The North Carolina woman whose phone call led to the arrest Dylann Roof, the white man suspected of killing nine people at an African-American church, almost went on her way to work without reporting the suspicious car.
"I thought, 'No,' that didn’t — that’s not who I’m thinking it is. Why would he be here? What would he be doing here?" Debbie Dills recalled in an interview with NBC News.
"I went ahead and got off on my exit to come here. But something kept nagging at me. You know: What if? What if?" she said.
Dills called a friend, Todd Frady, to ask what she should do, and he called Kings Mountain Police.
That department reported the suspicious sighting to Shelby police and an officer stopped Roof’s car at 10:44 a.m. and took Roof into custody, Shelby police said in a statement.
Roof allegedly opened fire on a Bible study group at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, at around 9 p.m. Wednesday, killing nine people in what investigators believe was a hate crime.
The victims ranged in age from 26 to 87. Among those slain was the church’s pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was also a state senator. Roof was transported from North Carolina to South Carolina Thursday.
Dills, in a town about 245 miles away from Charleston, watched news coverage of the killings. She was driving to work at Frady’s Florist when she thought she recognized a black car ahead. It had a South Carolina license plate. About a half-mile later, she spotted Roof’s distinctive bowl haircut.
After taking the exit, Dills turned off to catch up with the car, with Frady relaying information to the police. Even after she caught up to and got behind Roof’s car, she had doubts.
"This can’t be real, this is not him. Even though it was possible that it could be, it wasn’t him," Dills recalled thinking. "And I was probably overreacting, because everybody that knows me knows I overreact."
Dills turned around and left after being told that Shelby police had units in the area. She said Frady told her a short time later the man she’d noticed was in fact the suspected killer, and he was in custody.
"When he told me that ... I said to myself and to the Lord, you had me where you needed me to be," Dills said.