CHARLESTON, S.C. -- They got him.
Dylan Storm Roof, the 21-year-old man who police say walked into a South Carolina church and fatally shot nine people attending Bible study class, was arrested in Shelby, N.C., on Thursday, about 250 miles from Charleston.
According to WCCB in Charlotte, investigators say police stopped Roof at Highway 74 and Plato Lee Road, west of Shelby, following a tip from the public. A citizen reported a suspicious vehicle. Roof was armed when he was arrested. It's not clear if it's the same firearm used in the shootings.
"He was cooperative with the officer who stopped him," officials said during a press conference.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has confirmed the Charleston church shooting suspect has been arrested.
Roof was a quiet person who got a gun for his 21st birthday in April, his uncle told the New York Daily News.
His uncle Carson Cowles, who described his nephew as a shy person who kept to himself, said he was appalled by his nephew's alleged crimes.
"He's a monster, and they need to catch him, and he needs to pay for what he's done," he said prior to Roof's capture.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said his niece, Emily, was in an eighth-grade English class with Roof.
"He was quiet, strange, very unsocial and everyone thought he was on drugs," Graham, a U.S. senator from South Carolina, said of the suspect, relaying the description from his niece Emily and sister Darline Graham Nordone.
The niece did not recall Roof making statements related to race, Graham said.
"I just think he was one of these whacked-out kids. I don't think it's anything broader than that," said Graham, who is running for president. "It's about a young man who is obviously twisted."
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said, in tears, "We woke up this morning and the heart and soul of South Carolina was broken."
Police say Roof walked into the church and fatally shot nine people attending Bible study class.
Witnesses told officials Roof reportedly said he was at the church to shoot black people, a source told CNN.
Police released a flier Thursday morning with details of the suspect in the attack on the historic African-American church as they appealed for help to track him down as quickly as possible.
The suspect’s uncle, Carson Cowles, 56, told Reuters that he recognized the man in the surveillance photo distributed by police as his nephew.
“The more I look at him, the more I’m convinced, that’s him,” Carson Cowles, 56, told Reuters in a phone interview. Cowles also said Roof received a .45-caliber pistol as a birthday present in April.
According to Lexington County School District One, Roof attended White Knoll High School in Lexington, S.C., for one year, WCSC is reporting. It's not clear if he transferred or dropped out.
“The following subject is wanted for the shooting that occured in Charleston at the Emanuel AME Church. Subject is Dylann Storm Roof w/m 4/3/1994 5’9″ 120 lbs. The subject should be driving a 2000 Hyundai Elantra GS, SC registration LGF330. The vehicle is dark-colored. Subject should be considered armed and dangerous and caution should be used if seen. “
Charleston Police Chief Gregory Mullen told a news conference that officers “have obtained surveillance videos of the suspect in this case and a suspect vehicle.”
Mullen said the suspect was a “younger white male between 21 and 25 years of age, 5-foot-9 in height” and “has a very distinctive sweatshirt that has markings.”
Mullen emphasized the suspect is “a very dangerous individual” and said “he should not be approached by anyone.”
Any people who recognize the suspect or spots the vehicle should alert law enforcement, he said, rather than trying to follow themselves.
Woman spared by shooter to give account?
A female survivor told family members that the gunman told her he was letting her live to tell everyone else what happened, Dot Scott, president of the local branch of the NAACP, told CNN.
Scott said she had not spoken to the survivor directly but had heard this account repeated at least a dozen times as she met with relatives of the victims Wednesday night. Scott added that she didn’t know if the survivor had ended up at the hospital or being questioned by police.
Because of the church’s historic significance, it is not unusual for visitors, whether white or black, to visit it, Scott said. She said she’d had no indication that any children were among the victims.
Mullen told the news conference the suspect had been in the church attending a meeting that was going on — and “stayed there almost an hour with the group before the actual event.”
But he declined to comment on whether the suspect had let one woman escape.