Charleston Shooting: The Making of a Dylann Roof

While the US is facing yet another shooting incident, another debate on gun control, young-man-radicalized-on-internet trend, and a domestic terrorism against race, some 8,200 miles away, I sit reading articles and I wondered what is the suspect’s home like?


Four nights before the world celebrated Father’s Day, twelve members of the historical Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina sat down in a group for a bible study, all of them African-American. A 21-year old white man entered, joined the group, then allegedly gunned down eight on the spot including Reverend Clementa Pinckney, a senior pastor and senator. One died in the hospital and the others survived. Witnesses, in a report, said they heard the suspect say some racist remarks including “I have to do it. You rape our women. You’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” The shooting was described as deadliest attack in a worship place in the US in 24 years. While the US is facing yet another shooting incident, another debate on gun control, young-man-radicalized-on-internet trend, and a domestic terrorism against race, some 8,200 miles away, I sit reading articles and I wondered what is the suspect’s home like?

He was young with his whole life ahead of him but he is now a chief suspect of a hate crime (as police treated the shooting). “Hate” is such a powerful word that can tear one’s sanity apart and break one’s morals into pieces of distorted idealism like the world should be divided according to color. It was said that the “hate” in Dylann Roof’s heart was caught and propagated on internet. Propagated, yes. What we feed ourselves we eventually spit out by how we think and act. But caught? No. It must have been already there in his heart planted by unfortunate eventful circumstances as he was growing up. Had it been that his heart was already filled with love would he still have room for hate? What do we know about Dylann Roof?

“Not raised to be like this”

“For 13 hours and 44 minutes last week, an unemployed high school dropout just barely of legal drinking age was the most wanted man in the United States.”

Yahoo news was talking about Dylann Roof in that statement quoted from a report about his arrest. His introduction to the world was through a grainy surveillance camera photo and a headline that he is “most wanted”.

Dylann is a son to Bennett Roof who either bought the .45 Caliber pistol, allegedly used as a weapon for the shooting (this is not clear as of this writing), as birthday present or gave the money used to buy it ; he is a nephew to Carson Cowles who wiped his tears while talking about Dylann in an interview with Washington Post ; and a brother to Amber Roof who called the authorities to identify Dylann on a photo released by police at the wake of the shooting. He is someone’s family and “his mother never raised him to be like this,” said Cowles. Most mothers, if not all, would definitely not see a hate-filled young man while they’re pushing their son out into the world. But little is known about Roof’s biological mother. Dylann and his sister Amber were raised by their stepmother Paige Roof who was quoted in a report “we all love him and wanted him to be a good person.”  

“He had gotten derailed somewhere…”

According to, Paige Roof and Dylann’s father Bennett Roof got divorced in 2011 when Dylann was only fourteen years old.

About the same time Dylann’s father and stepmother began the fights that eventually led to their 2011 divorce, Dylann dropped out of school, in the ninth grade. He briefly had attended Dreher High School in Columbia and White Knoll High School in Lexington County.

Studies about effects of divorce to an adolescent suggest tendencies like rebellion and disregard to discipline. They tend to try to be more independent because they think no one will take care of them. “Now the adolescent can act aggressively to take control of his life by behaving even more distantly and defiantly…” According to Carl E. Pickhardt, Ph.D. of Both Paige Roof and Carson Cowles describe Dylann as “generally quiet” and distant.

In his distance and solitude he might have found something that he allowed to drive him off the track towards the messy run-ins with the law including drug charges and trespassing.

“Very sad eyes,” he said. “Just the look on his face, and to see that he was a kid, I’m sure that he had gotten derailed somewhere along the way.”

Strickland Maddox, pastor at Eskridge Grove Baptist Church, was quoted saying in a Yahoo report. Maddox saw the alleged gunman twice in the police hallways after the arrest. Maddox’s words were the thoughts in my head after hearing the news.

“…who raised this monster?”

“The whole world is going to be looking at his family who raised this monster,” Carson Cowles said in an article by WashingtonPost. We did and we saw a case of yet another troubled kid with a gun. We look deeper and we can see the generation of today born with eyes already open through the digital world where the battle between good and bad is fiercer because they look all the same. We were provided a lot of choices but it is becoming more difficult to choose. An era of strong individualism and sense of privacy where people becoming detached more and more everyday. A strange world that propagates seeds of hate in countless ways like racial discrimination and racial supremacy but was created out of the struggles of our forefathers who fought for equality and love.

This is the world that made a Dylann Roof – flat, walled, and cold.

Author: Ivy Rufin

Ivy Rufin is a wordsmith-in-progress. She believes that she is a continuing work of art and so are her works. An average Jane with an enormous appetite for life. Here, she hopes to share her thoughts in an attempt to practice the craft, express herself and communicate with other souls out there who pursue the same goals. For now, she struggles to write daily and more often than not, it’s not her it’s the coffee talking.

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