South Carolina man who planned Dylann Roof "copycat" attack sent to prison

Benjamin McDowell (Williamsburg County Detention Center).jpg
Benjamin McDowell (Williamsburg County Detention Center)

A federal court in South Carolina on Wednesday sentenced a would-be Dylann Roof copycat to just under 3 years in federal prison on a weapons charge.

A judge gave Benjamin Thomas Samuel McDowell, 31, a 2-year and 9-month sentence following a conviction for being a felon in possession of a weapon.

The sentence reflects mental health issues McDowell reportedly suffers, according to federal prosecutors. McDowell will undergo mental health counseling as part of his sentence.

The FBI first started monitoring McDowell in early 2017 after he made social media posts praising Dylann Roof and white supremacy, prosecutors say.

The FBI was particularly concerned about a post McDowell made regarding threats to a specific synagogue in the Horry County area.

McDowell sought out guns with which to carry out an attack, allowing an undercover agent posing as a white supremacist to get close to McDowell, the U.S. Attorney's Office says.

The agent recorded multiple conversations where McDowell said he admired Dylann Roof and threatened violence against Jewish and Muslim people.

The recordings showed McDowell had no specific intended target, but he was taking steps to commit an act of violence.

Prosecutors showed McDowell purchased two guns from the undercover agent.

Those guns were modified by the agent so they would not fire.

Police arrested McDowell in Feb. 2017. He pleaded guilty in Feb. 2018.