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Charleston suspect Dylann Roof’s alleged manifesto discovered online

Jason Sickles, Liz Goodwin and Michael Walsh
Yahoo News
Metadata associated with this image indicates it was taken on May 11. This photo of suspected killer Dylann Roof was among several others and a manifesto posted to a website connected to Roof.

A website surfaced Saturday featuring a racist and rambling manifesto and dozens of photos of accused Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof posing with white supremacy symbols and the Confederate flag.

Roof, 21, remains jailed on nine counts of murder for allegedly opening fire in the historically African-American Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Wednesday.

Who authored the manifesto or posted the images has yet been confirmed. But through online registration records, Yahoo News confirmed the website’s domain, lastrhodesian.com, was created by a Dylann Roof of Eastover, S.C. on Feb. 9. The street address used is the same Roof has given authorities since he was captured in Shelby, N.C. on Thursday. On Feb. 10, the registration information was purposely obscured.

The domain history for www.lastrhodesian.com initially listed Dylann Roof as the registrant on Feb. 9. (Screenshot)

In a written statement issued Saturday evening, Charleston police said they and the FBI had become aware of the site and are “taking steps to verify the authenticity of these postings,” but declined to release further details.

The webpage traces its author’s path toward strong beliefs in white supremacy and the race debate ignited after the shooting of black teen Trayvon Martin as a moment of racial “awakening.” The essay ends with the author's statement that it's time to take the beliefs expressed, “to the real world.”

“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. 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.”

While writings like these are rare, retired FBI profiler Mary Ellen O’Toole said killer manifestos are all about “the writings of a very narcissistic, arrogant individual.”

“They feel this need to tell the world how they were wronged,” O’Toole said. “It’s like they have to shove our nose into why they are entitled into what it is they are going to do.”

O’Toole, who has seen hundreds of manifestos during her career studying killers, read the document posted to Roof’s website at the request of Yahoo News.

While not vouching for it’s authenticity, O’Toole described it as scattered and likely plagiarized.

 “The themes don’t indicate that this person is spending a lot of time to do research,” said O’Toole, who now directs the Forensic Science Program at George Mason University. “The depth and breadth is remarkably shallow.”

The 2,444-word manifesto wanders from topic to topic spewing about, among other things, patriotism, blacks, Jews, Hispanics and Asians.

“He’s trying to weave like a quilt of those themes that he went out in search of,” O’Toole said. “Which tells me that whoever the author is had preexisting opinions and ideas … and then you go to the Internet to get a little bit of this and a little bit of that to fuel what you already believe and already think.”

The New York Times, reports that according to web server logs, the manifesto was last modified at 4:44 p.m. ET on Wednesday, about four hours before the Charleston shootings. Roof's friends reportedly said they last saw him near Livingston, S.C. on Wednesday morning. Driving to Charleston would have taken just under two hours. 

“Unfortunately at the time of writing I am in a great hurry and some of my best thoughts, actually many of them have been to be left out and lost forever. But I believe enough great White minds are out there already. Please forgive any typos, I didn’t have time to check it.”

Benjamin Crump, attorney for Trayvon Martin’s family and a leading national voice in civil rights issues, said he was troubled to learn the manifesto mentioned the Martin case.

“Regardless of how this demented, racist individual attempts to shift the focus of his murderous actions, we will remain steadfast in our defense of the voiceless around this country,” Crump said in a statement. “They need it now more than ever. My thoughts and prayers remain with the victims of this terrible tragedy and the Charleston community.”

Dozens of images posted to the site show Roof, an unemployed former landscaper, in historic locations like a Confederate soldier cemetery and a slave burial ground.

A picture from www.lastrhodesian.com shows Dylann Roof in the same clothes he had on when he allegedly entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. He also scratched symbols adopted by white supremacists into the sand.

In one image, the suspected gunman is posed on the beach wearing the same clothes he is seen wearing on surveillance footage as he entered the church on Wednesday. Scratched in the beach sand are the numbers 1488 and an Othala rune, both symbols associated with white supremacist groups.

The Othala rune, which is also the icon in the browser on Roof's website, is an ancient symbol adopted by the Nazis and popular with today's neo-Nazi groups. The “14” refers to a 14-word slogan popularized by David Lane, a white supremacist who killed a Jewish talk show host and was serving a 190-year sentence when he died in 2007. The slogan is: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” The “88" refers to H, the eighth letter of the alphabet and is a symbol for “Heil Hitler.”

About a third of the 60 photos from the website have metadata associated with them that reveal dates. If the camera data is correct, Roof, who lived two hours away near Columbia, was in the Charleston area at least three times in April.

If Roof was updating his website up until shortly before his alleged crime, it would become another example of what O’Toole calls “creating kind of living manifesto as they lead up to the event.”

She referenced Elliot Rodger, a 22-year-old college student who posted a 141-page manifesto called “My Twisted World” online and a seven-minute video on YouTube titled “Retribution” before killing six people and wounding more than a dozen others in May 2014.

“What that shows is that they are not in a state, necessarily, of frenzy,” O’Toole said. “They are building this historical record kind of, ultimately leading up to the shooting … trying to justify their actions.”

Suspected killer Dylann Roof poses for a picture at the Sankofa Burial Grounds for slaves in Charleston, S.C.

Word of the Roof's alleged manifesto website spread quickly after it was first discovered by Twitter users Emma Quangel and Henry Krinkle. By late Saturday afternoon, the website was not accessible and appeared to be offline.

The site’s title phrase, The Last Rhodesian,” is a reference to an unrecognized state in Africa, now Zimbabwe, that during the 1960s and '70s that was controlled by a white minority. White supremacists have idealized this era and the Rhodesian flag has been used as a racist symbol.

A picture of Roof from Facebook circulated after he was identified as the alleged shooter shows him wearing a jacket adorned with flag patches for both Apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia.

The trove of images on the site also include photos of a Glock .45-caliber handgun, which investigators have said was the type of weapon used in the murders. Roof reportedly purchased the gun in April with money given to him by his family for his 21st birthday.

Other pictures were taken at the Sankofa Burial Grounds for slaves on the McLeod Plantation in Charleston. Some appear to have been taken at the Boone Hall plantation in Mount Pleasant, S.C., and the Museum and Library of Confederate History in Greenville, S.C.

The author of the manifesto writes he did not grow up in a racist home or environment. 

Living in the South, almost every White person has a small amount of racial awareness, simply beause of the numbers of negroes in this part of the country.

Roof's family broke their silence late Friday by releasing a statement extending their sympathies victims’ families.

Words cannot express our shock, grief, and disbelief as to what happened that night,” it reads.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed this week. We have all been touched by the moving words from the victims’ families offering God’s forgiveness and love in the face of such horrible suffering.

(This is a developing story has been updated since it originally published.)

Jason Sickles contributed reporting from Shelby, N.C.; Liz Goodwin is reporting from Charleston, S.C., Michael Walsh is reporting from New York.

 

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