The Demise of Dylann Roof

Bravo, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel and the South Carolina jury, for giving Dylann Roof an appropriate sentence for his crime.  Roof, who identifies himself as a white supremacist, was on a mission to start a race war by killing nine innocent people who were quietly praying.

Dylann Roof was convicted in December on 33 counts by the federal government. Today, he was sentenced to death and the families could give impact statements. Roof apparently stared straight ahead, refusing to look them in the eye. Perhaps that shows some kind of decency, but at first blush, it sounds very cowardly.


Everyone knows the story, but here goes: Roof showed up at AME Emmanuel Baptist church in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine strangers, including some senior citizens, were kind enough to invite him to join them. He sat with them for an hour. When they rose to pray, he opened fire with his .45-caliber Glock and killed:

  • Rev. Clementa Pinckney
  • Rev. Daniel Simmons
  • Susie Jackson
  • Sharonda Coleman-Singleton
  • Depayne Middleton-Doctor
  • Cynthia Hurd
  • Myra Thompson
  • Ethel Lance
  • Tywanza Sanders

Nobody ever imagined that Roof could be innocent. He freely admitted his guilt and said his motive was to spark a race war. What he could ever have gained from that is unclear, but he has shown no regret over his actions.

A journal he kept after being arrested reads, “I am not sorry.”


Let me throw out an unconventional idea. Many crimes are senseless and cruel but I am not completely satisfied with the “race war” explanation. It does not ring true. No one is ever going to look at this crime and say, “I see where he’s coming from.” No, this is a crime that unites black and white people in sorrow and revulsion. Dylann Roof may not be too sharp, but he probably isn’t that stupid. What I’ve been wondering – I’m being sincere – is whether he might be possessed by some demon or malignant spirit.

I still remember those families coming forward and forgiving him. I’ve never seen anything like it. I respect them enormously but Can’t imagine that kind of forgiveness.

I worried that Roof, the 22-year-old mass murderer, would be shown some kind of extra consideration because of his young age. But the judge and jury wisely agreed to condemn the defendant.

I do feel bad for Dylann Roof’s family, who are also victims, as they will lose their son/brother/nephew. They will still be able to see him as he sits on death row though, and they can take some time to come to terms with his demise. That’s more than these victims and their families got. Nevertheless, they said they love him but are bewildered by his cruelty “which caused so much pain to so many good people.”

The families of criminals are invisible to us, but sometimes they are good people who are horrified and ashamed by what has taken place. Some, like Roof’s family, will (eventually) lose their loved one, too. Because of their association, it’s hard to muster sympathy and there is sometimes a degree of anger directed at them, too. But they are suffering, too.

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott commended the jury and wished “closure” for the surviving victims and the families. It’s a kind thought, but let’s be real. What could help these people move on? A murder conviction? A death sentence? After all, as Melvin Graham said today, “My sister is still gone.”

No, we will do what we can to bring justice, but it isn’t fair to ask these people to ever move past this moment.


The Media Created Lone Wolf Killers; Only They Can Stop Them

The media is culpable for tragedies like the one in Charleston this week. The killers are responsible for their actions, but the media knowingly plays a significant role in causing these tragedies. And, they have the power to stop them from happening.

Take four high profile cases: Dylann Roof (Charleston), Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook), Seung-Hui Cho (VA Tech), and Jared Loughner (Giffords shooting). We know they have five things in common.

I. Access to guns. Let’s start here, since the media’s go-to theory is that gun control will solve the problem. Access may be a contributing factor, but to believe it plays a major role, we must accept at least three unrealistic premises:

1) Means and the motive are the same thing. Normal people aren’t overwhelmed with uncontrollable urges to kill simply because they could. If that were so, why don’t scarves compel you to strangle, or matches insist you commit arson?

2) A person determined to have a gun would be deterred by gun control. If someone is intent on using a gun to kill, why would they be too afraid to commit a far less serious crime, like stealing or illegally buying one?

3) If a gun couldn’t be had, these individuals would abandon their plans of mass murder. Even the media admits these incidents are months or years in the making. If they couldn’t access guns, they would just plan it differently.


II. Age. These individuals are young, usually in their early 20s. It’s one of the most puzzling things about them: they have their lives before them, and they throw it all away. Maybe they don’t understand “this too shall pass”. Their troubles seem eternal. Or maybe experience hasn’t yet taught them compassionate.

adam lanza

III. Failure and Rage. They are/were failures in some way, and that infuriated them. They were disappointed in life, angry about the failure they experienced. So angry that they felt justified hurting innocent people.

Seung-Hui Cho

IV. Isolated loners. These guys were not popular. Maybe they were picked on. They had no concerned friends to challenge them or give them a reality check. No one noticed them at all.

Without friends, jobs, or hobbies to occupy them, they spend months and years concocting elaborate, terrible crimes.

Jared Loughner

V. Motive. This is the key and it’s where the media is complicit. These individuals share the same motive: they want to be Important. They’re nobodies who want to be Somebody and what is an angry failure going to do with that? They don’t have the brains or talent to achieve anything – at least they don’t think so. So they turn to the easy way: notoriety.

The media will gladly bestow notoriety on anyone who will commit a terrible deed, with the justification that it’s negative coverage. As if the killers cared! It’s attention! The media will make them important. Everyone will know who they are.

Continue reading