What we know is still scattershot.
It’s random knowledge. Indiscriminate.
Hardly a full picture of someone who could, at the tender age of 21, deliver the gargantuan load of pain and hate he allegedly administered to so many.
We know bits of him, from a bounce-around childhood in Columbia to survivors’ stories told of a body-shaking handful of minutes at Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston. And from his alleged confession when he was caught in Shelby, N.C. Our latest window is to an articulate spewing of hate through the frightening portal of the Internet.
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Is he a thug, a monster? It sure seems that way to plenty of people.
But we still don’t have all our questions answered.
Here are some of the bits and pieces we do know about this life that imploded:
College of Charleston an early target?
An African-American drinking buddy of Dylann Storm Roof says that a week before the attack, the suspect announced plans to shoot up the College of Charleston.
Christon Scriven told The Associated Press that on June 10, while they were getting drunk on vodka, Roof announced plans to carry out a mass shooting seven days later at the school whose downtown campus, when in session, has about 12,000 students.
Scriven says he thought the threat was just drunken bluster. Still, he and another friend, Joey Meek, were concerned enough that they went out to Roof’s car and retrieved Roof’s handgun, hiding it until they all sobered up.
Authorities say that on Wednesday, Roof fatally shot the pastor and eight others at the historic black Emanuel AME. In interviews, Roof’s friends described a troubled 21-year-old man who alternated between racist rants and partying with black friends.
But at the urging of his girlfriend, Meek returned the weapon because he was on probation and did not want to get into trouble.
Now Meek and his girlfriend, Lindsey Fry, both of whom are white, say they feel guilt about the shooting. “I feel we could have done something and prevented this whole thing,” Fry said.
Asked why Roof picked that particular church, Meek replied, “Because it was a black church.”
Some who knew Roof as a youngster are surprised that he became enamored with racial separation.
“I never looked at him like he was trying to actually harm somebody,” Caleb Brown, who attended elementary and middle school with Roof, told The State newspaper.
“He wasn’t a loner or anything. He was just an average kid in school. He would be the class clown for attention. There is nothing I could see that I would say straight-faced that there was something wrong with that kid.”
Roof went through a variety of family issues but never talked about them, Brown said.
“He wasn’t an expressively emotional person,” Brown said. “If there was anything wrong with him, I got the impression that he was the kind of person that suppresses any emotions.”
‘He wanted to start a civil war’
Dalton Tyler, who described himself as Roof’s roommate, told ABC News that Roof was “planning something like that for six months.”
“He was big into segregation and other stuff,” Tyler said. “He said he wanted to start a civil war. He said he was going to do something like that and then kill himself.”
Tyler on Saturday told The New York Times said he did not always take Roof seriously.
Tyler said on another occasion, the two were driving to a strip club when Roof saw a black woman, used a racist word and said, “I’ll shoot your xxx.”
A gun for his birthday
Roof turned 21 in April, and a short time later he had a gun.
On Thursday, investigators did a trace of the handgun used in Wednesday’s shooting and determined that it was a .45-caliber handgun Roof purchased from a Charleston gun store in April, two law enforcement officials told CNN.
Roof purchased a Glock .45-caliber model 41, which holds 13 rounds, a federal law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation said. Witnesses have reported that Roof reloaded a number of times.
Roof’s father and uncle contacted police after surveillance camera images of the suspect were made public, according to the arrest warrant. His father told authorities his son owned a .45-caliber handgun.
Joe Roof, his grandfather, said Roof was given “birthday money” and that the family didn’t know what he did with it.
His mother ‘never raised him to be like this’
In a Washington Post interview, Roof’s uncle, Carson Cowles, said what happened in Charleston does not reflect his nephew’s upbringing.
“The whole world is going to be looking at his family who raised this monster,” Cowles said Thursday as he wiped away tears outside his mobile home in Gaston. While Roof was quiet and “did stay a lot to himself,” Cowles said, his mother “never raised him to be like this.”
Even as he described Roof as a quiet young man who kept out of trouble, Cowles shook with anger at the thought that his nephew could have carried out the crime with which he is accused.
“I’d be the executioner myself if they would allow it,” he said.
Roof family wants prayers for families
The wedding of Roof’s sister, planned for this weekend, has been postponed, according to the Rev. Tony Metze, pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Columbia.
Metze said he met with Roof’s immediate family on Friday.
“What they’ve asked and what I ask is that we continue to hold all these families in our prayers,” Metze told CNN. “And that the whole world, our nation, Charleston, our community understand that we love them. God loves them.”
‘He would just say it as a joke’
John Mullins, who attended White Knoll High School with Roof, told CNN on Thursday that the suspect was “kind of wild” but not violent.
“That’s why all this is such a shock,” Mullins said.
The classmate recalled Roof occasionally making racist comments, though he appeared to have black friends at the same time.
“They were just racist slurs in a sense,” he said. “He would say it just as a joke. ... I never took it seriously, but now that he shed his other side, so maybe they should have been taken more seriously.”
2 run-ins with police
Roof is facing misdemeanor drug charges after being arrested Feb. 28 by Columbia police at Columbiana Centre mall, according to an arrest warrant reviewed by The State.
He had a bottle containing “a small unlabeled white bottle containing multiple orange ... square strips” in his jacket, the police report said.
It was unprescribed suboxone, the report said. Suboxone is commonly used to treat opiate addiction.
Police went to the mall after security officers there notified them that Roof was going into stores asking “out-of-the-ordinary questions” such as the number of employees and closing time, the incident report said.
During the conversation with authorities, Roof “was becoming more nervous-acting” before allowing a search in which the pills were found, it said. He was banned from the mall at the time.
A GOOD STUDENT?
Roof had some success in school. He was named to the B Honor Role in the sixth grade at Hand Middle School in May 2007.
Roof attended elementary and middle school in downtown Columbia, then moved to a more rural area in Lexington County, The State reported.
He spent ninth grade at White Knoll High School but had to repeat the grade after spotty attendance. He transferred to Dreher High School, the downtown Columbia school he would have attended if he hadn’t moved. But he didn’t finish that either.
In his alleged online manifesto, he criticizes people who won’t admit they’re moving to the suburbs to get their children into “whiter” schools.