Lindsey Graham's niece went to school with shooting suspect

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP senators introduce bill targeting Palestinian 'martyr payments' Bipartisan senators earmark billion to support democracies globally Democrats see Christmas goal slipping away MORE’s niece is a former classmate of the man suspected of killing nine people at a black church in Charleston, S.C.

"He was quiet, strange, very unsocial and everyone thought he was on drugs," Graham told CNN about Dylann Roof, the shooting suspect who was taken into custody Thursday morning. Roof was a student in an 8th grade English class with Graham’s niece, Emily.


Graham (R-S.C.), who is running for president, referred to Roof as “twisted” and “whacked out” in the brief interview with CNN. He added that his niece told him that she didn’t remember Roof making any racial remarks during their time in class together.

The senator said he never met Roof personally, but his sister, Darline, and her daughter, Emily, shared their assessment with him. 

Authorities arrested Roof in North Carolina the morning after he allegedly sat inside the Emanuel African Methodist Church for an hour during Bible study and then opened fire. Police arrested him during a traffic stop at about 11 a.m. on Thursday.

One of the people killed in the assault was state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who also served as the church’s pastor.

Officials have not elaborated on a possible motive. Roof’s profile picture on Facebook seems to show him wearing patches of the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia, an unofficial African state that pushed for a white-majority government over a black-majority populace.

The deaths have shaken the South Carolina community. A tearful Gov. Nikki Haley (R) told reporters Thursday morning that “we woke up today and the heart and soul of South Carolina was broken.”

A number of politicians from outside of the Palmetto State have given their condolences, including President Obama.

Obama lamented that “once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun,” Obama said.

“At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries,” he said.