At least five Shelby police officers, guns drawn, surrounded the black Hyundai sedan that had pulled off the highway on Thursday morning.
The skinny, blonddriver, though, lowered his window and calmly handed over his driver’s license.
“I’m Dylann Roof,” he said.
The 21-year-old had been on the run through the Carolinas for about 16 hours – ever since authorities say he slaughtered nine members of a prayer group inside a historic black church in Charleston.
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Shelby police Chief Jeff Ledford told the Observer on Friday that authorities found a .45-caliber handgun in Roof’s car.
Citing anonymous sources, the Washington Post said Roof showed no remorse and expressed racist views even as he confessed to the crimes. Relying on its own unnamed source, WBTV, the Observer’s news partner, said Roof told authorities he was on his way to Nashville, Tenn., and that he thought he’d killed only a few of the parishioners at Emanuel AME Church. Witnesses say the prayer group had asked him to join them. After he began shooting, Roof reportedly said, “I’ll give you something to pray about.”
In Shelby, the FBI handled Roof’s initial questioning, Ledford said. Shelby police’s lone conversation with the mass-murder suspect was about food. Earlier in the day, Roof had bought water and chips at a south Charlotte gas station. Now he was hungry. Police bought him food from a nearby Burger King, Ledford said.
“He was very quiet, very calm. He didn’t talk,” Ledford said. “He sat down here very quietly. He was not problematic.”
Roof, a high school dropout who grew up around suburban Columbia, was charged Friday with nine counts of murder and a weapons possession charge.
His car, with a Confederate States of America plate on the front, was pulled over on U.S. 74, known in Shelby as Dixon Boulevard.
Roof’s arrest took place 3 miles past the street where his sister’s fiance, Army Sgt. First Class Michael Tyo, lives. Tyo and Roof’s sister, Amber, were to be married Sunday, according to theknot.com, a wedding website. According to some reports, Amber Roof was among the first to identify her brother from a photo of him taken as he entered the Charleston church.
Tyo, a recruiter for the U.S. Army Reserve in Shelby, was not at his duplex apartment Friday, which has a decorative “Proud to be an American” sign beside the porch.
According to Tyo’s Facebook page, which has now been taken down, Tyo studied at DeVry University’s Charlotte campus, which is in Ayrsley.
Roof’s path unclear
While being held at the Shelby Police Department, Roof told authorities that he had been planning the attack for a long time and targeted the church because of its history, a source told WBTV. He said he was headed to Nashville after the shootings because he had “never been there before.”
It’s unclear what route Roof took from Charleston to Charlotte. The gas station where he used a debit card is close to Interstate 485.
At 5:50 a.m., nearly nine hours after the shootings, Roof pulled into the Shell station on Providence Road and Ballantyne Commons Parkway, gassed up his car and walked inside the Market Express, store employees said.
Clad in black jeans and a white, long-sleeve shirt, he used the ATM beside the entryway and bought a bottle of water and a bag of Doritos. Store workers thought nothing of it, believing him to be just a polite, quiet guy.
It’s also not known whether Roof stopped by Tyo’s home. But the motorist who spotted Roof, Debbie Dills of Gastonia, followed him through Shelby and past the turnoff for Tyo’s home. It appeared Roof was continuing on toward the mountains when he was stopped at 10:44 a.m. at Plato Lee Road.
Shelby police took Roof’s car to the city’s impoundment lot and held it there until agents from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division arrived. After the car was searched, SLED officers shrink-wrapped the doors.
At 11 p.m., the Hyundai, like its owner hours before, was headed back to Charleston.
Helping the families
To donate to the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund, which has been set up to support the families of the shooting victims, visit any Wells Fargo bank branch.
The BBB Wise Giving Alliance, the national charity monitoring arm of the Better Business Bureau, is warning people about the potential for fundraising scams in the wake of the Charleston massacre.
Potential donors also should also be aware of people with good intentions but no experience with charity fundraising, said Art Taylor, president and CEO of the alliance.
The group offered these tips:
▪ Most states require charities to register with a state agency before they solicit for donations. It may be a red flag if the charity is not registered.
▪ Watch out for vague appeals that don’t identify the intended use of funds.
▪ Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in texts or emails
▪ Not all groups collecting funds are tax exempt.
To learn more about the BBB charity standards and local charity reviews, go to http://give.org.
A chance to talk and listen
At 7 p.m. Monday, Mecklenburg Ministries will host a community conversation on the murders in Charleston. The 90-minute event will take place at Belk Chapel on the campus of Queens University, 1900 Selwyn Ave, Charlotte. For more information: 704-565-5455; www.meckmin.org.