US ‘Wit Wolf’ slaughter
Charleston – In a scene eerily reminiscent of Pretoria’s Strijdom Square in 1988, when Barend Strydom, 21, shot and killed seven black South Africans, the US is reeling from the shooting of nine African-American worshippers by a young white man.
And the alleged shooter’s Facebook page image was of him grim-faced and sporting an apartheid-era South African flag and a Rhodesian flag – icons of hate which have been picked up by rightwingers across the world.
In what was a cold and premeditated killing spree, the killer, believed to be Dylann Roof, 21, sat with churchgoers during a Bible-study group inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church for about an hour before opening fire.
The attacker reloaded five times despite pleas for him to stop.
The victims, six females and three males, included the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who was the church’s pastor and a democratic member of the state senate, according to colleagues.
Speaking to NBC News, Sylvia Johnson, a cousin of Pinckney’s, said she spoke to one of the survivors, who said the man said he had to carry out the shooting.
“And he just said, ‘I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go,’” Johnson said.
The shooter told one survivor he would let her live so she could tell others what happened, the president of the Charleston African-American civil rights organisation NAACP, Dot Scott, told the Post and Courier newspaper.
The troubled young man pictured on Facebook had been arrested twice this year on charges of trespassing and drug possession.
Roof has been described as a pill-popping loner with a fascination for white supremacy who spent far too much time alone.
His uncle said he had told his sister, the suspect’s mother, a few years ago that he was worried about Roof, who was too introverted.
“I said he was like 19 years old, he still didn’t have a job, a driver’s licence or anything like that and he just stayed in his room a lot of the time,” Carson Cowles said in a telephone interview.
He said he tried to “mentor” his nephew.
“He didn’t like that, and me and him kind of drifted apart,” Cowles said.
Roof was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of having fatally shot the nine at the historic African-American church.
Those who knew him described a withdrawn, troubled young man.
Cowles, 56, said he recognised Roof in a photo released by police as they searched for him in the hours after the shooting, and described him as quiet and soft-spoken.
Roof’s father gave him a .45-calibre pistol for his birthday this year, Cowles said.
“I actually talked to him on the phone briefly for just a few moments and he was saying, ‘Well I’m outside target practising with my new gun,’” Cowles said, describing a phone call around the time of Roof’s birthday in April.
“Nobody in my family had seen anything like this coming,” Cowles said.
“I said, ‘If it is him, and when they catch him, he’s got to pay for this.’”
His Facebook page listed him as having a little over 80 friends on Thursday morning, but that number appeared to be dropping, perhaps as others chose to sever their online ties with him. Many of them were black.
One of the friends, Derrick “D-Gutta” Pearson, wrote on his own Facebook page on Thursday morning that he was “wondering why I woke up to 15 friend requests”, adding that he did not know where Roof was.
The US Department of Justice said federal authorities would investigate the attack as a hate crime, or one motivated by racism.
A woman who answered the cellphone of the suspect’s mother, Amelia Roof, also known as Amy, declined to comment yesterday.
“We will be doing no interviews ever,” she said, before hanging up.
Roof attended White Knoll High School in Lexington, South Carolina. A high school classmate of Roof’s, John Mullins, told The Daily Beast that the accused white supremacist killer was “kind of wild” and a big-time prescription drug abuser.
“I never heard him say anything, but just he had that kind of Southern pride, I guess some would say. Strong conservative beliefs. 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,” said Mullins. iOL news reported today.