CHARLESTON, United States, Jun 19 – US police arrested a white high school dropout Thursday suspected of carrying out a gun massacre at one of America’s oldest black churches, the latest deadly assault to fuel simmering racial tensions.
Authorities detained 21-year-old Dylann Roof, shown wearing the flags of defunct white supremacist regimes in pictures taken from social media, after nine churchgoers were shot dead during a Bible study class on Wednesday evening.
He was caught at a traffic stop in North Carolina and flown back just hours later to Charleston, South Carolina, the scene of the slaughter in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Television footage showed the slender suspect boarding a small aircraft with his hands tied and wearing a black-and-white striped prison uniform.
Booking photos released by Charleston County jail showed a sullen, boyish suspect with a pudding-bowl haircut.
The carnage was the worst at a US place of worship in decades and recalled the darkest periods of US history, in a church once burned to the ground after a failed slave revolt. READ: Nine killed in South Carolina church shooting: police.
Charleston Police Chief Gregory Mullen said: “I do believe it was a hate crime.”
A reported friend of the accused, 21-year-old Dalton Tyler, told ABC News that Roof had spoken in support of racial segregation and had “said he wanted to start a civil war.”
US media reported that Roof had been arrested in recent months on charges related to drugs and trespassing at a mall.
In Washington, a clearly frustrated President Barack Obama said the “senseless murders” showed the United States will have to come to grips with its gun culture.
“At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries,” Obama said.