The Lawyer Who Handled Dylann Roof’s Drug Case Says He Seemed Like “Just a Normal Kid”

Roof was previously arrested in March. Here’s what else we know.

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After Dylann Storm Roof was arrested Thursday morning for allegedly shooting nine people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, Ken Mathews, an attorney who has been representing Roof in an ongoing drug-possession case, was, he says, “very shocked” to hear about what Roof had allegedly done. He tells Mother Jones, “The dealings I had with him, he was just a normal kid.”

Mathews, a Columbia, South Carolina, attorney, notes that so far in the drug case he has had “very limited dealings” with Roof. He says he saw “nothing that would indicate that [Roof] would take this type of action.”

The local police have called the shooting a hate crime. Mathews says he has seen no signs that Roof harbored any racial animus: “I had no inkling of anything like that in the dealings I had with him.”

Mathews has known the Roof family for years, dating back to a custody dispute between Dylann’s father Ben and mother Amy over visitation rights concerning Dylann. Mathews says he spoke to Dylann’s father this morning, and “it’s very, very difficult.”

Mathews became Roof’s lawyer after Roof was arrested in March at the Columbiana Centre, a mall in Columbia, and charged with possession of suboxone, a drug used to treat opiate withdrawals. Mathews says Roof had gone into some stores and “asked people some questions, which made some people uncomfortable,” including what time the stores closed. Someone at one of the stores contacted the authorities. Roof was stopped and searched, according to Mathews, and the police found he was carrying suboxone and arrested him. Roof was also given a trespassing warning, which he violated a couple of weeks later, Mathews notes, and Roof was subsequently cited for trespassing.

Here’s what else we know about Roof:

  • Roof, 21, was arrested midday Thursday in Shelby, North Carolina, about a three and a half-hour drive from the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. The shooting of nine black churchgoers happened at about 9 p.m. Wednesday.
  • Charleston police chief Greg Mullen said he believed the shooting to be a “hate crime.”
  • Roof’s uncle told Reuters that Roof was introverted and soft-spoken.
  • The uncle also said Roof’s father had recently given him a .45-caliber handgun as a birthday present. “I don’t have any words for it. Nobody in my family had seen anything like this coming,” he said. 
  • Roof is from Lexington, South Carolina, and attended White Knoll High School, which a high school friend said had a mix of black and white students.
  • An ornamental license plate on the front of Roof’s car had a Confederate flag on it.
  • Roof’s roommate told ABC News that Roof was a “bit into segregation and other stuff,” and “said he wanted to start a civil war. He said he was going to do something like that and then kill himself.”

 

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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