In June of 2015, Dylann Roof opened fire during a prayer meeting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Roof’s senseless killing left nine Black churchgoers dead, including the pastor.
At the time of the crime, he was arrested and charged with nine counts of murder and one count possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.
Now, after more than two years, the case has come to a close resulting in Roof being sentenced to death.
On Tuesday, November 7, jurors began deliberating over whether or not the 22-year-old should be given the death penalty or life in prison. After only two hours of deliberating, all 12 jury members came to the unanimous decision of death penalty.
His sentence not only brings justice to the victims’ families and the Black community but also makes history as the first death penalty verdict to be rendered in a federal hate crime case.
Melvin Graham, brother of slain churchgoer Cynthia Hurd stated, “today we have justice for my sister …[but it is a] very hollow victory because my sister’s still gone. I wish that this verdict could have brought her back.”
“It’s a hard thing to know that someone [Roof] is going to lose their life. But when you look at the totality of what happened, it’s hard to say that this person deserves to live.”
Roof’s family was also in attendance during the trial.
“We will always love Dylann,” said the Roof family.
“We will struggle as long as we live to understand why he committed this horrible attack, which caused so much pain to so many good people. We wish to express the grief we feel for the victims of his crimes, and our sympathy to the many families he has hurt. We continue to pray for the Emanuel AME families and the Charleston community.”
In his closing argument, Roof stated that no one in their right mind would want to go into a church and kill people. However, in his confession to the FBI, he told them he had to do it.
“But obviously that’s not really true. I didn’t have to do it, and no one made me do it,” Roof said, according to WCIV. “What I meant when I said that was I felt like I had to do it, and I still feel like I had to do it.”
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson, Roof scouted the Emanuel AME Church, months before calling, and visiting church. He later purchased the murder weapon with his birthday money.
Richardson also expressed that Roof had a website where he “shared his message of hate” and that he mentally and physically prepared for the shooting by taking photos of himself with the gun pointed at the camera and recording video of his target practice.
“He chose to videotape himself doing it so he could see the very last images these victims would see,” said Richardson according to WCIV. “He wanted to see what he would look like as he stood over them, executing them.”
“This is calculated. Misguided but thoughtful. He spent years acquiring this deep hatred, this deep hatred we would all like to believe could not exist in someone. But it does. You’ve seen it.”
Although the verdict has been set for the federal death penalty case, Roof will still have to face a state trial in which he may face the death penalty again.
“No verdict can bring back the nine we lost that day at Mother Emanuel,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch in a statement.
“And no verdict can heal the wounds of the five church members who survived the attack or the souls of those who lost loved ones to Roof’s callous hand. But we hope that the completion of the prosecution provides the people of Charleston — and the people of our nation — with a measure of closure.”