Family ties or a route to Nashville may have brought shooting suspect Dylann Roof through the Charlotte area, just hours after nine people were slaughtered at a historic black church in Charleston.
He was charged Friday with nine counts of murder and a weapons possession charge.
Roof, who lived in suburban Columbia, surrendered meekly to Shelby police after he was spotted by an alert motorist Thursday.
Roof’s flight ended on U.S. 74 in sight of a Kangaroo Express convenience store. It was just three miles past the street where his sister’s fiance, Army Sgt. First Class Michael Tyo, lives. Tyo and Roof’s sister, Amber, were to be married Sunday, according to theknot.com, a wedding website.
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Tyo, a recruiter for the U.S. Army Reserve in Shelby, was not at his duplex apartment Friday, which has a decorative “Proud to be an American” beside the porch.
According to Tyo’s Facebook page, which has now been taken down, Tyo studied at DeVry University’s Charlotte campus, which is in Ayrsley.
Roof’s path unclear
While being held at the Shelby Police Department, Roof told authorities that he had been planning the attack for a long time and targeted the church because of its history, a source told Observer news partner WBTV.
He said he was headed to Nashville after the shootings because he had “never been there before,” the source told WBTV.
It’s unclear what route Roof took from Charleston to Charlotte. The gas station where he used a debit card is close to Interstate 485.
At 5:50 a.m., nearly nine hours after the shootings, Roof pulled into the Shell station on Providence Road at the corner of Ballantyne Commons Parkway, gassed up his car and walked inside the Market Express, store employees said.
Clad in black jeans and a white long-sleeve shirt, he used the ATM beside the entryway and bought a bottle of water and bag of Doritos. Store workers thought nothing of it, believing him to be just a polite, quiet guy.
It’s also not known whether Roof stopped by Tyo’s home. But the motorist who spotted Roof, Debbie Dills of Gastonia, followed him through Shelby and past turnoff for Tyo’s home. It appeared Roof was continuing on toward the moutains when he was stopped at 10:44 a.m. at Plato Lee Road.
Roof surrendered without incident, said Shelby police Chief Jeff Ledford.
Helping the families
To donate to the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund, which has been set up to support the families of the shooting victims, visit any Wells Fargo Bank branch.
The BBB Wise Giving Alliance, the national charity monitoring arm of the Better Business Bureau, is warning people about the potential for fund-raising scams in the wake of the Charleston massacre.
Potential donors also should also be aware of people with good intentions but no experience with charity fund raising, said Art Taylor, president and CEO of the alliance.
The group offered these tips:
▪ Most states require charities to register with a state agency before they solicit for donations. It may be a red flag if the charity is not registered.
▪ Watch out for vague appeals that don't identify the intended use of funds.
▪ Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in texts or emails
▪ Not all groups collecting funds are tax exempt.
To learn more about the BBB charity standards and local charity reviews, go to http://give.org.