Thursday started out like any other for Debbie Dills, except she was a “little late” coming into work at Frady’s Florist in Kings Mountain.
However, that “little late” led to a heroic effort.
Dills, of Gastonia, an employee at Kings Mountain’s Frady’s Florist, and her boss, Todd Frady, made the initial calls around 10:35 a.m. that led to the arrest of Dylann Roof, who is suspected of killing nine people, including pastor and S.C. state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, during a prayer meeting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston on Wednesday night.
Dills, driving from her home in south Gastonia into work, first spotted Roof on Highway 74 near Sparrow Springs Road in Gastonia, then shortly after, called Frady to ask his advice.
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Frady said, he then made a call to officer Shane Davis of the Kings Mountain Police Department, who relayed to Shelby Police that the suspect’s black Hyundai was traveling west on Highway 74.
“I saw the news coverage last night and the picture of the car. I knew it was a black car, and it had a tag on the front. I saw the pictures of him with the bowl cut,” Dills said through tears. “Since it happened, I was praying for them and the church. I was in the right place at the right time that the Lord puts you.”
Frady, who had Dills and Davis on two separate phones, acted as the intermediary.
“She called me when she was at the exit for Kings Mountain on Highway 74,” Frady said. “I called Shane Davis, then he called Shelby PD.”
According to Frady and his conversation with Davis, Shelby PD had officers near the Shelby Ingle’ grocery store on westbound Highway 74/West Dixon Blvd. and Polkville Rd. Just 20 short minutes after Dills’ initial call to her boss, Shelby PD pulled Roof over near Plato Lee Road.
After first spotting Roof’s car in south Gastonia, she said she followed Roof’s car to the Kings Mountain exit on Bypass 74, then exited to head to work at the florist shop. Something didn’t feel right to her, so she made a quick right turn onto Kings Street and headed back to the Bypass and traveled west to attempt to catch up to Roof to provide more details.
“What if that really was him?, she thought. If it was him and something would happen again, what would I do? It kept eating at me and something told me to keep following him.”
She caught up with Roof’s Hyundai, again, near the Walmart in Shelby and continued to follow him, while she stayed on the phone with Frady. She saw Shelby PD begin to follow Roof at the Ingles on 74 and Polkville Road. She stayed behind, then knowing the situation was under control, she made a U-turn, but seemed to still want to see the process all the way through.
When she U-turned, again, she saw flashing blue lights and Shelby Police officers lining the side of West Dixon Blvd. with Roof pulled over and apprehended. The distance of her heroic ride covered approximately 35 miles.
Dills said, the whole way, Roof never increased his speed.