MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — A South Carolina white supremacist was arrested Wednesday after buying a gun he wanted to use in a Dylann Roof-style attack, the FBI said.
Benjamin Thomas Samuel McDowell, 29, was arrested at a motel in Myrtle Beach, S.C., after buying a .40-caliber Glock, FBI agent Grant Lowe wrote in an affidavit.
McDowell, a convicted felon, caught the attention of authorities after a December Facebook post about a synagogue in Myrtle Beach. Horry County Police had kept track of McDowell since his release from prison on felony burglary charges a few years ago because he made connections with white supremacists while behind bars, according to the affidavit.
According to a criminal complaint filed in federal court, McDowell, of Conway, S.C., referenced Dylann Roof, the man convicted of the racially motivated killing of nine African Americans at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015. Roof was sentenced to 18 death sentences and 15 life sentences, the statutory maximum for each of the 33 federal counts lodged against him in January.
McDowell's expletive-filled posts on Facebook complained about Jewish people destroying "the white man" and about people being willing to have the heart to do what Roof did.
After putting a message on Facebook that he wanted "iron," or a gun, McDowell agreed to meet with an undercover FBI agent to make the purchase. McDowell believed the person handled problems for the Aryan Nations.
The agent said McDowell voiced frustration over other white supremacists, saying that screaming "white power" wasn't getting the job done.
He told the agent, according to the complaint, that he was looking for a way to conduct an attack on non-whites without getting caught.
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McDowell said he had the heart to carry it out. "I seen what Dylann Roof did and in my heart I reckon I got a little bit of hatred." According to the complaint, he added, he wanted to do something on a big scale and write "In the spirit of Dylann Roof."
It didn't appear that McDowell had decided on a place or a time for an attack.
In one phone call, the undercover agent said McDowell wanted him to get the gun because he intended to conduct the attack outside Horry County, where he lived.
As a convicted felon, McDowell was prohibited from having a gun.
McDowell again asked the undercover agent for a gun and asked for hollow-point ammunition.
The two agreed to meet Wednesday at a motel in Myrtle Beach. After paying $109 for the gun, the FBI arrested McDowell. He is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. The firing pin was filed down on the gun McDowell was sold, Lowe wrote.
Court records show that since 2008, McDowell has several convictions for burglary and a conviction for assault.
Contributing: Tonya Maxwell, Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times; The Associated Press. Follow WLTX-TV on Twitter: @WLTX
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