'I'm no hero, I was scared,' North Carolina florist after car chase & tip leads to Charleston gunman

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
Debbie Dills, a bi-vocational music minister who also works at a flower shop in Shelby North Carolina spotted suspected Charleston church gunmen on her way to work. | Screenshot MyFox Atlanta

SHELBY, N.C. (Christian Examiner) -- A North Carolina woman was praying while driving to work Thursday morning when she spotted a black Hyundai nearby. Moments later Debbie Dills made a call that led police to the suspected gunman who opened fire at a Charleston South Carolina Church Wednesday night.

"I had been praying for those people on my way to work," The Shelby Star reported Dills, a bi-vocational music minister at West Cramerton Baptist Church said. She was at church when the massacre happened and said the news deeply stirred her.

Those people were in their church just trying to learn the word of God and trying to serve. When I saw a picture of that pastor this morning, my heart just sank.

Noting that it was about 10:30 a.m. and she had been running late to the florist shop where she also works, Dills added, "I was in the right place at the right time that the Lord puts you."

Dylann Roof, 21, was on the run for 14 hours Thursday morning when Dills spotted him 250 miles away from Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church where he shot and killed nine people, including Pastor Clementa Pinckney who also served as a South Carolina State Senator.

Dills said she was initially uncertain that the car belonged to Roof. Then as she pulled closer to the vehicle she recognized the young killer from a photo she had seen on the news.

"I was in church last night myself. I had seen the news coverage before I went to bed and started praying for those families down there," she said.

Uncertain what to do, she called her boss Todd Frady who contacted a friend in law enforcement at the Kings Mountain Police Department.

"I think this is the guy from Charleston who shot the people. I'm right beside him," she told Frady according to The Guardian.

Though it seemed improbable that Roof was in the car, she continued to pray and then decided to follow the car westbound on U.S. 47 until authorities had found the car.  "Everything inside of me said it's possible, but everything inside of me didn't want to believe it either," she said.

In all she tailed Roof for 35 miles before authorities pulled him over to arrest him.  Dills described her pursuit as eerily normal. 

"He wasn't doing anything abnormal," she said. "He wasn't driving slow. He was just driving. He just kept going."

Hailed as hero, the florist is redirecting the praise she is receiving for helping to arrest Roof, back to God.

"I'm no hero, I was scared," she told My Fox Atlanta. Her only comfort was knowing that if Roof shot at her she would "be in glory with her brothers and sisters," the victims who had killed the day before.

Yet Dills went unnoticed by the gunman for 20 minutes as she drove behind him to ensure authorities would find the car.

"It was God who made this happen," she said. "It don't have nothing to do with Debbie. It don't have nothing to do with Todd. It's all about Him."

Dills also pointed to the power of prayer.

"He (God) answered the prayers of those people who were praying in Charleston last night, who were holding hands and praying."