The killing of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston Wednesday night has reignited the conversation about access to guns in the US, drawing the predictable refrain that this wouldn't have happened had the people at the Bible study been armed. A board member of the National Rifle Association went so far as to blame one of the victims for the shooting because of his political position on concealed-carry laws. So when President Obama talked about Charleston and how easy it was for someone like 21-year-old Dylann Roof to get a gun, the critics pushed back.
One of them was former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who told Newsmax that the massacre, which he called an "accident," might have had more to do with drugs than with guns. Watch:
After Dylann Storm Roof was arrested Thursday morning for allegedly shooting nine people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, Ken Mathews, an attorney who has been representing Roof in an ongoing drug-possession case, was, he says, "very shocked" to hear about what Roof had allegedly done. He tells Mother Jones, "The dealings I had with him, he was just a normal kid."
Mathews, a Columbia, South Carolina, attorney, notes that so far in the drug case he has had "very limited dealings" with Roof. He says he saw "nothing that would indicate that [Roof] would take this type of action."
The local police have called the shooting a hate crime. Mathews says he has seen no signs that Roof harbored any racial animus: "I had no inkling of anything like that in the dealings I had with him."
Mathews has known the Roof family for years, dating back to a custody dispute between Dylann's father Ben and mother Amy over visitation rights concerning Dylann. Mathews says he spoke to Dylann's father this morning, and "it's very, very difficult."
Mathews became Roof's lawyer after Roof was arrested in March at the Columbiana Centre, a mall in Columbia, and charged with possession of suboxone, a drug used to treat opiate withdrawals. Mathews says Roof had gone into some stores and "asked people some questions, which made some people uncomfortable," including what time the stores closed. Someone at one of the stores contacted the authorities. Roof was stopped and searched, according to Mathews, and the police found he was carrying suboxone and arrested him. Roof was also given a trespassing warning, which he violated a couple of weeks later, Mathews notes, and Roof was subsequently cited for trespassing.
Here's what else we know about Roof:
Roof, 21, was arrested midday Thursday in Shelby, North Carolina, about a three and a half-hour drive from the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. The shooting of nine black churchgoers happened at about 9 p.m. Wednesday.
Charleston police chief Greg Mullen said he believed the shooting to be a "hate crime."
Roof's uncle told Reuters that Roof was introverted and soft-spoken.
The uncle also said Roof's father had recently given him a .45-caliber handgun as a birthday present. "I don't have any words for it. Nobody in my family had seen anything like this coming," he said.
Roof is from Lexington, South Carolina, and attended White Knoll High School, which a high school friend said had a mix of black and white students.
Jeb Bush launched his campaign on Monday with a sharp jab at the Washington establishment. "We don't need another president who merely holds the top spot among the pampered elites of Washington," huffed this member of a political dynasty that has often held power in DC. "We need a president willing to challenge and disrupt the whole culture in our nation’s capital." Yet, as Bush embarks on his presidential bid, he has surrounded himself with Beltway insiders who have long been part of what he calls the "mess in Washington." Many of his advisers served in the presidential administrations of his father and brother. Others were senators and representatives. Of course, several are lobbyists.
Here are some of the special-interest influence peddlers and Washington operators whom Bush has enlisted for his campaign:
Vin Weber: The six-term Minnesota congressman turned consultant and lobbyist has been a Jeb Bush supporter for months but a prominent DC power player for years. Weber is a partner at Mercury, a lobbying firm, and his clients have included the government of Qatar, Hyundai, and eBay. He was once called "one of the most influential Republican lobbyists" by Washingtonian magazine. He came under scrutiny in 2013 when he was a registered lobbyist for the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, which was formed by a Ukrainian politician accused of trying to roll back some democratic gains in the country at the time.
Lincoln Diaz-Balart: A former congressman from Florida, Diaz-Balart has his own lobbying group, Western Hemisphere Strategies, which has lobbied Congress on behalf of textile companies in Guatemala and El Salvador. He has also lobbied on behalf of MM Law, LLC, a firm that represents victims of international terrorism, according to Senate lobbying records.
James Baker: Baker epitomizes the Washington establishment. He was the White House chief of staff and treasury secretary for President Ronald Reagan and secretary of state for President George H.W. Bush. Baker was also a senior counselor and equity partner at the Carlyle Group, a global multibillion dollar investment group that relies on the political connection of its principals, and he is currently a senior partner at Baker Botts, a Houston law firm that has represented some of the biggest companies around, including OAO Gazprom, the Russian natural gas behemoth, and Halliburton.
Michael Hayden and Porter Goss: Both Hayden and Goss are former CIA directors. Hayden was also director of the National Security Agency from 1999 to 2005. He is now a principal at the Chertoff Group, a security consulting firm created by Michael Chertoff, a former secretary of homeland security. Goss, who served in the House of Representatives for 15 years, was director of the CIA from 2004 to 2006 and is now a senior adviser with Dickstein Shapiro, a major legal and lobbying firm in Washington. The Intercept reported that he is a registered lobbyist for the government of Turkey.
Paul Wolfowitz: The deputy defense secretary under President George W. Bush, Wolfowitz, a neocon Washington fixture, was an integral part of the invasion of Iraq. He went on to have a tumultuous run as president of the World Bank. (Other Iraq War alumni who are now assisting the Jeb Bush campaign include Stephen Hadley and Meghan O'Sullivan.)
Michael Mukasey: Mukasey was US attorney general for the second President Bush and went on to become a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, a major law firm that also engages in lobbying activity. Mukasey helped one of the firm's clients, the US Chamber of Commerce, push to weaken the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
John Negroponte: A former US ambassador to Iraq, Honduras, Mexico, and the Philippines, John Negroponte is an old foreign-policy hand who has worked at the State Department and the United Nations. These days, he is the vice chairman of McLarty Associates, a Washington-based global strategies firm that consults for Fortune 500 clients.
These guys are all members of the Washington elite that Jeb Bush the Populist has decried. Yet they are helping Bush. They must not feel too threatened by his call to disrupt the culture in the nation's capital.
Now the pope risks drawing conservative ire on climate change. In a document set to be released on Thursday—which leaked to an Italian publication and was published as an act of "sabotage against the pope," according to a Vatican official—Francis will apparently call for a strong, multi-country push to curb global warming and the "human causes that produce and accentuate it," according to the Guardian. The message will reportedly call out climate deniers, saying "the attitudes that stand in the way of a solution, even among believers, range from negation of the problem, to indifference, to convenient resignation or blind faith in technical solutions."
There's a growing contingent of congressional Republicans who are Catholic, and a number of the party's leading presidential candidates (or potential candidates) are Catholic. If those candidates' past statements on climate change are any indication, they could soon find themselves at odds with the pope over the looming encyclical. Here's what they've said:
Rick Santorum: "The church has gotten it wrong a few times on science, and I think we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we’re good at, which is theology and morality."
Jeb Bush: Bush responded directly to the pope on Tuesday, stating at a New Hampshire town hall meeting, “I hope I’m not going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home, but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinal or my pope. I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting in the political realm.”
Chris Christie: The New Jersey governor's views might be the most in line with the pope's: "I think global warming is real. I don't think that's deniable. And I do think human activity contributes to it."
Bobby Jindal: While acknowledging that human activity has had an impact on the climate, Jindal has decried Obama's environmental regulations as "reckless and based on a radical leftist ideology that will kill American jobs and increase energy prices," according to the Associated Press.
Marco Rubio: "I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it. That's what I do not. And I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy."
This article has been updated to include Bush's Tuesday remark.
Dashboard camera footage from the night police shot and killed Jerame Reid in Bridgeton, New Jersey.
When police officers shoot or kill unarmed civilians, it can take months, even years, for the incidents to be officially investigated and publicly explained. As Mother Jones recently reported, the cop who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland had yet to be interviewed by investigators, more than six months since Rice's death. The family of 37-year-old Tanisha Anderson, who died after being restrained by police last November, also in Cleveland, is still waiting for answers.
The case of Jerame Reid has gotten far less attention. Reid was a passenger in a car that was pulled over on December 30, 2014, in Bridgeton, New Jersey. As recorded by the police car's dashboard camera, two officers approached the car and allegedly found a gun in the glove box. When the 36-year-old Reid tried to get out of the car with his hands apparently up and in front of his chest, the officers opened fire, and Reid died. The officers in the case—Roger Worley and Braheme Days—were placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.
Nearly six months later, Reid's family and his community are still waiting for answers. It's not clear exactly where the investigation stands. Last weekend, a report in the New Jersey Star-Ledger suggested the case had been passed from the Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office to the New Jersey Attorney General's Office. A spokesman for the New Jersey AG told Mother Jones that the Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office is still the lead agency in the investigation and declined further comment. A message sent to the Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office wasn't answered.
The wait has been too long, according to Bridgeton Mayor Albert Kelly. In an op-ed published earlier this week, Kelly lays out exactly why the wait in these cases is such a problem:
Six months may not seem like a long time if you're in the Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office handling multiple cases, nor would it seem a long time if your view is one taken from the perch of the Office of the Attorney General.
But it is an eternity if you're the grieving widow and part of a grieving family wanting some sense of closure. It's also a stunningly long time if you and your family are waiting around day after day to find out your fate and what the balance of the rest of your life might look like.
Beyond that, it may well be an unacceptably long period of time for an entire community waiting to find out what exactly happened to one of its own, for better or for ill, on a cold December night a few days after Christmas, at what began as a routine traffic stop.
The time involved, just like the questions involved, is no small thing because for anyone who cares—for anyone who knows how quickly things can go from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye at what was essentially a routine interaction between a police officer and a citizen—it's about knowing where the lines are drawn and maybe where they got crossed.
Mayor Kelly's letter expresses the growing impatience with the slow official responses to police killings that have long been the norm. As David Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, explained to Mother Jones reporter Jaeah Lee, recent events have changed the way Americans look at these investigations. "One year ago, we probably did not take a lot of notice," he says. "It's only since Ferguson, and especially since North Charleston and Baltimore, that we are seeing cases being evaluated and moved more rapidly."