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The 21-year-old man accused of killing nine people as they worshiped at a Charleston, South Carolina church has a criminal past. Dylann Roof was arrested twice this year and images of him posted to social media seem to show a racist ideology
He stood 5-foot-9 and weighed just 120 pounds. But beyond the baby face and bowl hair cut, Charleston, S.C., shooting suspect Dylann Roof, 21, flaunted symbols of white supremacism and violence.
A Confederate States of America license plate hung from the front bumper of Roof’s black, 15-year-old Hyundai Elantra. Four weeks ago he posted a Facebook photo of himself scowling to the camera, sporting a black jacket with new-looking patches of apartheid South Africa and the formerly white-ruled African country of Rhodesia.
Roof’s Facebook profile, now removed, had little else the public could see — just the one photograph and a note that he lived in tiny Eastover, S.C., which runs along a battered two-lane highway, and attended West Knoll High School. At school, he struggled.
Police arrested Roof on Thursday around 11:30 a.m. during a traffic stop in Shelby, N.C., about 250 miles northwest of the coastal city of Charleston. He is suspected of a shooting at a historic black church in downtown Charleston. He allegedly shouted racial epithets as he gunned down nine people at an evening prayer meeting Wednesday.
Photographs after his arrest showed him wearing jeans, a loose white T-shirt and a bullet-protective vest as he was escorted by police to a patrol car.
Roof had minor encounters with police starting in February at the Columbiana Centre, a one-story mall anchored by J.C. Penney and Dillard’s on the outskirts of the state capital Columbia. Shortly before the center’s 9 p.m. closing time, mall security called Columbia police when Roof began asking employees of two stores “out of the ordinary questions” such as how many people were working and what time they leave, a police report shows.
When the police officer saw Roof getting nervous in response to questions, he searched Roof and found Suboxone, a prescription drug used to treat narcotic addiction. Roof was banned from the mall for a year, but showed up in late April and was arrested and charged with trespassing. A South Carolina judge found him guilty after a trial and ordered Roof to pay a $262 fine.
Police arrested him March 1 in Lexington County on a misdemeanor drug charge for possession of a controlled substance.
Roof turned 21 in April. A federal law enforcement official who was not authorized to speak publicly said that Roof was given a .45-caliber handgun for his 21st birthday in April by his father.
Roof’s address, according to a police report, was a three-bedroom house on 1.3 acres in Eastover, about 20 miles east of Columbia.
“This is kind of the poor side of town — we’re not wealthy over here,” said a friend who attended the same high school as Roof.
At White Knoll, a high school with nearly 2,000 students in Lexington, S.C., Roof had to repeat ninth grade and left the school in 2010 in the middle of his second stint as a freshman, the school said. “He hung out with the weird people,” said the former schoolmate, who did not want to be associated publicly with him. Roof adopted a “goth” style, wearing black clothing and make-up, the former student said.
Despite a connection on Facebook, the former student said they barely knew each other in high school and probably connected through the website years ago.
Roof’s Facebook page showed about 80 friends, all about his age, including roughly 21 with photographs showing them to be black. The patches Roof wore of apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia, a formerly white-ruled country now called Zimbabwe, have been associated with white-supremacist groups.
Roof’s Facebook page had no sign of family, including his older sister, Amber Roof, who until recently was a pre-kindergarten teacher at a public school in the northern part of the state and had graduated from the University of South Carolina, according to the school’s website. Roof recently left the school because she is getting married on June 21, the school said.