Crime | August 22, 2017 10:33 am

Dylann Roof: The Making of an American Terrorist

GQ explores the root of all his evil in South Carolina.

Dylann Roof: America's Most American Terrorist
In this image from the video uplink from the detention center to the courtroom, Dylann Roof appears at Centralized Bond Hearing Court June 19, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Roof is charged with nine counts of murder and firearms charges in the shooting deaths at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17. (Grace Beahm-Pool/Getty Images)

If Charlottesville hasn’t convinced you that America has a hate problem, then Dylann Roof’s story surely will.

In 2015, Roof, a white supremacist who believed “blacks were taking over the world,” opened fire in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine parishioners.

He has since been sentenced to death.

Now, GQ‘s Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah—an African-American woman—has pieced together Roof’s upbringing, motivations, and what led him to carry out such a heinous act in a sprawling, deeply researched feature. RCLife has teased out some of the most shocking details below.

-Felicia Sanders, one of the church’s survivors, had to lie in her dying son’s blood and play dead, with her hand over her grandbaby’s mouth to silence her.

-Roof, representing himself, told the jurors and many family members in the courtroom that “I felt like I had to do it, and I still feel like I had to do it.”

GQ‘s writer admits she was originally going to write about the nine people killed at the church. But it was Roof’s silence—and disinterest in taking responsibility for his actions—that led to her changing course. As Ghansah eloquently puts it: “[Roof] did not have to dignify our questions with a response or explain anything at all to the people whose relatives he had maimed and murdered. Roof was safeguarded by his knowledge that white American terrorism is never waterboarded for answers, it is never twisted out for meaning, we never identify its ‘handlers,’ and we could not force him to do a thing. He remained inscrutable. He remained in control, just the way he wanted to be.”

-Roof’s father, Bennett, was initially contacted for the story, but then declined, calling GQ‘s story “fake news.”

-In an ironic twist, one of Roof’s closest childhood friends was mixed-race.

GQ‘s writer digs all the way back to explore Roof’s roots, finding his great-great-great-grandfather, Jesse Marion Roof, a Confederate soldier. His ancestors also owned a young slave girl.

-The one-time governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, currently U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, once said the “divisive speech”—like the type she felt candidate Donald Trump was using—“motivated Dylann Roof to gun down nine black parishioners at historic Emanuel AME Church.”