Jurors view gruesome evidence of shooting at Emanuel AME

Government presents crime scene photos


Security camera footage showing Dylann Roof entering Mother Emanuel were among the images viewed in court Thursday - FILE
  • File
  • Security camera footage showing Dylann Roof entering Mother Emanuel were among the images viewed in court Thursday
Rev. Clementa Pinckney waited outside of Emanuel AME Church on the evening of June 17, 2015. As parishioners filed out of the church’s side door, several stopped for brief conversations, not knowing that these would be the last words they’d ever speak to their pastor.

In the second day of the federal trial of Dylann Roof, the 22-year-old charged with killing Pinckney and eight others at Mother Emanuel, prosecutors presented video evidence taken from the surveillance cameras positioned outside of the church. Sgt. Daniel English with the Charleston Police Department was tasked with collecting the footage on the night of the shooting. Coupled with descriptions from survivors of the shooting, images gathered by English would prove key in apprehending Roof, who sat in court Thursday still unwilling to raise his eyes to the evidence before him.

Compiling the video, English was able to show moments from the final hours of several of Roof’s victims. Just after 1 p.m. that day, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton can be seen lingering outside the church doors as she spoke on her cellphone. Susie Jackson, the oldest victim, arrived 20 minutes later, slowly making her way into the church. At 6 p.m., Myra Thompson stepped outside of Mother Emanuel and was immediately met by a man and woman. She greeted them with a smile and a warm embrace. Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr. entered the church just before 6 p.m. Almost four hours later, Simmons would be carried through the very same doors with four bullets in his body, his clothes stained with blood.

Video evidence would also show the arrival of Dylann Roof as he parked his car outside the church at 8:16 p.m. Exiting the vehicle, he is seen adjusting his waistband before pulling open the door and stepping inside. Fifty minutes later, the door is seen slowly opening toward the camera. Roof cautiously peeks his head out, looking left and right before walking to his car with pistol in hand. The remainder of the day’s court proceedings would focus on the grisly scene he left behind.

SLED agent Britany Burke, the lead crime scene investigator for the Emanuel AME shooting, took the stand to present the graphic images collected at the scene. It would take investigators almost nine hours to process the scene as they collected more than 110 pieces of evidence. Multiple sets of 360-degree images of the crime scene were shown in the courtroom as a stoic jury looked on. Just past the side entrance of the church, a pool of blood could be seen surrounded by deep red shoe prints leading outside. Small yellow evidence markers were littered across the floor of the fellowship hall, identifying the 74 bullet casings recovered, each representing a shot fired.

Lying near the edge of the room was the body of Rev. Pinckney, who just hours before had held a small girls' hand as she bounded up the steps of the church. Just past a table bearing an open Bible and a discarded handgun magazine containing four rounds were the bodies of the remaining victims. Through the row of tablecloths spotted with bullet holes, the jury could see the bodies of Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, and Susie Jackson surrounded by a pool of blood. Sanders, his shirt stained a deep crimson, lay dead with his hand outstretched to Jackson. Burke later revealed that the shooter had emptied almost an entire magazine into Jackson’s body. Just feet away from the 87-year-old, the other victims could be seen crumpled on the floor. In total, 54 bullets were removed from the bodies of the nine victims.
  • Robert Maniscalco

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