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FBI: South Carolina man planned attack 'in the spirit of Dylann Roof'

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Benjamin Thomas Samuel McDowell

Benjamin Thomas Samuel McDowell. J. Reuben Long Detention Center/Provided

A Conway man with a criminal record and white supremacist ties is accused of buying a pistol from an undercover FBI operative so he could launch an attack "in the spirit of Dylann Roof," according to court documents.

FBI agents arrested 29-year-old Benjamin Thomas Samuel McDowell on Wednesday, and he was booked into the J. Reuben Long Detention Center in Horry County. He faces a federal count of felon in possession of a firearm or ammunition.

McDowell invoked the name of the Emanuel AME Church shooter in describing his desire to commit an attack on "non-whites" at an unknown location in another county, authorities said. He told the undercover operative he wanted to do something on a "big scale" and write on the building "in the spirit of Dylann Roof," according to the criminal complaint filed against him.

Like Roof, McDowell reportedly expressed frustration with other white supremacists who were unwilling to take action against "ungodly people" who he believed were out to the destroy the white race, the complaint stated. 

"I'm wanting to do this s----, and I got the heart to do this," the complaint quotes McDowell as saying. "I seen what Dylann Roof did and in my heart I reckon I got a little bit of hatred and I...I want to do that s----. Like, I got desire ... not for nobody else .. .it just... I want something where I can say, 'I f---ing did that' ... me personally."

McDowell's frustrations apparently boiled over in the midst of Roof's federal hate crimes trial. He posted a message on Facebook on Jan. 5 griping about supremacists who liked to post pictures of Vikings and swords but lacked "the heart to fight for Yaweh like dylann roof," the complaint stated.

The post appeared a day after the penalty phase of Roof's trial began in Charleston. Those proceedings ended with Roof receiving a death sentence for killing nine black worshippers inside the historic church on June 17, 2015. Before committing the massacre, Roof posted a racist manifesto online detailing his hatred of black people and others, and proclaiming his need to act on behalf of the white race.

Unlike Roof, McDowell had compiled a lengthy criminal record before he was apprehended, with his first arrest occurring 11 years ago on a charge of simple assault. He has multiple convictions for burglary, and has also been convicted of assault of a high and aggravated nature, petty larceny, third-degree assault and malicious injury to property, according to State Law Enforcement Division records.   

During stints in South Carolina prisons, McDowell established ties with white supremacists and had tattoos proclaiming his affiliation with the movement, the FBI stated.

According to the FBI complaint, the case against McDowell unfolded this way:

On Dec. 26, McDowell posted a message on his Facebook page stating "I love love to act what u think," accompanied by a link to Temple Emanu-El, a conservative synagogue in Myrtle Beach. He followed that Jan. 5 with a post slamming those who failed to care about their white race like Roof did. "All they wanne do is stay loaded on drugs the Jews put here to destory white man and they feast on the drugs. they should be Feasting on the enemy that stole their Heritage and their bloodline and trying to run us off of this Earth...," he stated.

A message sent from his Facebook messenger account the next day showed a request for an "iron," a coded term for a gun.

On Jan. 12 — the day after Roof was formally sentenced to death for his crimes — McDowell had a meeting at a Myrtle Beach motel with an undercover FBI employee who he believed handled problems for the Aryan Nations. McDowell told the operative that screaming "white power" was not getting the job done, and that he wanted to conduct an attack on non-whites without getting caught. He proclaimed that he had the heart for such action "but I don't have the good training." He also told the operative that he had not selected the time or location for the attack.

In a phone call later that same day, McDowell told the operative that he wanted a .40-caliber pistol.

On Jan. 25, McDowell posted a message on Facebook urging people to be a fanatic for the white race and unite to clean up the world. "I wish the day we all get off Facebook and white Warriors like we was born to be like Dylan roof but we gotta do it in a smart away and it takes a team..." the post read.

McDowell followed that up with further requests to the FBI operative for a gun and ammunition. On Feb. 11, they made plans to meet in Conway, where McDowell would get money for the purchase and outline his plans for the attack over lunch. 

On Wednesday, McDowell handed the operative $109 for hollow point bullets and a .40-caliber Glock pistol that had been disabled without his knowledge. FBI agents soon swooped in and arrested him with the gun and bullets in his possession. 

Reach Glenn Smith at 843-937-5556 or follow him on Twitter @glennsmith5.

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