Conway man accused of planning Dylann Roof style attack pleads not guilty

McDowell is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – The Conway man accused of planning a Dylann Roof style attack on non-whites was in federal court Tuesday morning.

Benjamin Thomas Samuel McDowell is charged with felon in possession of a firearm or ammunition, according to court documents. The 29-year-old man was arrested Feb. 15 after reportedly purchasing a gun from an undercover FBI agent to use in his attack. As a convicted felon, McDowell cannot have a firearm in his possession.

McDowell appeared in court Feb. 21 where his lawyer waived McDowell’s preliminary hearing. McDowell’s lawyer, Bill Nettles, explained that he needed more information about the case before he could move forward. At that time, no motion was made regarding a bond for McDowell, and he remained in jail until Tuesday morning, where he was again in court.

Sharon Welch, Deputy to the clerk of court, says McDowell entered a not guilty plea Tuesday morning on a charge of felon in possession of a firearm or ammunition. No bond was set and McDowell remains in jail following Tuesday’s hearing.

FBI agents characterize McDowell as a white supremacist who illegally bought a gun he planned to use in an attack against “non-whites” similar to the Charleston church shootings.

McDowell’s mother, Joann Clewis, has a different perspective on her son, and the crime for which he’s charged.

“I raised him better than that. Me and my ex-husband had him in church every Sunday, and if he (ex-husband) didn’t go, I had my youngin there when I was able to go,” said Clewis.

Clewis spoke on camera with News13’s Taylor Herlong where she explained McDowell’s reaction to Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof.

“He just said that that boy (referring to Roof) was brave, and he made headlines as a white boy, but he said he (Roof) was wrong to go in the church and shoot up like he did, and he said, he (Roof) stood up for the white people,” recalls Clewis.

Clewis said she had no idea her son was planning any type of attack, and was shocked when FBI agents pounded on her door Wednesday morning.

McDowell’s next court hearing has not yet been set.