FBI arrests man in Myrtle Beach allegedly planning attack 'in the spirit of Dylann Roof'

Published: Feb. 16, 2017 at 4:15 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 16, 2017 at 11:25 PM EST
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The Temple Emanu-El Conservative Synagogue in Myrtle Beach (Source: Lisa Gresci)
The Temple Emanu-El Conservative Synagogue in Myrtle Beach (Source: Lisa Gresci)
The Hampton Inn where McDowell was arrested Wednesday. (Source: Christel Bell)
The Hampton Inn where McDowell was arrested Wednesday. (Source: Christel Bell)

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – A man with connections to a white supremacy group was arrested in Myrtle Beach Wednesday after purchasing a gun from an undercover FBI agent, apparently intending to commit an attack "in the spirit of Dylann Roof."

Benjamin Thomas Samuel McDowell, 29, from Conway, was arrested at around 5 p.m. Wednesday by the FBI, according to records from the J. Reuben Long Detention Center.

On December 26, 2016, McDowell posted to Facebook a message: "I love love to act what u think," followed by a link to the Temple Emanu-El Conservative Synagogue in Myrtle Beach, according to court documents. Horry County Police indicated to the FBI that McDowell had established White Supremacy Extremist connections while serving in prison in South Carolina for various criminal offenses. He also had tattoos indicating an affiliation with these groups.

Read more about McDowell's criminal past here.

According to the federal complaint document, on January 5, 2017, McDowell posted to Facebook an anti-semetic screed referencing Dylann Roof, which included the statement: "they should be Feasting on the enemy that stole their Heritage and their bloodline and trying to run us off of this Earth you can post pictures of f****** Viking and swords all the s*** you want to post if you ain't got the heart to fight for Yahweh like dylann roof did you need to shut the f*** up…"

Read a PDF document of the complete criminal complaint here

Dylann Roof was sentenced to death in January after being found guilty in the murder of nine African-American parishioners at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in June of 2015.

Read more stories related to Roof here.

On January 6, the FBI found a message from McDowell on Facebook Instant Messenger revealing that he requested an "iron," a coded term for a gun.

McDowell first met with the undercover FBI agent on January 12, believing that the agent "handled problems for the Aryan Nations," the court document states.  The agent met with McDowell at a Myrtle Beach hotel and discussed obtaining a gun, saying that he didn't want it being traced back to him. McDowell said he didn't want an attack coming back to him either, and he wanted to be "scot-free." He emphasized that he did not want to get caught and go back to jail.

McDowell went on to say that "I got the heart to do that s***, but I don't have the good training," the document states. He told the agent he sought a way to conduct an attack on non-whites without getting caught. He continued: "I seen what Dylann Roof did and in my heart I reckon I got a little bit of hatred and I..I want to do that s***. Like, I got desire, not for nobody else...it just...I want something where i can say, 'I f****** did that'...me personally."

He also discussed his beliefs in white power and indicated a hatred for non-whites. He continued: "If I could do something on a f****** big scale and write on the f****** building or whatever, 'In the spirit of Dylann Roof.'" McDowell told the officer he had not decided on a place or time to conduct the attack.

The next day, McDowell requested in a phone call with the agent a .40 caliber handgun to conduct an attack on an unknown location outside the county where he lived, the complaint states.

After another racist Facebook post and more conversations with the agent, McDowell planned to meet again in person to discuss the plan for the attack, according to the document.

The complaint states that on February 15, McDowell met with the agent as planned and purchased a .40 caliber Glock, the firing pin of which had been shaved down without McDowell's knowledge, and hollow point ammunition.

Later that same day, agents saw McDowell holding a bag in the parking lot of the Hampton Inn in Myrtle Beach, and he was arrested and searched, the document states. Agents found a marijuana cigarette, a cell phone, the handgun and the ammunition.

McDowell appeared in a federal courtroom in Florence Thursday morning for an initial appearance on a charge of felon in possession of a firearm or ammunition. The prosecution requested a preliminary hearing and detention hearing by held at the same time, Tuesday, February 21 at 2:30 p.m. McDowell had not hired an attorney and was represented by a state-appointed attorney. McDowell will be booked at the Florence County Detention Center.

The suspect's mother said Thursday she does not think her son is guilty.

"I love him very much and I hope the community does not judge us on this," McDowell's mother said.

Rabbi Avi Perets of the Temple Emanu-El Conservative Synagogue in Myrtle Beach  said he was not able to comment at this time under advice of the FBI, but said his hat was off to the police and he is beyond thankful that this potential threat was caught and stopped.

Read the complete criminal complaint filed by the FBI in U.S. District Court below:

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