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Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church shooting suspect Dylann Storm Roof had recently been given a weapon as a birthday present, according to the gunman’s uncle.

Dylann Roof’s uncle, Carson Cowles, told Reuters that Dylann’s father gave him a .45-calibre handgun.

Carson Cowles said he tried to mentor his 21-year-old nephew, who had no job or driver’s license, but Dylann Roof was not receptive to this idea.

Describing a phone call around the time of Dylann Roof’s birthday in April, Carson Cowles said: “I actually talked to him on the phone briefly for just a few moments and he was saying well I’m outside target practicing with my new gun.”

Dylann Roof’s jacket in a photo on his profile page prominently bears the flags of South Africa and Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, from when the African nations were ruled by the countries’ white minorities.

Richard Cohen, president of Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, says Dylann Roof wasn’t known to his organization, and it is unclear whether he is connected to any of the 16 white supremacist organizations SPLC has identified as operating in South Carolina.Dylann Roof Emanuel AME Church shooting

He says Dylann Roof appears to be a “disaffected white supremacist” based on his Facebook page.

According to the suspect’s Facebook page, he went to White Knoll High School in Lexington, South Carolina, a two-hour drive from Charleston. It says he lives in the state capital Columbia.

A woman who answered a mobile phone belonging to his mother, Amelia Roof, declined to comment to Reuters.

“We will be doing no interviews ever,” she said, before hanging up.

Dylann Roof’s childhood friend, Joey Meek, alerted the FBI when he saw the grey top he was wearing, according to Meek’s mother, Kimberly Kozny.

She told the Associated Press that Roof had worn that sweatshirt over to their house many times as they played Xbox videogames in recent weeks.

Dylann Roof reportedly displayed a Confederate flag on his car license plate.

Court records in South Carolina show he was facing a drug charge and had previously been arrested for trespassing.

Police identified Dylann Roof after receiving tip-offs from friends and family who claimed to recognize him in surveillance footage from the church.

Officials circulated the image, appealing for help finding a suspect in a grey sweatshirt, blue jeans and Timberland boots.

The DoJ says it is investigating the shooting at the Emanuel AME Church as a hate crime.

Dylann Roof, who is suspected of killing nine people at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, has been arrested.

Police said 21-year-old Dylann Roof, from Lexington, South Carolina, was detained during a traffic stop in Shelby, North Carolina.

Dylann Roof is reported to have sat in on a bible study meeting for a full hour before opening fire on the group.

Six women and three men, including the church pastor, were killed. A hate crimes investigation has been launched.

President Barack Obama said he and his wife had known several members of the Emanuel AME Church, including the pastor, Clementa Pinckney.

Barack Obama called the church a “sacred place” in the history of Charleston and spoke of his confidence that the congregation and the community would “rise again”.Dylann Roof Charleston Emanuel AME Church shooting suspect

He also raised the issue of gun ownership, saying “communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times”.

“At some point, we as a country have to reckon with the fact that this type of massacre does not happen in other advanced countries,” the president said.

The weekly bible study meeting was under way in the church on Calhoun Street when the shooting unfolded at about 21:00 local time on Wednesday, June 17.

Charleston Police Chief Gregory Mullen said that when police arrived at the scene eight people were already dead in the church and one other person died later in hospital. There were three survivors, he added.

Police released images from surveillance cameras showing a suspect they described as white and clean shaven with a slender build, entering the building an hour before the shooting.

The man was later seen driving away in a black four-door saloon car.

Police and officials were quick to call it a hate crime, and the DoJ said it would open a federal hate crimes investigation.

Speaking after the arrest, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said they would be “looking at all of the facts, all of the motivations” to determine the best way to prosecute any case.

The killings have sent shockwaves through a community that has already experienced heightened racial tension in recent months.