace following a group prayer across the street from the scene of a shooting on June 17, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina. (David Goldman/AP)
Worshipers embrace following a group prayer across the street from the scene of a shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, June 17, 2015. (AP/David Goldman)

Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten said autopsies would be conducted over the next several days that he had no specific information on how many times the victims had been shot or the location of their injuries.

Roof’s childhood friend Joey Meek alerted the FBI after recognizing Roof in a surveillance-camera image, said Meek’s mother, Kimberly Konzny. Roof had worn the same sweatshirt while playing Xbox video games in their home recently.

“I don’t know what was going through his head,” Konzny said. “He was a really sweet kid. He was quiet. He only had a few friends.”

Roof had been to jail: State court records show a pending felony drug case against him, and a past misdemeanor trespassing charge.

The shooting evoked painful memories of other attacks. Black churches were bombed in the 1960s when they served as organizing hubs for the Civil Rights Movement, and burned by arsons across the South in the 1990s. Others survived shooting sprees.

This particular congregation, which formed in 1816, has its own grim history: A founder, Denmark Vesey, was hanged after trying to organize a slave revolt in 1822, and white landowners burned the church in revenge, leaving parishioners to worship underground until after the Civil War.

This shooting “should be a warning to us all that we do have a problem in our society,” said state Rep. Wendell Gilliard, a Democrat whose district includes the church. “There’s a race problem in our country. There’s a gun problem in our country. We need to act on them quickly.”

“Of all cities, in Charleston, to have a horrible hateful person go into the church and kill people there to pray and worship with each other is something that is beyond any comprehension and is not explained,” Riley said. “We are going to put our arms around that church and that church family.”

NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks said “there is no greater coward than a criminal who enters a house of God and slaughters innocent people.”

A few bouquets of flowers tied to a police barricade outside the church formed a small but growing memorial.

The attack came two months after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man, Walter Scott, by a white police officer in neighboring North Charleston that sparked major protests and highlighted racial tensions in the area. The officer awaits trial for murder, and the shooting prompted South Carolina lawmakers to push through a bill helping all police agencies in the state get body cameras. Pinckney was a sponsor of that bill.

“I am very tired of people telling me that I don’t have the right to be angry,” Community organizer Christopher Cason said. “I am very angry right now.”

As reported by The Times of Israel