People who knew Dylann Roof, the man who fatally shot nine people at the Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina, are faced with a great deal of guilt. They knew him as a “sweet child,” but they now realize they should have known he was disturbed. They missed the signs, and they were apparently prevalent.
Roof isn’t saying anything about his past, but his friends and family are talking quite a bit. Reportedly, Roof was drunk a lot of the time, and even when he partied alongside his African American friends, he would drop white supremacist phrases and slogans into the conversation constantly.
His childhood was difficult as well. Certain court documents claim that he was raised in a broken home, filled with allegations of extramarital affairs and abuse. Roof then turned to racist websites, becoming obsessed with them. The reason why is unclear to many who know him. According to his former step-grandmother, Patricia Hastings, Roof was “so sweet and bright” when he was just four years old. Now, at twenty-one, Roof seems to be the complete opposite.
His parents are Franklin Bennett Roof and Amy Cowles. They married in 1988 and quickly had their daughter, Amber. In 1990, they split up and divorced but reconciled to have Dylann on April 3, 1994. By 1998, Franklin Roof was married to another woman, Paige Hastings. They divorced in 2009.
Paige Hastings referred to herself as a “surrogate mother” to Amber and Dylann. She raised them when they were still quite young and loved them as her own, according to her mother. Hastings even cut Dylann’s hair into the bowl cut he wears to this day.
But as Dylann grew, Paige noticed he exhibited some signs of obsessive compulsive disorder. He was afraid of germs and became strangely attached to his bowl cut. This behavior didn’t immediately take over his life, however. He was interactive with his family, liked to play video games like a great number of kids do, and he went to Bible camp. This was all behavior Paige expected of her stepson even if some things he did were abnormal.
Apparently, Franklin Roof was verbally abusive. This is according to an affidavit written by Paige’s close friend, Carol Elliott. He was also invasive of his wife’s privacy. When Paige filed for divorce, Franklin got a private investigator to tail her. Information came out that Paige was having an affair. When her divorce was legally finalized six years ago, Paige felt most guilty about leaving Dylann behind.
After the divorce, Roof’s academic record hit a downward spiral. After failing his freshman year of high school twice, he dropped out of high school in 2010. He never returned. Family and friends noticed there was no focus in his life, and he spent an inordinate amount of time on the Internet. When asked to get a job, he refused. It’s in the past year that his behavior has become a danger to others especially.
He scared some workers at a mall when he walked in, dressed in black from head to toe and started asking them particularly strange questions. Roof wanted to know when the store closed and when the employees were leaving, which panicked them. That night, police arrested him for possession of an illicit drug.
Then, in March of this year, police searched his car only to find six, empty 40-round magazines for an assault rifle. Apparently, Roof was saving up money to buy the rifle itself.
He lost touch with his family. He didn’t RSVP to his sister, Amber’s, wedding invitation, which was supposed to occur last week but was understandably pushed back. Also, he spent too much time on white supremacist websites. Roof had no social life, and the Internet was a way for him to reach out to likeminded, hateful people. His screenname on these sites was supposedly “AryanBlood1488.”
Before the massacre, Roof got back in touch with an old friend, Joseph Meek. While Meek said he knew it had to be Roof who shot those innocent people in the church, he also wished Roof had asked him for help.
“I would have done something,” Meek remarked.