COLUMBIA, S.C. — A black drinking buddy of the white man accused of killing nine people at a Charleston church says the suspect told him a week earlier that he planned to shoot up a college campus in the city.
The friend, Christon Scriven, told The Associated Press on Friday that he thought Dylann Roof’s statements were just drunken bluster. Still, Scriven said he was concerned enough that he and another friend, Joey Meek, went out to Roof’s car and retrieved his .45-caliber handgun, hiding it in an air-conditioning vent of a mobile home until they all sobered up.
“He just said he was going to hurt a bunch of people” at the College of Charleston, said Scriven, 22.
“I said, `What did you say? Why do you want to hurt those people in Charleston?'”
He just said, “In seven days, they all got seven days.'”
A week later, on Wednesday, authorities say the 21-year-old Roof went into Charleston’s historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, sat for nearly an hour at a Bible study class, and then opened fire on the participants.
The exchange recounted by Scriven matches accounts from other friends of Roof who have been interviewed by the AP.
They described him as a troubled and confused young man who alternated between partying with black friends and ranting against blacks to his white friends.
Four months before the deadly shooting rampage, court records show Roof was arrested at a Columbia shopping mall on a misdemeanor drug charge after going around dressed all in black, asking suspicious questions about when stores closed and employees left for the night. He was later arrested again, this time for trespassing at the mall despite being banned from the premises.
On his Facebook profile, Roof posted a photo of himself wearing a jacket adorned with the flags of the now defunct white-supremacist regimes in South Africa and Rhodesia, yet he also counted several black people among his online social connections.
Scriven lives next door to Meek in a Lexington, South Carolina, mobile home park where residents say Roof was a frequent visitor in recent months. Meek and his family were close to Roof until Roof dropped out of their high school. The two lost touch for several years before recently reconnecting, Meek said.
In an interview on Thursday, Meek recounted how Roof had complained while getting drunk on vodka that “blacks were taking over the world” and that “someone needed to do something about it for the white race.” Meek says Roof also told him he used birthday money from his parents to buy a .45-caliber Glock semi-automatic handgun.
Scriven said he first met Roof through Meek and they frequently drank together in recent weeks. They talked about fishing, NASCAR and guns, Scriven said, but never race.
“One night we all got drunk together and since then, me and Dylann were just homeboys,” Scriven said. “We would just chill every day.”
Soon, Roof began opening up. Scriven said Roof confided that he was unhappy, bouncing between the homes of his divorced parents. He would stay for days at the mobile home park, smoking American Spirit cigarettes and drinking hard, Scriven said. Then he would go home for a day or two to get clothes and money.
Scriven said he could tell Roof was depressed, and that he complained that he wasn’t getting the love and emotional support he needed from his parents. When he got upset, Roof would retreat to his car, blasting a cassette tape of opera.
“I don’t think his parents liked his decisions, the choices that he made to have black friends,” Scriven recounted. “His mom had taken the gun from him and somehow he went back and took it from her. … That’s when we saw the gun for the first time: .45 with a high-point laser beam.”
Last week, while they were drinking in the back of Scriven’s house, Roof blurted out his plan about carrying out a mass shooting at the College of Charleston.
“I don’t think the church was his primary target because he told us he was going for the school,” Scriven said Friday. “But I think he couldn’t get into the school because of the security … so I think he just settled for the church.”
Scriven said he told Meek about what Roof had said, and the two of them decided to take Roof’s gun. They hid the gun in Meek’s trailer. But Meek’s girlfriend later told them they needed to get the gun out of the house because he was on probation. So they gave it back to Roof.
When Scriven saw this week that Roof was arrested, he said it hit him “that he actually did all the stuff he said he was going to do, like he actually killed these people.”
Though none of them took the statements seriously, Scriven said he and Roof’s other friends are now struggling with the knowledge that they might have been able to prevent the killings.
“I think everyone feels guilt,” Scriven said. “There are a lot of things that happen in life that we just don’t understand and we’ll never understand. And this situation is something that you’re not going to find the answers to from ordinary people. … The only person that can tell you is Dylann.”
Biesecker reported from Raleigh, North Carolina.