Two days after the racially motivated mass shooting that took place Wednesday in Charleston, South Carolina, we know now how the alleged gunman acquired his weapon. Two law enforcement officials told CNN today that Dylann Roof had bought the .45-caliber handgun used in the shooting from a Charleston gun store. Roof reportedly purchased the gun with money his family gave him in April for his 21st birthday.
There have been reports that Roof was facing a felony charge for possession of Suboxone, which is used to treat opiate addiction. Federal law bars anyone with pending felony charges from buying guns from federally licensed firearms dealers, who are required to perform background checks on purchasers.
But a law enforcement official close to the investigation tells The Trace that Roof would have acquired the gun legally. “The ATF, the FBI, and law enforcement are looking at this [drug incident] as a misdemeanor,” says the official, who asked not to be named. A misdemeanor charge means that Roof would have passed a background check. “The guy wasn’t prohibited.”
Yesterday, 20-year-old Joseph Meek, a friend of Roof’s, told the New York Times that over the past year Roof appeared to grow increasingly unstable and spoke of “wanting to hurt a whole bunch of people.” Roof’s rhetoric was not only violent, but also deeply racist, Meek said. “He was saying all this stuff about how the races should be segregated, that whites should be with whites,” he said. “I could tell there was something inside him, there was something he wouldn’t let go.”
Still, even after Roof bought his gun, there was apparently an opportunity to prevent him from using it. Meek said that several weeks ago, worried about Roof’s state of mind, he took the .45 and hid it. But Meek’s girlfriend, Lindsay Fry, pushed him to return the weapon.
Meek was on probation, which bars him from possessing a handgun, and she was concerned he would get arrested.
“I feel like we could have done something and prevented this whole thing,” she told the Times.