|Parishioners gather outside of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcol Church in downtown Charleston. Photo courtesy of CNN.|
In Charleston, South Carolina just a short year and a half ago, a self-radicalized young white supremacist opened fire on parishioners at the historical Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, killing nine and fleeing on what would become an overnight manhunt, and cause the eventual flag removal of the Confederate colors outside of South Carolina’s city hall.
Police reports of the scene explained how Dylann Roof entered the church at about 9:00 PM during a Bible study, and opened fire. By the closure of the night’s events, eight had died at the church and two were rushed to the Medical University of South Carolina hospital, where unfortunately one of them would die on the way.
“To walk into a church and shoot someone, is out of pure hatred,” South Carolina mayor Joseph P. Riley Junior said after a news conference in response to the event.
As of today, Roof has been confirmed to be convicted of all thirty-three counts in connection with the June 2015 shooting. According to the federal indictment against him issued earlier today, Roof entered the church armed, "with the intent of killing African-Americans engaged in the exercise of their religious beliefs."
The various counts include hate crimes resulting in death and obstruction of exercise in religion resulting in death.
The court will reconvene next month to hear more testimony and weigh the possibility of the death penalty. Roof also faces a death penalty state trial on nine counts of murder.
During the course of the trial, the defense attempted to cite Roof’s mental health as a potential factor in the massacre, but was quickly dismissed by the judge as unrelated to his guilt or innocence.
The prosecutor’s dramatic closing argument filled the room with tension as he raised his voice, called Roof a “cold, calculated killer” and showed pictures of the victims taken prior to the crime.
The three survivors of the shooting were also present at the trial. One, Felicia Sanders has created a simple, yet powerful gesture to honor the victims of the event.
"I wear a smile, because if you look at the pictures of all nine, they're smiling," Sanders said.
In response to the outcome of today’s trial, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley threw her support behind the decision, and reached out to South Carolinians with a compassionate statement.
"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," Governor Haley said.