UPDATE: Dylann Storm Roof, the suspect sought in the fatal mass shooting at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., was flown back to the coastal city after waving extradition following his arrest Thursday in North Carolina, according to media reports.
Roof, 21, is accused of killing nine people, including the pastor, at the church on Wednesday evening.
Roof was captured just before 11 a.m. Thursday in Shelby, N.C., during a traffic stop, about an hour west of Charlotte and three hours and 15 minutes northeast of Atlanta.
According to the Charlotte Observer, Roof was taken in handcuffs to court in Shelby wearing a white T-shirt and a bullet-proof vest. CNN said the suspect was flown back to Charleston and arrived Thursday night after waving extradition.
Tip leads to arrest
“I am very, very pleased to announced that we have made an arrest in this case,” Charleston Police Chief Gregory Mullen said about a half-hour after the arrest earlier in the day. “We have arrested Dylann Roof of Lexington, S.C.”
A tearful Gov. Nikki Haley said the “heart and soul of South Carolina” was broken. “Having said that, we are a strong and faithful state”
”It’s a day that we will get through and a day that we will remember,” the governor added.
According to the Shelby Star, a tip called in to police from a florist shop in Kings Mountain helped police track Roof down. An employee of the shop noticed a vehicle resembling the suspect’s black car and recognized his distinctive hair cut. The shop then called police.
“I saw the news coverage last night and the picture of the car,” said Debbie Dills, an employee of Frady’s Florist in Kings Mountain, told the Shelby Star. “I saw the pictures of him with the bowl cut…I thought, ‘Nah, that’s not his car.’ Then, I got closer and saw that hair cut.”
“I had been praying for those people on my way to work,” Dills said. “I was in the right place at the right time.”
Arrest without incident
Mullen said Roof, who was armed with a gun when he was pulled over, was cooperative when he was arrested. “He was cooperative with the officer who stopped him,” the police chief said.
Information about Roof began to emerge prior to his arrest.
Roof’s father gave him a .45-caliber pistol as a 21st birthday present in April, his uncle Carson Cowles told Reuters. Cowles described Roof as quiet and soft-spoken.
A graduate of White Knoll High School, according to his Facebook page, Roof was charged with first-offense drug possession in Lexington County, S.C., in March, court records show. The case status is listed as pending.
His Facebook page shows him wearing a jacket with two flags identified by Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Kyle Wingfield as those of apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia.
The Anti-Defamation League noted in a statement that the South Africa flag is “now used as a hate symbol by white supremacists. ” It said the other flag, “of the former white-controlled government of Rhodesia … is symbolically important to white supremacists.”
Mullen, the Charleston police chief, said the shooter spent an hour in a prayer meeting at the historic African-American church before he opened fire. The gunman stood up and said he was at the church to shoot black people, a law enforcement official said, citing witnesses. Six women and three men were killed.
The shooting occurred during Bible study at the downtown church.
The president of Allen University in Columbia confirmed that among the dead was an Allen alumnus, Tywanza Sanders, a 2014 graduate in business administration.
Lady June Cole said in a statement, “He was a quiet, well-known student who was committed to his education. He presented a warm and helpful spirit as he interacted with his colleagues. Mr. Sanders was participating in the bible study session at Mother Emanuel church at the time of the shooting.”
Also among the reported dead is state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who was pastor at Emanuel AME.
Mayor Joe Riley said the city was creating an Mother Emanuel Hope Fund. “We have the opportunity to help them,” the mayor said, referring to the congregation.
Speaking shortly after the arrest, President Barack Obama noted the special heartbreak of a mass murder occurring in a place where people seek solace and peace.
He noted that once again someone who wanted to hurt others was able to get his hands on a gun, and called for more conversation about gun control. He also said the fact that the killings occurred in a black church hearkened to a “dark part in our history.”
Obama said crimes involving faith or race “pose a particular threat to our democracy.”