She drove past Dylann Roof’s black car, which she recognised from the news, and looked at the driver and also recognised his haircut
A North Carolina florist is being hailed a hero for alerting police when she spotted the suspected gunman’s car and then tailed him for nearly 50 kilometre until authorities arrested him, hours after the massacre of nine black worshippers in one of the worst hate crimes in US history.
Debbie Dills, 51, was driving to work on Thursday through Shelby, North Carolina -- about four hours’ drive from Charleston -- when she spotted a black Hyundai with a South Carolina plate and a confederate flag.
“I don’t know what drew my attention to the car,” she told CNN. “There was just something inside of me that said it just didn’t look right to me,” she said.
When she pulled up alongside, she saw the driver’s blond bowl haircut and immediately called her boss, Todd Frady.
Police had earlier launched a massive manhunt and identified the gunman as 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof.
Roof is suspected of killing nine people, including pastor and South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney, during a prayer meeting at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston on Wednesday night.
Dills said she saw the people on TV praying, asking God to help someone find the killer. Dills believes God used her to answer those prayers.
As soon as she informed her boss, he got in touch with the Kings Mountain police while Dills started driving again in an attempt to catch the Hyundai so that she could report the licence plate number.
She caught up with Roof at a stoplight and was right behind him. “I was very nervous,” she said.
Roof continued to drive and by the time Shelby police caught up with her, she had driven nearly 50 km, following the suspect.
Shelby police then pulled Roof over and took him into custody. Dills said Roof never adjusted his speed or driving.
“He wasn’t doing anything abnormal,” she said. “He wasn’t driving slow. He was just driving. He just kept going,” she added.
“Just after the arrest, three of them from KingsMountain were standing right over there. Thanking me and shaking my hand,” she was quoted as saying by the Shelby Star.
Haley demands death penalty for gunman
Meanwhile, Indian-American governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley said the 21-year-old gunman should get the death penalty. “We will absolutely want him to have the death penalty,” Haley told NBC News.
Haley also has asked people of South Carolina to stay calm and maintain peace, a day after the deadly shootout in Charleston.
“We’ve got some pain we have to go through. Parents have to explain to their kids how they can go to church and feel safe, and that’s not something we ever thought we’d deal with,” Haley said.
“There is a lot of prayer in this state. (The families of the victims) need us and the people of South Carolina need us to come together and be strong for what has happened,” she said as she battled her emotions during the news conference.
“We allow ourselves to grieve, we allow ourselves to pray, we allow ourselves to question why this happens and then we allow ourselves to heal,” she said.