(Reuters) - A white supremacist in South Carolina dreamed of carrying out an attack in the style of church massacre shooter Dylann Roof but was arrested after he illegally bought a gun from an undercover FBI agent, authorities said on Thursday.
Benjamin McDowell, 29, told the undercover agent he had not planned any specific targets or dates for an attack but glorified Roof during conversation and on Facebook, according to a Federal Bureau of Investigation affidavit.
“I seen what Dylann Roof did, and in my heart I reckon I got a little bit of hatred. ... I want to do that,” McDowell told an undercover FBI agent in January. He said he fantasised about conducting a large-scale attack and writing out the words “In the spirit of Dylann Roof.”
A representative for the Federal Public Defenders, who will represent McDowell, declined to comment.
Roof was sentenced to death in January after being convicted of crimes stemming from the massacre of a Bible study group at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston on June 17, 2015, which left nine people dead.
The affidavit said McDowell asked the FBI agent to buy him a firearm, which he could not legally possess due to a prior felony conviction.
McDowell established connections with the hate group White Supremacy Extremists during previous prison stints and thought the agent was a member of the Aryan Nations hate group, according to the affidavit.
The document said McDowell instructed the agent to pick him up from his mother’s house on Wednesday and drive him to the home of his grandfather so he could borrow the money to buy a handgun from the agent.
The affidavit said the two met as planned and the agent provided McDowell the handgun, which had its firing pin shaved down as to make it inoperative. He also supplied McDowell $109 worth of hollow-point ammunition.
Shortly thereafter, McDowell was arrested in the parking lot of a hotel in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the affidavit said.
The arrest occurred just weeks after Reuters reported plans of U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to reorganize a government programme designed to counter all violent ideologies, including white supremacist groups, to instead focus solely on Islamist extremism.
McDowell made his first appearance before a judge on Thursday on a charge of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a prohibited person. A subsequent court date was scheduled for Tuesday.
Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Jonathan Oatis