Federal agents are investigating a website containing new images of Charleston shooting suspect Dylann Roof and a racist manifesto that may have been written by him. The images show Mr Roof posing in front of Confederate civil war sites and former slave plantations, and burning the American flag.
A total of 60 images along with a 2,000-word document that outlines an extremist, racist world view along with “an explanation” about “Charleston”, was found on the internet and posted on various social media sites, including the Reddit forum. The web domain Last Rhodesian, was reportedly registered in February under the name Dylann Roof.
It is not clear whether the words written on the website were penned by Mr Roof himself or whether he copied them from elsewhere. It is not signed by anyone. It is also possible the document is hoax, or dark joke. Indeed, the document ends: “Please forgive any typos, I didnt (sic) have time to check it.”
The document states: “The event that truly awakened me was the Trayvon Martin case. I kept hearing and seeing his name, and eventually I decided to look him up. I read the Wikipedia article and right away I was unable to understand what the big deal was.”
Referring to the unnamed black Florida teenager who was shot dead by a white neighbour, George Zimmerman, it adds: “It was obvious that Zimmerman was in the right.”
Large swathes of the document refer to Black, Hispanic and Jewish people, something in racist terms, sometimes not. Sometimes it seems rambling, sometimes focussed.
The document signs off by outlining what some on social media are saying is Mr Roof’s call to arms.
“I have no choice. I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country,” it says.
“We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”
The domain name of the website may be telling. An image that emerged last week and originally posted on Mr Roof’s Facebook page, showed the young man wearing a green jacket, bearing the flags of the former Rhodesia and Apartheid-era South Africa. Both counties featured white minority governments that ruled black majorities.
The images that emerged on Saturday show Mr Roof posing at Confederate civil war monuments, burning an American flag, and a picture of a handgun with bullets.
In many of the images he is wearing combat boots and fatigues. It is not clear whether he used an automatic timer for the poses, or else if someone took them for him.
Another picture shows Mr Roof on a beach where into the sand has been written the number 1488, a figure often associated with neo-Nazi culture. In several he can be seen standing at the sites of former slave plantations, presumably somewhere in the US South.
In a joint statement issued on Saturday evening, Charleston police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said they were of the website and were "taking steps to verify the authenticity of these postings".
“Because this is an ongoing investigation, neither the Charleston Police nor the Federal Bureau of Investigation are able to release further details at this time," it added.
If the document is genuine, then it would provide a crucial insight into Mr Roof's thinking and what drove him. At one point it says: “Our culture has been adopted by everyone in the world. This makes us feel as though our culture isnt (sic) special or unique.
“Say for example that every business man in the world wore a kimono, that every skyscraper was in the shape of a pagoda, that every door was a sliding one, and that everyone ate every meal with chopsticks. This would probably make a Japanese man feel as though he had no unique culture.”
The emergence of the documents comes at the end of a week in which the city of Charleston has been rocked by the shooting dead of nine people in the basement of the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The 21-year-old Mr Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder and officials are deciding whether to consider it an act of domestic terrorism.
On Friday, Mr Roof was brought before a judge by use of a video link that connected the courtroom of Judge James Gosnell with the Charleston Country Detention Centre where the suspect is being held.
The judge gave the relatives of the nine people killed, the opportunity to address Mr Roof. The responded with message of forgiveness.
“You took something very precious away from me,” said Nadine Collier, daughter of 70-year-old Ethel Lance. “I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul.”
Felicia Sanders told Mr Roof about her son, Tywanza Sanders, the youngest of those killed on Wednesday evening, apparently while trying protect his great aunt from the bullets.
“We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with open arms,” she said.
On Saturday evening, it was reported that the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is to reopen for services on Sunday.
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