S.C. man sentenced for plotting Dylann Roof-inspired attack

Benjamin Thomas Samuel McDowell was sentenced to 33 months in prison on a charge of felony possession of a firearm for purchasing a weapon to carry out an attack "in the spirit of Dylann Roof." Photo courtesy Horry County Sheriff's Office

July 12 (UPI) — A South Carolina man who illegally purchased a gun and threatened to carry out a Dylann Roof-inspired attack was sentenced to nearly three years in prison Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Bryan Harwell sentenced Benjamin Thomas Samuel McDowell, 31, to 33 months in prison and three years of supervised release on a charge of felony possession of a firearm.

The charge carried a possible maximum prison term of 10 years, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

McDowell’s lawyer, assistant federal defender in charge Bill Nettles, told South Carolina’s The Post and Courier newspaper it was not his job to comment on the appropriateness of a judge’s ruling in the sentencing.

“That range does not take into account any mitigating factors such as mental health issues and cognitive disabilities,” Nettles said. “Even though I pointed out those mitigating factors, the judge gave Mr. McDowell the high end of the guideline range.”

McDowell pleaded guilty to the firearm charge in February after he was arrested by the FBI for illegally purchasing a handgun from an undercover agent.

He bought a .40-caliber Glock with a filed-down firing pin and hollow-point ammunition, which he planned to use in an attack targeting the Temple Emanu-El Conservative Synagogue in Myrtle Beach.

McDowell said he wanted to spray paint “in the spirit of Dylann Roof” on the building after the attack, as an ode to the massacre Roof carried out inside a black church that killed nine people in Charleston in 2015.

McDowell’s mother, Joann Clewis, said she was aware of his admiration for Roof, but didn’t know he was planning an attack.

“He just said that that boy was brave, and he made headlines as a white boy, but he said he was wrong to go in the church and shoot up like he did, and he said, he stood up for the white people,” she said after the arrest.

In discussions with the undercover FBI agent, McDowell expressed hatred for Jews and non-whites and “voiced apparent frustration with other white supremacists, stating that screaming ‘white power’ was not getting the job done.”

McDowell served 18 months in prison for a felony second-degree burglary conviction in 2011.


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