A roommate of Dylann Roof, the man who allegedly shot and killed nine Christians at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, Wednesday, said the gunman had been planning for six months to “start a civil war” by murdering innocent people and turning the gun on himself.
The roommate, Dalton Tyler, has known Roof for almost a year and saw him just last week, ABC News reported.
“He was big into segregation and other stuff,” Tyler said. “He said he wanted to start a civil war. He said he was going to do something like that and then kill himself.”
Another friend, Joey Meek, told ABC News that Roof was upset over the February 2012 Trayvon Martin case and the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray, and he “wanted something to spark up the race war again.”
Meek said he saw Roof on Tuesday, the day before the church massacre.
“He didn’t agree with some things and somebody had to do something about it,” Meek told ABC. “He said that he thought that blacks, the blacks in general as a race, was bringing down the white race.”
Meek, who reportedly didn’t bring the information to police before Thursday morning, claims he’s known Roof for more than seven years.
“He never said the N-word, he never made racial slurs, he never targeted a specific black person. He never did any of that so it was just pretty much a shock,” Meek said.
Authorities say they believe Roof acted alone.
Meanwhile, African-American community activists fear the mass murder could spark race riots in Charleston, according to the Washington Times.
“We don’t need any more bloodshed and we don’t need a race war,” J. Denise Cromwell told the Times. “Charleston has a lot of racial tension. … We’re drowning and someone is pouring water over us.”
Cromwell told the paper the community is still shaken by the fatal April 4 police shooting of Walter Scott, a black man in North Charleston, which sparked widespread protests.
Black activist Michelle Felder, 58, also told the Times she was concerned Charleston’s young people “aren’t thinking” and could plan to get revenge for the killings.
“This is 2015, and we are still going through the same things we went through 50 years ago,” she said. “This is so sickening. We are so tired.”
Charlotte Observer Associate Editor Eric Frazier called the shooting “an act of war against the black community”:
“African Americans here are in no mood for talk of the shooting being simply the random, murderous actions of a psychotic loner,” he wrote in an op-ed. “[Rep. Jim] Clyburn and others suspect this wasn’t solely an attack on a church, or an attack on a black church – it was an act of war against the black community.”
Since the Wednesday shooting, religious and political leaders have been calling on the community to remain peaceful.
Pastor Thomas A. Dixon counseled Charleston’s black citizens to “keep your emotions under control.”
“We’ve been consistently putting forward a message of remain reserved and stay calm,” Dixon said.
Dixon said the mass slaying was “senseless” and a “horrific crime,” but he argued that the violence is not new, and other groups have been targeted as well.
“It is a crime that has happened in Jewish synagogues, Buddhist temples, Catholic churches and movie theaters and now it has come to Charleston to this AME church,” he said.
Regardless of the shooters’ intent, the gatherings Thursday remained peaceful, emphasizing strength, unity and prayer for the victims, their families and the community.
And in Washington, D.C., more than 100 staffers and members of Congress gathered in front of the U.S. Capitol and bowed their heads in prayer for Charleston.