Fascinating piece on Dylann Roof’s last ‘home’ before shootings

roof story

I initially saw this in The State this morning, although I’m linking you to the original piece in The Washington Post.

It’s a fascinating portrait of the Red Bank household in which Dylann Roof lived the last couple of months before the Emanuel AME murders.

An excerpt:

Now, a month after the June 17 shooting, the blinds are drawn at noon and the family that hosted Roof is inside, where the boom of gunfire and explosions is so loud the trailer vibrates.

“Ha ha. I just killed all them mothers,” says Justin Meek, 18, playing a video game in which blood and body parts fly across a 42-inch TV screen….

On a lopsided couch is Lindsey Fry, 19, flicking her tongue ring, eyes locked on a cracked cellphone for news about the shooting, which has lately included her boyfriend Joey, 21, the third Meek brother who lives in the trailer, which is in a town called Red Bank that the Meeks call Dead Bank….

They are the people with whom Roof was associating in the weeks before the shooting, and this is the place he drifted into with little resistance, an American void where little is sacred and little is profane and the dominant reaction to life is what Joey does now, looking at Lindsey. He shrugs.

For several weeks, Dylann Roof slept on the floor here. He played video games. According to the Meeks, he showed off his new Glock .45-caliber handgun, drank heavily and retreated to his car to listen to opera. And sometimes he confided in his childhood friend Joey, who wasn’t the type to ask questions….

Of course, as a journalist, I want to know how reporter Stephanie McCrummen and photographer Michael Williamson gained and maintained this sort of relationship with the subjects. What did they tell Kim Konzny, her three sons and the others in the trailer to explain why they were there and what they wanted? How, for instance, were they able to report from inside Ms. Konzny’s room where she goes and closes the door to shut out the chaos in her trailer? Seems like that would have been the very toughest line of all to cross.

What sort of relationship do you form with people to get this kind of access when your eventual product will be something headlined “An American Void?” Did the subjects ask on the front end for any assurances as to how they’d be portrayed, or did they just shrug? And if they did ask, how frank were the journalists about the impressions they were forming?

There’s something almost Faulknerian about this story, only without the long sentences. And Faulkner didn’t actually have to get to know the Snopeses. Nor, I’m guessing, did Erskine Caldwell have to hang out with Ty Ty Walden et al. to write God’s Little Acre. Real people are tougher to deal with…

13 thoughts on “Fascinating piece on Dylann Roof’s last ‘home’ before shootings

  1. clark surratt

    I believe this story could be written more than a hundred times about families or broken families in Lexington County alone. Difference is, no highly publicized mass murderers stayed with the others. A frequent mix: some poverty, bad luck and lack of motivation and direction, but still mixed with costly tobacco, booze, drugs and the latest electronic devices.

  2. Brad Warthen

    A few words in defense of the subjects of this story — our neighbors; this trailer is just a very few miles from my house…

    I don’t get the intimation that these people “did nothing” about Roof. Those two kids took it upon themselves to hide his gun. That they later gave it back doesn’t erase the fact that they did SOMETHING. How many people would have done as much as they did? Not many, I’d wager. I doubt that many people who DON’T live in trailers would have done more.

    As for giving it back — seriously, who would have believed that his drunken ranting was serious? I mean, believed it enough to actually KEEP the gun, long after the drunken rant was over. Not many people would, because most of us have never met anyone who would go to a church and kill nine innocent people. It’s just not a thing we’re equipped to believe…

  3. Mark Stewart

    This is so common across the South. Across America if we were are to be truthful. It isn’t just Lexington County, it is everywhere.

    I believe environment matters. Our spaces define us; if one hasn’t lived, or experienced in depth, relentless poverty it is almost impossible to imagine.

    Big screen TVs seem incongruous in poor households, a violation of appropriate social rewards. However, most people at every social level indulge in disproportional rewards – it’s just that with the poor the big TVs stand out.

    I read the Washington Post story over the weekend and thought it was actually an empathetic view into the kind of place most of us know nothing about. I don’t blame these people for Root’s evil; they were simply helping the just as unfortunate in any way they could. How many of us can say that about ourselves? How many can visualize just how little floor space there is in a single wide to share? For a sixth person?

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Yes, Mark—excellent points. I have been struck by the relative size of the trailers I would do guardian visits at, to the trucks parked outside, but just as I surely don’t require even half the square footage my house occupies, these people have different metrics. If they didn’t steal the TV or the means to buy it, and they are feeding, clothing, etc., their kids, it is not our business.
      I was struck by the loyalty to friends, the open house to those in need this admittedly problematic household displayed.

    2. Kathryn Fenner

      and the single wides I am familiar with–my college boyfriend lived in one outside North Augusta—have non-master bedrooms maybe large enough for a double bed and a corridor to access it, a bathroom you can stand in only one place in, a kitchenette/dining space/living area in one. The living area has room for a couch, maybe another chair and a TV. The master bedroom on the end usually has a bit more room–you can walk on both sides of the bed, and fit in a chest of drawers.

  4. bud

    Tiny houses are all the rage right now. Relatively well off folks are exchanging their McMansions for houses less than 400 square feet. There’s an entire show on the Home and Garden channel right now.

    1. Mark Stewart

      No one is a willing resident of a single wide; such shelter is the end of the line in rural and suburban areas.

      Even people who live in RVs sacrifice space for mobility.

      There are some apartment complexes as forlorn as a single wide; but I don’t believe they carry the sense of alienation to the degree single wides do.

    1. Mark Stewart

      I don’t think it that they have given up on life, Karen. From my perspective it’s more like there is a large, anonymous underclass who has had their belief in having expectations for their lives denied – and they have surrendered to that despair.

      They still go on living, but the striving has been beaten out of them.

  5. Doug Ross

    You are what your choices say you are.

    For what this crew is likely spending on pot, alcohol, cigarettes, video games, lottery tickets, and cell phones per month, they could pay for the mortgage on a small house in Lexington. But that would be HARD!


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