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Thursday, May 30, 2024 | Back issues
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FBI Agent Says Roof Displayed Racist Symbols Even During Trial 

Dylann Roof is so consumed by his white supremacist beliefs that he even wore shoes to court this week that had racist symbols drawn on them, an FBI agent testified Friday.

(CN) - Dylann Roof is so consumed by his white supremacist beliefs that he even wore shoes to court this week that had racist symbols drawn on them, an FBI agent testified Friday.

Roof faces death or life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing nine black church members in a racially motivated attack in 2015.

After drawing attention to Roof's ongoing fascination with white supremacist symbols and rhetoric, FBI agent Joseph Hamski went on to tell the jury of a search of Roof's cell that authorities carried out in August 2015 as part of a suicide watch.

During that search they found extensive writings by Roof on his beliefs as well as a pair of white slip-on sneakers emblazoned with hand-drawn Celtic crosses, emblems associated with white supremacy,  and an “88” symbol, which is considered a numerical code for “Heil Hitler.”

Hamski then read several passages from a journal found in Roof's cell.

“My race is my nation. My only nation is my race,” Roof wrote, a statement that Hamski said amounts to a declaration of allegiance to a race.

Hamski also showed the jury an image of bullets arranged as a swastika that he said was obtained from Roof’s cell phone.

And his testimony didn't end there. He next presented posts obtained from a white nationalist networking website, Stormfront.org.

Roof created an account on the site in February 2015, using the screen name “LilAryan.”

One of Roof’s posts stated, “I consider myself well versed in racism.”

Unlike in past days, on Friday Roof exercised his right to object to evidence presented to the jury.

He objected to testimony about his StormFront.org account, questioning its relevance.  Later, he objected to the nine death certificates of his victims being entered into evidence.

Both objections were overruled by U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel.

Following Hamski’s testimony, the jury heard from Malcolm Graham, the youngest brother of shooting victim Cynthia Hurd.

Graham told the jury that his older sister was a source of inspiration and motivation throughout his life.

He recalled her during childhood encouraging him to push himself personally, academically, spiritually and professionally.

As an example, he recalled how when he started to play tennis -- traditionally a white-dominated sport -- his sister pushed him to persevere and break the mold.

“She encouraged me to overlook the stereotypes, to dare to be different,” he said.

He said he went on to receive a college scholarship for tennis, and later, as an adult, was elected to Charlotte, North Carolina City Council before eventually going on to become a North Carolina state senator.

Hurd took the reins of his campaigns and acted as a “quasi” manager, he said.

Speaking about life after his sister’s murder, “I was left without my heart, my friend, my counselor.”

Because Hurd was a lifelong avid reader and career librarian, the way he stays close to his sister is to take a book from the shelf to read.

Hurd’s sister, Averil “Jackie” Jones, described her sister as a compassionate, confident people person who never hesitated to help anyone. She said they were very different personalities in their youth, yet they were very close and remained close throughout their lives.

“She would focus on the needs of the individual,” Jones said.

She told the jury that when she told her sister she'd been diagnosed with breast cancer, her sister "went into momma mode.”

Jones said the two had been texting the day before the church massacre about Hurd going with her to a doctor’s appointment.

In their final texts, Hurd said, “We need to talk.”

Jones’ responded, “I know.”

She never heard from her sister again.

Breaking into tears, Jones said, “When she died a part of me went with her.”

Victim Ethel Lance’s granddaughter, Najee Washington, described Lance as the glue that held the family together.

“She was big on family. She wanted everyone to get along … Granny was the one everyone would turn to for support. Granny was my biggest fan,” she said fighting back tears.

Lance took in Washington after her mother died from cancer in 2013. She said Lance never let her go without. She always had good food to eat, clothes to wear and a roof over her head.

On the day of the tragedy, they had breakfast as usual and as Washington left for the day, they exchanged their usual “I love you.”

She was at work at Bed, Bath and Beyond when she learned about the shooting, first believing it was near the church, only to find out it happened inside. She said she met up with her cousins and they went to the Marriott believing they would find her there.

She said the first person she saw was Polly Sheppard, one of the shooting survivors, who was holding her grandmother’s cell phone.

Washington said she didn’t think anything of it at first. Then the coroner pulled her and other family members into a nearby room and told them he was sorry for their loss.

Rev. Sharon Risher, Lance’s oldest daughter, said their family has been in tatters since of her death.

“We don’t have anybody that loved each and every one of us in that special way,” she said, sobbing.

Susie Jackson’s son and grandson were the final witnesses to take the stand on Friday.  Walter Jackson Sr. said his mother was a fantastic cook who loved to travel and adored her family.

He recalled that despite the fact he lives in Cleveland, Ohio, he saw his mother often. The last time, he said, was when she traveled to Cleveland to meet two of her grandchildren.

Jackson’s grandson Walter Jackson Jr. said AME Emmanuel Church was dear to his grandmother’s heart.

“She stressed the importance of Bible study. She showed us the ropes of putting God first in our lives,” he said.

Roof declined to cross-examine any of the witnesses.

U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson said the prosecution plans to call its final witnesses on Monday. Roof has said he will not call any witnesses. Closing arguments are expected to begin Tuesday morning.

Categories / Criminal, Trials

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