Dylann Roof Convicted in S.C. Killings
A jury in Charleston, S.C. has found Dylann Roof guilty on all counts in his federal hate crimes trial connected to the shooting death of nine people at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in 2015.
Roof, 22, was charged with a total of 33 crimes in connection with the slayings including 12 hate crimes, which include the nine he killed and the three he attempted to kill; 12 counts of obstruction of religion against those same people; and nine counts of use of a firearm to kill.
His victims: Cynthia Hurd, 54; Susie Jackson, 87; Ethel Lance, 70; DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49; Rev. Clementa Pinkney, 41; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Daniel Simmons, 74; Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45; and Myra Thompson, 59. Three others survived the massacre including one who Roof spared so he could tell others what had happened.
His attorneys offered little in the way of defense, but portrayed him as a demented individual who became skewed by racist rantings he found online. But prosecutors told jurors they should hold Roof completely accountable offering evidence and testimony that showed malicious intent. One witness called him simply “evil, evil, evil.”
He stood motionless as the jury foreman read each count on which jurors had found him guilty. They will return to the courtroom on Jan. 3 for the penalty phase. Roof has opted to represent himself in that part of the proceedings, with his current defense attorneys stepping down into an advisory position.
Jurors could recommend sentencing for Roof or the federal death penalty.
A loner who has espoused violent racist sentiments for years, Roof began his plot to kill Blacks at least two years ago when he began to visit historical sites that were connected to Black history around the Charleston area. He settled on Emanuel A.M.E. because the area because of its deep roots and strong historical ties, he said in a taped confession. It is the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the southern U.S. and one of the oldest independent Black congregations in the country.
Eventually he developed and wrote a White supremacist “manifesto” that he put online that speaks of his extreme hatred for Blacks, Jews, Hispanics and others. In his skewed mindset, he defends racism as a logical way of thinking in his belief that Blacks are subhuman.
“Segregation did not exist to hold back negroes,” Roof wrote. “It existed to protect us from them…Not only did it protect us from having to interact with them, and from being physically harmed by them, but it protected us from being brought down to their level.”
That led to Roof purchasing a .45 caliber Glock handgun from a gun dealership called Shooter’s Choice in West Colombia, S.C. Although he denied having used any drugs in the past on a required form, Roof told police in early 2015 that he using a controlled substance illegally, which should have prevented him from buying a gun under federal rules.
The FBI failed to recognize the red flag in Roof’s record and he went on to pass the three-day waiting period to purchase a firearm. On April 16, 2015, he brought the Glock and three magazines. Eleven days later he purchased more magazines. On June 17 he attended a bible study at Mother Emanuel, then opened fire on the unsuspecting attendees as they prayed.
“In that moment, a man of immense hatred walked that room shooting person after person after person, stopping only so he could reload more magazines and kill more people,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams told the jury in closing arguments. “It was an act of tremendous cowardice, shooting people as they have their eyes closed in prayer, shooting them on the ground.”
Although Roof may face the death penalty on the federal charges, he must still face state murder charges. In those he is charged with nine counts of murder, and one count of possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has called for the death penalty in that case. Proceedings begin Jan. 17.