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What we know so far about suspected shooter Dylann Roof’s motivations

Reuters reporter Luciana Lopez has been in South Carolina covering the fallout of the tragic shooting in Charleston on Wednesday, where nine people were killed at Emanuel AME Church. What do we know about the motives of Dylann Roof, who has been charged with nine counts of murder? Lopez joins Hari Sreenivasan from Mt. Pleasant, S.C. for more.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Reuters reporter Luciana Lopez has been in South Carolina covering the story. She joins me now from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

    So, what more do we know today about Dylann Roof and his motivations?

  • LUCIANA LOPEZ:

    Well, one interesting thing that surfaced is that what appears to be a white supremacist manifesto has surfaced, and we’re trying to verify that that — this does, indeed, come from Dylann Roof.  But it lays out a little bit about how he was radicalized, looking up information about Trayvon Martin, and it lays out some of his feelings about other racial groups as well.

    Again, we’re trying to verify that this is, indeed, his. But this goes a little bit deeper into his ideology.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And what’s in there?  What does he think of and why — was there an explanation for why he did this?

  • LUCIANA LOPEZ:

    There is an explanation of sorts.  Again, he talks about how he was radicalized and looking up information about different racial and ethnic groups in the United States, and then he says he’s picked Charleston, in fact, because of its significance, and because of its historical significance.  And he says that he felt like he really needed to make a statement and that this was really the place to do it.

    And he also implies that there wasn’t anyone else to do this, and so, he felt like this was something that he had some sort of mission to go out there to do.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    You’ve been reporting there since this tragedy happened. Has the discussion started to include the Confederate flag or gun control? Or is it still just people grieving right now?

  • LUCIANA LOPEZ:

    There’s been quite a lot of discussion about the Confederate flag. In fact, it’s emerged as one of the flashpoint here for discussions. So, for example, yesterday at the NAACP, there was a lot of discussion about how the flag needs to come down because it is viewed as a symbol of hatred and of very sad time in American history.

    I was actually just at a church earlier today, and the pastor there, Nelson Rivers, talked about the Confederate flag, and he directly addressed people who said, “Oh, the flag is a symbol of Southern heritage,” and his response was, “I know what time it is.” And he actually called worship of the flag, in a sense, idolatry and he said that the lives of the people who were killed in this tragedy are more important.

    In fact, we even had Mitt Romney tweeting out today about the Confederate flag and about taking it down, which was pretty significant.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So, what about the conservations on the streets when you talk to people?  This is one specific church in one specific part of town.  How has this impacted all of Charleston?

  • LUCIANA LOPEZ:

    Well, this is one specific church, but it’s a church with a long and storied history, and it’s a church that’s viewed as, in some sense, belonging to all of Charleston, not just the people who attended it.  And it’s something that I think has really shaken people because there is a strong tradition of churchgoing here in town, and there is this idea that church is a holy space, and that someone could come into this holy space and try to turn it into something else, try to take it away, that’s hit people very close to home, whether or not they go to Mother Emanuel, whether or not they’ve ever even set food there.

    For example, I spoke with one man last night who was there for the second day in a row at the church to pay his respects.  He doesn’t go to that church.  He doesn’t know anyone, in fact, who was involved in this tragedy.  But what he said was that it’s important for him to go there so that he can remember what this feels like, so that he doesn’t let this become just part of the background noise of life, but that this is in fact something that could spur him toward loving people more and in fact, toward living a better life.

    Again, this was someone who’s not personally involved in this at all.  But it still meant something very deep to him, and something that he very specifically wanted to take with him into the future.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right. Luciana Lopez of Reuters joining us from South Carolina — thanks so much.

  • LUCIANA LOPEZ:

    Thanks for having me.

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