Dylann Roof, the suspected gunman in the South Carolina church shooting, had recently been given a weapon as a birthday present, according to a relative.
The 21-year-old’s uncle told Reuters that Mr Roof’s father gave him a .45-calibre handgun.
Carson Cowles said he tried to mentor his nephew, who had no job or driver’s licence, but Roof was not receptive to this idea.“I actually talked to him on the phone briefly for just a few moments and he was saying well I’m outside target practicing with my new gun,” Mr Cowles said, describing a phone call around the time of Mr Roof’s birthday in April.
Mr Roof’s jacket in a photo on his profile page prominently bears the flags of South Africa and Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, from when the African nations were ruled by the countries’ white minorities.
Richard Cohen, president of Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, says Roof wasn’t known to his organisation, and it is unclear whether he is connected to any of the 16 white supremacist organisations SPLC has identified as operating in South Carolina.
But Mr Cohen says Mr Roof appears to be a “disaffected white supremacist” based on his Facebook page.
According to the suspect’s Facebook page, he went to White Knoll High School in Lexington, South Carolina, a two-hour drive from Charleston. It says he lives in the state capital Columbia.
A woman who answered a mobile phone belonging to his mother, Amelia Roof, declined to comment to Reuters.
“We will be doing no interviews ever,” she said, before hanging up.
Police identified Mr Roof after receiving tip-offs from friends and family who claimed to recognise him in surveillance footage from the church.
Officials circulated the image, appealing for help finding a suspect in a grey sweatshirt, blue jeans and Timberland boots.
Roof’s childhood friend, Joey Meek, alerted the FBI when he saw the grey top he was wearing, according to Mr Meek’s mother, Kimberly Kozny.
She told the Associated Press that Mr Roof had worn that sweatshirt over to their house many times as they played Xbox videogames in recent weeks.
“I don’t know what was going through his head,” Ms Kozny said. “He was a really sweet kid. He was quiet. He only had a few friends,” she added.
Mr Meek told AP that he and Mr Roof had been friends in secondary school, and then lost touch for years before reconnecting a few weeks ago.
“All the sudden out of the blue, he started talking about race,” he said.
“He said he wanted segregation between whites and blacks. I said, ‘that’s not the way it should be’. But he kept talking about it.”
What do the flags on Dylann Roof’s jacket symbolise?
An image found on Dylann Roof’s Facebook page shows the Charleston shooting suspect posing for the camera in a black jacket with two flags stitched to it.
The flags are both old – one belonged to apartheid-era South Africa and the other to the state of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.
Rhodesia became Zimbabwe in 1980 and South Africa rejected apartheid in 1994 – the year Mr Roof was born. But during the time they flew the flags worn by him, both nations were segregated and ruled by white minorities.
White supremacist organisations have celebrated both nations, claiming them to be examples of the benefits of white rule. The flags can be a subtle way for a white supremacist to reveal support for their cause, analysts say.
Mr Roof reportedly displayed a Confederate flag on his car licence plate.
Court records in South Carolina show he was facing a drug charge and had previously been arrested for trespassing.
NBC News has published an interview with Sylvia Johnson, Pastor Clementa Pinckney’s cousin, who said she had spoken to one of the survivors.
She was told that the gunman “reloaded five different times” and that the gunman told the victims: “I have to do it… You rape our women and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go.”
The US Justice Department says it is investigating the shooting at the church as a hate crime. – BBC News