But before Roof, 21, disappeared behind bars, he left a trail of images that help to tell his story.
The world was introduced to Roof in a grainy surveillance shot that showed him at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
There, authorities say, he opened fire on a Bible study group, killing nine. He wasn't there by accident.
CNN Charlotte affiliate WBTV
, citing a source, reported that Roof told investigators that he researched the church and targeted it because it turned out to be a "historic African-American church."
All of his victims were black.
The surveillance shot was distributed by the Charleston Police Department, which described Roof as a "younger white male," having a "slender build," and a height of about 5 feet, 9 inches.
Not much is known about Roof's early life. The gunman was born to divorced parents, and he shuffled between his mother's and father's homes as a child. Roof flunked the ninth grade, twice, before dropping out.
John Mullins, who attended White Knoll High School with Roof, told CNN that Roof was "kind of wild," but he wasn't violent. He was a heavy drinker, and he liked to smoke marijuana, but he also dabbled in a harder variety of drugs. In February, he was arrested at a mall for possession of Suboxone -- medication used to treat heroin addiction -- because he didn't have a prescription for it.
In an image tweeted by South Carolina authorities, Roof can be seen wearing a jacket with the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and nearby Rhodesia, a former British colony that a white minority ruled until 1980 and its name was changed to Zimbabwe.
Roof also had a website, which was called "The Last Rhodesian." Along with a long, hate-filled racist manifesto, the site includes photos of Roof burning an American flag, taking aim with a pistol and posing proudly at places connected to the Confederacy.
Roof was arrested in Shelby, North Carolina, some 245 miles (395 kilometers) from Charleston. Police pulled him over and took Roof into custody without incident. A still from dash cam video shows him walking calmly with officers, his hands behind his back.
Roof waived extradition and returned to South Carolina.
In searching for Roof, the Charleston Police Department got help from his family.
The arrest warrant reads: "The father and the uncle of the defendant contacted CPD and positively identified the defendant and his vehicle as those they saw in the photographs. Further, the defendant's father told investigators that his son owns a .45-caliber handgun."
His mugshot shows an expressionless young man staring straight into the camera.
Wearing a striped inmate jumpsuit, Roof appeared Friday by video feed at a bond hearing in Charleston. He stood motionless while listening to the anguished words of relatives of victims he gunned down Wednesday night at the church.
He barely spoke at the hearing, answering the judge's questions about his unemployment with a "yes, sir" and "no, sir" and stating his age as 21. The video feed meant Roof could hear, but not see, people in the courtroom, according to court employees. People in the courtroom could see and hear Roof.
The judge set a $1 million bond on the possession of a firearm count but no bond on the murder charges.
Besides the racist manifesto, Roof's website features 60 photographs. It's not clear who took any of the photos, which were shot between August 3, 2014, and June 17, with the majority shot in March and April.
Roof appears alone in many of them, never smiling. The other pictures show objects or landscapes and no other people.
In one image, Roof is shown burning the American flag.
In another image, he holds a small Confederate flag.
The website is bare bones. Roof's name doesn't appear anywhere on the site, but he is shown in many of the photos.
An Internet ownership search shows the website was registered to Roof and listed as the administrator. The ownership search listed not only Roof's name, but his address in South Carolina, his email and his phone.
In yet another photograph from his site, Roof is seen sitting on a low chair in what looks like a back yard with potted flowers on both sides and in front of him.
He gazes into the camera over sunglasses that have slipped down to the end of his nose while holding a pistol in one hand and a small Confederate flag in the other.