It's been a little over a year since a jury found Dylann Roof guilty on 33 charges in relation to the tragic Charleston church massacre. Now it has become clear that we've avoided a potential copycat.
According to WMBF News, Benjamin McDowell pleaded guilty in a federal court to a weapons charge this week, and said he was planning an attack "in the spirit of Dylann Roof."
The South Carolina white supremacist was arrested after posting an anti-Semitic creed that said "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*cking Viking and swords all the sh*t 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*ck up."
McDowell was charged with a felon in possession of a firearm. He faces up to 10 years in prison, and must serve 85 percent of the sentence. He could be fined up to 250,000, with a maximum period of supervised release of three years and a special assessment of $100.
Horry County police informed the FBI of McDowell's history, including being involved with white supremacy extremist groups while serving time in prison for other criminal offenses, and bearing white supremacist-affiliated tattoos. It was the weapon charge, however, that really got things set into motion.
“[The FBI] had strong evidence and a strong case that he attempted to buy the gun illegally; that’s what I would tend to conclude," said criminal defense attorney Greg McCollum, of the Complete Legal Defense Team. "Given the nature of how things are now, and certainly the sensitivity that people have, I would think if there was any way to charge him or bring other kind of charges or even go to trial, that they would have done everything possible to do that. I tend to think that probably wasn’t there and that’s why the government entered into the plea with him for the felony possession of a firearm.”
McCollum also commended the FBI for preemptively acting on this potential threat, given the current concern around law enforcement's difficulties in preventing mass shootings.