By Victor Ochieng
A 30-year-old white supremacist could face up to 10 years behind bars after he illegally purchased a firearm authorities believe he was planning to use to stage a hate crime attack similar to the deadly Charleston, South Carolina church shooting in 2015.
Benjamin McDowell pleaded guilty to illegal possession of a gun, according to reports by different news outlets. His sentence could also see him fined $250,000.
Investigators started following up on McDowell’s case after he took to social media in December 2016 to threaten Myrtle Beach synagogue. Local detectives tagged him and were keenly watching his activities after he started making friends with white supremacist organizations and got tattoos linked to racist groups while in prison on a felony burglary charge, reports FBI.
According to court records, McDowell revealed to an undercover FBI agent that he wanted to get a gun and had plans of using it to attack a place and write on the attacked building: “In the name of Dylann Roof,” says court records. Roof was last year sentenced to death following a racist mass shooting at a Charleston church, an attack that left nine black worshipers dead.
“I seen what Dylann Roof did and in my heart I reckon I got a little bit of hatred,” the undercover officer recalled McDowell telling him.
McDowell’s criminal records didn’t allow him to purchase a gun and that’s why he wanted the FBI officer to help him get one. As soon as he got the gun, he was arrested.
Because it was all under a plan, the gun that was sold to McDowell had it’s firing pin trimmed down so it wouldn’t fire. He got both the gun and the ammunition for $109, an amount he’d borrowed from his grandfather.
The whole time McDowell didn’t know he was being investigated and that the officers were already following up on his case after he started sharing his racist feelings on the internet.
McDowell complained to the undercover agent about other white supremacist groups saying, “screaming ‘white power’ was not getting the job done.” He expressed his desire to execute Roof-like killings, telling the undercover agent: “I seen what Dylann Roof did and in my heart I reckon I got a little bit of hatred … I want to do that sh*t.”
In South Carolina alone, McDowell has been apprehended seven times by law enforcement on different charges, including assault, malicious harm to animals, littering, marijuana possession among others.