LEXINGTON, S.C. (AP) — In recent weeks, Dylann Storm Roof reconnected with a childhood buddy he hadn’t seen in five years and started railing about the Trayvon Martin case, about black people “taking over the world” and about the need for someone to do something about it for the sake of “the white race,” the friend said Thursday.
On Thursday, Roof, 21, was arrested in the shooting deaths of nine people during a prayer meeting at a historic black church in Charleston — an attack decried by stunned community leaders and politicians as a hate crime.
In the hours after the Wednesday night bloodbath, a portrait began to take shape of Roof as someone with racist views and at least two recent run-ins with the law. On his Facebook page, the young white man wore a jacket with the flags of the former white-racist regimes of South Africa and Rhodesia.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Joseph Meek Jr. said he and Roof had been best friends in middle school but lost touch when Roof moved away about five years ago. The two reconnected a few weeks ago after Roof reached out to Meek on Facebook, Meek said.
Roof never talked about race years ago when they were friends, but recently made remarks out of the blue about the killing of unarmed black 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida and the riots in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, Meek said.
“He said blacks were taking over the world. Someone needed to do something about it for the white race,” Meek said, adding that the friends were getting drunk on vodka. “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.”
The purpose of the event was to allow people from the community to come and lament, according to the church’s pastor Reverend Marvin Silver.
Police believe on Wednesday night, after attending a Bible study, 21-year-old Dylann Roof opened fire at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in
Charleston, killing nine people. The event has religious leaders across the country worried.
“My concern moving forward of course is security as probably any pastor and church leader is thinking about right now,” Silver said.
Thursday’s service was organized by the Prince George’s County NAACP. President Bob Ross said he was shocked by the attack, but feels a non-violent response is necessary.
"We have to put pressure on our lawmakers to work on gun reform here in the country,” Ross said.
Ernest Gooding, of Bowie, Maryland, said he is praying for the family of the victims, and the family of the man accused of committing the crime.
“We’ve got to work through this and see what we can do, to see that this doesn’t happen again,” Gooding said.
Among those in attendance was Eugene Grant, the mayor of Seat Pleasant, Maryland, who said protections are needed for places of worship.
“The church, the synagogue, the mosque, the temple, must be a sacred place,” Grant said.
“Race is an issue in the country,” said Lisa Ransom, of Prince George’s County. Even though it may be a difficult topic, she said a discussion on race needs to take place.
Cassandra Freeman, with the Prince George’s County NAACP, said sadly these tragedies can happen anywhere.
“Despite racial differences, we as a community have to come together,” Freeman said.
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