Vinson: When do you report death threats?

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As my deceased mother, a highly religious woman, said many times "Toward the End of Time Satan will go on a rampage taking as many victims with him as possible!"

Tragically, that saying came to "life" (to sadly pun) on Wednesday/June 17, 2015, at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a.k.a. Emanuel AME, in Charleston, South Carolina. A historical landmark, Emanuel AME is the "oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the South."

Slight in stature, his overall appearance accented by an unkempt "bowl" haircut and a "lost" gaze in his eyes, Dylan Roof, a 21-year-old white man, native of South Carolina, was sitting amongst black Emanuel AME as congregates during a service being held June 17. Minus extraneous provocation, Roof stood up, opened fire with a .45 caliber handgun--which he reportedly received from his father as a 21st birthday gift--and shot to death 9 black people and wounding one.

With a nation-wide, all-points bulletin immediately issued, Dylan Roof was arrested on Thursday/June 18, in Shelby, North Carolina. By all accounts, Roof confessed to the multiple murders.

Two factors render this mass slaying particularly heinous: (1) It took place inside a church, where folks go to worship a Higher Power. (2) It was racially motivated: The Emanuel AME murders merely stoked the raging racial fire that threatens to consume America, if not quickly doused by someone, somehow!
If what we read/hear is true, the highly disturbed Dylan Roof, for whatever reason, had ideologically connected with the white supremacist movement and in the process had developed a morbid hatred for the black race. Disturbingly interesting is on a seemingly legitimate Facebook posting, Roof is seen wearing a jacket with two flags: one symbolizing the South Africa apartheid era; the other symbolizing Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe, Africa), where violent apartheid also existed before governmental policy changes.

The reason I say "disturbingly interesting" is the relatively young Roof went beyond the clueless beginner's intro of, "I'll get some white supremacist jailhouse tats on my arms and be a bad-ass hatemonger!" Rather, Dylan Roof took the time to study up on the histories of South Africa and Rhodesia.
(NOTE: Zimbabwe and South Africa border each other. The definition of "apartheid" is: a former social system in South Africa in which black people and people from other racial groups did not have the same political and economic rights as white people and were forced to live separately from white people.)
Dalton Tyler, 21, Dylan Roof's roommate, was quoted by "ABC News" as saying; "He [Roof] was big into segregation and other stuff. He said he wanted to start a civil war. He said he was going to do something like that and then kill himself." Tyler also admitted knowing Roof was planning something like the Emanuel AME attacks for "six months." Still, there are reports Roof had voiced his violent intentions to other friends.

About the Emanuel AME tragedy, I heard an anchorwoman on "Fox News" ask a legal analyst if any of Dylan Roof's friends could be held accountable for not alerting law enforcement about Roof's statements.

In no way taking up for Dylan Roof's actions, I'm going to play devil's advocate here: A friend tells you he/she is planning a mass murder. However, the friend (unlike Roof) has a clean background. So, you go to law enforcement and advise them of the friend's diabolical plan. Authorities go question your friend, and the friend says, "I never said that. He/she must be crazy!" There is no solid proof; it's your word against his/her word. Next thing you know, you're subpoenaed to court on charges of defamation of character!

On the other hand, you think the matter through and decide not to alert authorities. Alas, a couple days later, your friend guns down 9 innocent people in cold blood! Guilt-ridden you tell the media the friend told you about his/her plan to commit murder. Will-should-you be held accountable?

So, law enforcement, here's a question for you: Precisely "what" separates alerting authorities regarding a potentially threatening statement made to you versus keeping quiet about it?

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Mike Vinson
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