Dylann Roof found guilty of racially-motivated killings at Charleston church

Roof was found guilty of all 33 counts – 24 of which were hate crimes – for the June 2015 shooting, during which he shot dead nine people

Feliks Garcia
New York
,Rachael Revesz
Thursday 15 December 2016 21:27 GMT
The 22-year-old will represent himself at the sentencing phase in January
The 22-year-old will represent himself at the sentencing phase in January (Charleston County Sheriff's Office/Getty)

South Carolina jurors have found Dylann Roof guilty for the mass shooting at the historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Jurors convicted the self-identified white supremacist for all 33 charges against him – 24 of which fall under federal hate crime statutes – for the June 2015 massacre during which he shot dead nine people.

The same jury will now decide whether to give Roof, 22, the death penalty as they enter the sentencing phase.

Those deliberations will begin on 3 January. Roof said he planned to represent himself.

The jury only took a few hours to announce their verdict. After asking to see Roof's confession tape one more time, they convicted Roof of nine counts of hate crimes resulting in death, three counts of hate crimes involving an attempt to kill – there were three survivors – nine counts of obstructing the exercise of religion resulting in death, three counts of that charge with an attempt to kill, and nine counts of using a firearm to commit murder during a crime of violence.

South Carolina governor Nikki Haley issued a statement once news of the verdict broke: "It is my hope that the survivors, the families, and the people of South Carolina can find some peace in the fact that justice has been served."

Roof walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on 17 June 2015, where he was welcomed to join the prayer group, before carrying out the long-planned attack.

The trial started on 7 December, and Roof's defense lawyer said his client was responsible for the "astonishing, horrible attack".

Dylann Roof in court

Prosecutors used two racist manifestors that he wrote while awaiting trial, claiming that white people were dominant over African American people. Investigators also discovered a stash of images he posted, posing beside Confederate flags, slave plantations and holding a Glock pistol – the weapon he allegedly used at the church shooting.

He told investigators he wanted to start a race war. Yet within 48 hours of the attack, relatives of five of the victims appeared publicly to forgive the shooter.

The attack had been long planned, involving researching churches in the state, scouting the AME church in advance at least half a dozen times, and practising shooting in his back yard.

On the day of the attack, he allegedly entered the church through a side door and joined a bible study session. Roof took a seat in a pew. It was only when the congregation closed their eyes that they heard the eruption of gunfire.

USA: Church shooting survivor gives emotional statement to Dylann Roof in court

He had concealed a .45 Glock in his waistband, and fired magazine after magazine, stricking his victims at least 60 times.

The verdict will be welcome relief for civil rights activists after white former police officer Michael Slager walked free after being tried for shooting dead black man Walter Scott as he ran away. Slager was in the cell next to Roof, but was tried in a different court house.

The judge in the case declared a mistrial as the jury were unable to reach a unanimous verdict.

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