Man accused of planning Dylann Roof-style attack appears in federal court

Man accused of planning Dylann Roof-style attack appears in federal court

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) – Benjamin McDowell, the Conway man accused of planning an attack, possibly on a local synagogue, "in the spirit of Dylann Roof," waived his preliminary and detention hearing at a federal courthouse in Florence on Tuesday.

McDowell, 29, mouthed the words "It's okay" and "Thank you for being here" to his family after seeing them for the first time since his arrest last Wednesday and initial appearance in court last Thursday.

His mother, visibly upset, sobbed through the hearing. His grandparents and other relatives were also in the courtroom watching.

In the affidavit detailing the investigation, the FBI indicates several Facebook posts and messages allegedly made by McDowell, pledging allegiance to both Dylann Roof and white supremacy groups.

While McDowell's mother, Joanne Clewis, wouldn't comment on those details, she did stick up for her son.

"I really can't say much. I just can't wait for it to be over," Clewis said. "He's innocent until proven guilty."

The 29-year-old McDowell is Clewis' only son. She describes him as quiet yet loving, and very close to her.

"He's a good kid," she said. He's, he's, he's a wonderful kid."

Even though she entered the courtroom in tears, seeing her son put her heart at ease.

The prosecution requested the preliminary hearing and detention hearing to be held at the same time Tuesday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. The hearings lasted just minutes because McDowell's attorney waived them both, and his client will remain behind bars for the time being. They can still bring the issue of bond back into court at any time.

Bill Nettles, McDowell's court-appointed lawyer, said they just got the case a few days ago and they are starting the investigation. He had no other comments, but also stated his client is innocent until proven guilty.

McDowell appeared in court last Thursday for an initial appearance on a charge of felon in possession of a firearm or ammunition.

According to a criminal complaint filed by the FBI, an undercover agent posing as a member of the Aryan Nation met with McDowell several times and discussed a plan to conduct an attack on an unknown location. The agent then sold McDowell a handgun, the firing pin of which had been shaved down without McDowell's knowledge, and hollow point ammunition. Later that day, McDowell was arrested in the parking lot of a Myrtle Beach hotel with the gun, the ammo, a cell phone, and a marijuana cigarette.

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