Dylann Roof enters Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015
Throughout his federal death penalty trial, Dylann Roof has maintained the posture of a bored adolescent, refusing to acknowledge the events taking place around him. But on Tuesday, a series of evidence managed to rouse him. As each photograph taken of Roof’s room flashed across the courtroom screens, Roof would glance up briefly. This was possibly the first time he had seen his former home since he was arrested for murdering nine parishioners at Emanuel AME Church.
Corporal Justin Britt with the Richland County Sheriff’s Office arrived at Roof’s home soon after he was identified as a main suspect. Britt and fellow members of the department’s fugitive task force were met outside the home by the owner of the home, the boyfriend of Roof’s mother. Approaching police with his hands raised, the boyfriend called out to police, “He’s not here,” as Roof’s mother fainted. Once she regained consciousness, Roof’s mother led police to her son’s room. There investigators would later uncover boxes of ammunition, accessories for an assault rifle, and a white pillowcase altered to resemble a white hood similar to those worn by members of the Ku Klux Klan.
“There’s something I think you need to see,” she told Britt as she grabbed for the digital camera left behind in Roof’s room. On the camera, SLED agents found photo after photo of Roof brandishing his handgun and donning the white hood he had crafted.
FBI special agent Joseph Hamski would be the final witness of the day, providing a comprehensive timeline pieced together from information taken from Roof’s GPS, bank records, and photographs collected throughout the investigation. Hamski served as the lead case agent following the shooting at Mother Emanuel. In total, he says the investigation involved 50 agents who conducted 215 interviews and collected more than 500 pieces of evidence.
Among that evidence are the dozens of photos, showing Roof posed at various plantations across the state, as well as photos of the Confederate battle flag that once flew on the South Carolina Statehouse grounds. The murders at Emanuel AME Church would lead to the flag’s removal.
The timeline of Roof’s actions leading up to the shooting begins on Dec. 22, 2014. Driving from Columbia to Charleston, he would pass by Emanuel AME before touring Boone Hall Plantation. By the following February, Roof began making payments for the website where he would eventually post a manifesto detailing his white nationalist ideals. On Feb. 23, 2015, a 13-second call to Emanuel AME was made from Roof’s home. The following morning, Roof traveled to Charleston again, once more stopping near Mother Emanuel.
After a brief waiting period and a failed background check, Roof completed the purchase for the Glock pistol traced back to the church shooting on April 16, 2015. Multiple videos taken from the camera found in his room show Roof firing the weapon in his backyard.
Roof traveled to Charleston again on April 25 and May 9 of last year, visiting more plantations and stopping at Emanuel AME. Between those dates and the day of the shooting, Roof purchased more than 100 rounds of ammunition.
On June 17, 2015, at 6:13 p.m., Roof left Columbia to travel to Charleston. He arrived at Mother Emanuel at 8:16 p.m. and was welcomed to take part in the evening Bible study. Roof now faces one of two charges for the murders committed in the church that night: life in prison without the possibility of release or the death penalty. Once jurors arrive at a verdict regarding Roof’s guilt or innocence, they must then consider his sentence during a separate phase of the trial.
Federal prosecutors will call their final witnesses in the guilt phase of the trial on Wednesday. After stating that the defense would not be likely to call any witnesses during this portion of the trial, attorney David Bruck announced that he hopes to call several individuals to that stand. Unfortunately for the defense, Judge Richard Gergel declared that much of the proposed testimony related to Roof’s state of mind would not be allowed during the trial’s guilt phase. Once the jury arrives at an initial verdict, attorneys for the defense will be forced to sit by as Roof represents himself in court as his ultimate fate is decided.