What we know about the 21-year-old Dylann Roof who cowardly gunned down nine innocent people (including six women) is that he was a hate-filled loser who couldn’t come to grips with his own existence. Those who claim to know Roof describe someone who was generally at the fringe of society – not necessarily an outcast, but generally unremarkable and unmemorable. A classmate from high school, John Mullins, reports remembering that he was known for making racist comments. He told Daily Beast that “he had that kind of Southern pride…strong conservative beliefs,” adding that Roof “made a lot of racist jokes.”

Mullins didn’t take any of it very seriously. However, a recent roommate, Dalton Tyler, told ABC News that Roof’s actions had been planned for months. “He was big into segregation…he wanted to start a civil war,” Tyler said, adding that Roof “said he was going to do something like that and then kill himself.”  A woman claiming to be related through his former stepmother said that the young man had changed over the past few years. She reported that Roof had “apparently told people that he was involved in . . . racist groups.” In South Carolina, alone, there are sixteen white supremacist organizations.

One social media photo depicts him seated atop his vehicle, which sports a flag of the Confederate States of America. In another photo, Roof is wearing a jacket decorated with the flags of two other historically racist regimes of the former British Empire: Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe) and pre-apartheid South Africa.

Roof was busy on the World Wide Web. According to Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Roof frequently left comments on forums of white supremacist web sites. Most of these comments were about white people being attacked and victimized by blacks – particularly sexual assaults of white women by black men. According to a survivor of the massacre, Roof announced as he committed the crime: “I have to do it…you rape our women and you’re taking over the country.”

We may never know how Dylann Roof became so hate-filled. What we do know is this tragic massacre marks the fourteenth mass shooting since President Obama first took office in January 2009. In a press conference, the President said: “At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency.” He added that “the politics” of Washington D.C. currently prevents any meaningful action from being taken.

In the case of Roof, a .45-caliber gun was found in his car when he was arrested. The gun was apparently a gift from his father for his 21st birthday. Yes, the question is obvious.  Why would a father of a hate-filled, racist, buy his son one of the most powerful pistols made. Obviously, he will state he didn’t know his son was a racist. Interesting. It seems like those around him knew. And still, why give him a .45-caliber pistol.





K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.