Dylann Roof, the man suspected of fatally shooting nine people at a historic African American church in South Carolina on Wednesday, was given a gun by his father as a 21st birthday present in April, his uncle told Reuters on Thursday.
Law enforcement officers were at the home of Roof's mother on Thursday morning, the uncle, Carson Cowles, said in a telephone interview.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation identified the gunman as Roof on Thursday.
Cowles said he recognized Roof in a photo released by police, and described him as quiet and soft-spoken. Roof's father gave him a .45-caliber pistol for his birthday this year, Cowles said.
"Nobody in my family had seen anything like this coming," Cowles said. "I said, if it is him, and when they catch him, he's got to pay for this."
He said he had told his sister, Roof's mother, several years ago that Roof was too introverted.
"I said he was like 19 years old, he still didn't have a job, a driver's license or anything like that and he just stayed in his room a lot of the time," Cowles said.
A woman who answered the cellphone of the suspect's mother Amelia Roof, also known as Amy, declined to comment.
"We will be doing no interviews ever," she said, before hanging up.
(Reporting by Emily Flitter; Writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by James Dalgleish and Bernadette Baum)