He was welcomed to a Bible study group in the basement of Emanuel A.M.E Church by a group of kindhearted churchgoers. People he would end up later shooting and killing. On Thursday, a jury convicted Dylann Roof of murdering nine black parishioners in 2015, and while his conviction might not offer closure, at least an element of justice has been carried out.
On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof spent an hour with the parishioners of the Emanuel A.M.E. Church, laughing and talking as though he didn't have a care in the world. As though he wasn't concealing a hand gun. As though he hadn't published a racist manifesto insisting that "segregation wasn't a bad thing". Instead, he waited until the congregation stood together in prayer with their eyes closed and opened fire.
Roof killed nine people that night, driving away from the scene of the crime to North Carolina. When he was caught and confessed his crime to the FBI, he admitted he would have killed more black people if he hadn't been too "worn out." Despite Roof's lack of remorse, his Defense Attorney, David Bruck, attempted to paint a picture of a man who was an outcast, a man who lacked human contact and empathy. Bruck told the jury that "There is something wrong with his perception," adding that he hoped they could "Look past the surface things."
The jury deliberated for just two hours before convicting 22-year-old Roof on a variety of charges, including religious obstruction, hate crimes, and firearms crimes. Roof's face remained emotionless throughout the sentencing, although he does plan to act as his own attorney during the sentencing hearing. The same jurors will be present for the Jan. 3 hearing, and will decide whether Roof will be sentenced to life in prison without parole or given the death penalty.
Roof, a self-radicalized white supremacist, was hoping to incite a race war when he opened fire in the historic Emanuel A.M.E. Church 18 months ago. He published a racist manifesto online before he committed the crime, admitting that he hadn't been raised to be racist but came to change his thinking after he began following the racist website Council of Conservative Citizens. Roof asserted in his manifesto that slavery was a myth and that segregation was a positive way to protect white people from blacks. Perhaps most disturbing; he ended the mostly incoherent rant by writing of his future hate crime:
I have no choice. I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.
There were three survivors of Roof's attack on Emanuel Church, Felicia Sanders, Polly Sheppard, and Sanders' granddaughter (known only as K.M. to protect the identity of a minor). Both Sheppard and Sanders offered testimony for the prosecution; According to The New York Times, Sheppard told the jury that Roof approached her as he left the church, asking her if she was injured. When she said she wasn't, he replied:
"I'm going to leave you to tell the story."
On Thursday, Roof was convicted of all 33 charges brought against him. For once, though it didn't mean much, justice had been done.