Dylann Storm Roof apparently outlined his racist views on a website filled with hate group symbolism and personal photographs showing him with a .45-caliber handgun that might be the one used in the mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church.
The site — lastrhodesian.com — includes a nearly 2,500-word diatribe against African-Americans, Jews and Hispanics in which the author says he chose Charleston for his killing spree “because it is the most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to whites in the country.”
The author claims to be inspired by a national “white rights” group that opposes the mixing of the races. A key leader of that group, Kyle Rogers, lives in Summerville. Rogers could not be reached by phone Saturday for comment, and two address listings for him were for a strip mall and a UPS store. His once prolific Twitter feed has been shut down.
The website attributed to Roof was discovered Saturday, a day after a Charlotte TV station reported that he confessed to the Wednesday shooting during a videotaped interview with police in Shelby, N.C. The 21-year-old was arrested there a day after the church shooting that killed nine African-Americans.
The document and photos on the site — some of them taken at several locations in the Charleston area — have not been authenticated, and it is uncertain whether Roof actually is the author. However, the document’s language is in line with what Roof’s friends say he told them and what survivors of the shooting say Roof told church members before allegedly opening fire.
A federal law enforcement official told The Associated Press that the FBI is aware of the website and is reviewing it. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the case.
Ashley Pennington, Roof’s court-appointed lawyer, could not be reached for comment.
Mark Keel, head of the State Law Enforcement Division, said he’s been made aware of the document but declined to say whether SLED is investigating possible links between Roof and hate groups.
“We’re continuing to run down leads to help Charleston police,” Keel said, adding that he is disappointed with leaked information coming from out-of-state law enforcement agencies.
The FBI and Charleston Police Department released a joint statement Saturday night saying that investigators are aware of the website.
“We are taking steps to verify the authenticity of these postings,” it states. Neither agency would release any more details because of the ongoing investigation.
On the website, the author says his racist views stemmed from George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012 in Florida, when Roof — a 10th-grade dropout — would have been 17 years old. The author complains about news coverage of the shooting that ignored what he terms “hundreds of these black on white murders” documented on a website run by the Council of Conservative Citizens.
Summerville’s Rogers, the council’s webmaster and editor of its newsletter, wrote extensively about the Martin case and black-on-white crime for the website. The Southern Poverty Law Center described Rogers as a key member of the council’s new guard, using web-savvy and racist rhetoric to promote an agenda of white supremacy and societal division.
In a 2012 interview with The Post and Courier, Rogers denied being a racist but said he supported his organization’s opposition to “all efforts to mix the races of mankind.” He also shared beliefs that black people ruin things for the rest of society and that “slaves who were taken to the United States hit the slave lottery” because they were brought to a country where they could thrive and prosper.
On lastrhodesian.com, the author, purportedly Roof, states he visited the Council of Conservative Citizens’ website and “there were pages upon pages of these brutal black on white murders.”
The author states, “I was in disbelief. At this moment I realized that something was very wrong. How could the news be blowing up the Trayvon Martin case while hundreds of these black on white murders got ignored?”
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch blog on Saturday was quick to link Roof’s alleged manifesto to the council and Rogers’ writings, saying “it seems the CCC media strategy was successful in recruiting Roof into the radical right.”
The blog continues, “Before Root’s alleged manifesto was discovered, Rogers was quick to attack the Southern Poverty Law Center for our reporting on the Roof shooting. Rogers claimed ‘there is no evidence whatsoever’ of Roof being radicalized online. If authorities determine that Roof’s manifesto is authentic, Rogers’ words may well come back to haunt him.”
After learning of the website and Roof’s connection to the Council of Conservative Citizens, the Rev. Joe Darby — an AME minister and presiding elder of the AME’s Beaufort District — said he hopes “that this manifesto is instructive to those who throw around reckless language for political gain ... for votes.
“They have to first wipe the blood from their hands,” said Darby, also first vice president of the Charleston chapter of the NAACP.
The reference to Rhodesia in the website’s name is symbolic of a formerly racist African nation — now known as Zimbabwe — that was ruled by white leaders.
Photographs of Roof have shown him wearing a jacket with patches showing the flags of Rhodesia and South Africa, a country once known for its white-ruled, racial segregation policies called apartheid.
“Some people feel as though the South is beyond saving, that we have too many blacks here,” the document attributed to Roof states. “To this I say look at history. The South had a higher ratio of blacks when we were holding them as slaves. Look at South Africa, and how such a small minority held the black in apartheid for years and years.”
Photos on the site include several symbols associated with white supremacist groups. A photo on the home page shows a scene from the movie “Romper Stomper,” which tells the story of a gang of violent neo-Nazis in Australia.
Another photo shows Roof wearing a T-shirt with the numerals “88” — a hate group reference to HH, or Heil Hitler. H is the eighth letter of the alphabet. There also is a photo of Roof on a beach where “88” has been carved into the sand.
Another photo shows “1488” carved into the sand. That is a reference to a white supremacist saying called “the 14 words” — “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children” — attributed to George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party.
Other photos show Roof displaying Confederate battle flags and posing at various locations in the Lowcountry and South Carolina with ties to the Civil War. They include Roof in front of the Museum and Library of Confederate History in Greenville, at a Confederate soldiers’ cemetery and in front of a sign that states “Sacred Burial Site of Our African Ancestors,” where a cemetery is located at McLeod Plantation on James Island. Other photos were taken at Sullivan’s Island, Charleston’s waterfront and the Angel Oak site on Johns Island.
Another photo shows Roof burning an American flag. It is not clear who took the photos of Roof, who poses alone in all of the photos.
“I hate the sight of the American flag,” the website attributed to Roof states. “Modern American patriotism is an absolute joke. People pretending like they have something to be proud while white people are being murdered daily in the streets.”
There also are photographs featuring a close-up of a .45-caliber handgun and ammunition, similar to the one Roof allegedly used during the church shooting and Roof posing with the handgun.
On the website, the author bemoans that, “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.”
A photo of Roof shows him posing in front of a dark-colored automobile that appears to be the same one he drove to Emanuel AME church. A vanity plate on the front says “Confederate States of America.” Roof was driving a car with such a plate on the front when he was stopped by Shelby, N.C., police on Thursday.
Roof reportedly told investigators he had been planning the attack on the Emanuel AME for a period of time. Roof said he had researched the church and targeted it because it turned out to be a “historic African-American” church, according to a report by WBTV in Charlotte.
According to that report, Roof told investigators he had a Glock handgun hidden behind a pouch he was wearing around his waist. He was wearing the pouch when he entered the church, and it can be seen in surveillance photos released by police. Roof reportedly told police he had seven magazine clips with him at the time, according to the television station.
Friends of survivors of the Emanuel AME shooting say the killer reloaded his semi-automatic several times as he shot each of the dead with multiple bullets.
Roof is facing nine counts of murder and one charge of possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. A judge on Friday set bail on the gun charge at $1 million. Roof, who is being held at the Charleston County jail, has not had a hearing on the murder charges.
The U.S. Justice Department, which is looking into the possibility of a hate crime prosecution, said Friday that the agency has not ruled out the possibility of calling the case an act of domestic terrorism.
According to a WHOIS database of the domain name lastrhodesian.com, it is registered via a domain privacy service in Australia that enables owners of domain names to keep their identities private. The domain registry information was last updated on Feb. 9.
Another web service that enables lookups of where a website is housed and what kind of equipment is being used shows that the site was set up in April with a hosting provider using an IP address in Russia. Private domain registries and hosting services in Russia are commonly used by hackers, pornographers and others who use the Internet for illicit activity.
Spokespersons for the FBI and the Charleston Police Department did not respond to messages left by the newspaper. Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson declined to comment on the web document and photos.
Glenn Smith, David MacDougall, Jennifer Berry Hawes and Emory Parker contributed to this report.