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Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
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Jury Sees Videotaped Confession in Charleston Church Shooting Trial

Jurors heard the chilling two-hour confession of accused Charleston Church gunman Dylann Roof on Friday, the third day of the federal hate-crimes trial that could end with him being sentenced to death.


(CN) - “I went to that church and I did it,” Dylann Roof chillingly confessed to a federal agent the day following the Charleston church massacre that left nine parishioners dead and three others wounded.

“I’m guilty. We all know I’m guilty,” he added in a calm, measured voice.

Friday was the first time the public heard the two-hour videotaped confession of the man accused of wantonly gunning down the parishioners in the south's oldest black church.

The talkative young man in the video was a marked contrast to the sober, largely silence man in a prison jumpsuit who sat stone-faced, with his gaze set on the table in front of him, as the video was played in the courtroom Friday afternoon.

Roof's confession was taped less than 24-hours after the June 17, 2015, shooting at the Emanuel ANE Church on Calhoun Street in Charleston.

In the video, he told investigators he hoped to incite a race war and targeted the black church because he didn’t want to harm any white people.

In an eerily soft-spoken voice, Roof told FBI Special Agent  Michael Stansbury that he had considered launching an attack at a black festival, but decided against that because there would be security. He chose the Bible study because he knew it would draw a small group.

“I did it. Someone had to do something because black people are killing white people every day on the street and they are raping white women,” Roof said. He repeatedly saying the lives lost in the attack are minuscule compared to the damage black people have done to white people.

When asked if any black person had ever done any harm to him or anyone he knows, Roof said, “No.”

Stansbury asked Roof would he give the same reasons he gave for his attack to the victim’s families, Roof responded, “I could not do that. I could not look at them.”

Roof said the Trayvon Martin case racially woke him up. Martin was an unarmed black teen who was gunned down by white community watchman George Zimmerman in 2012. The case made national headlines and flared racial tensions and sparked his interest.  The incident inspired him to type in “black on white crime” into a search engine. When asked if anyone had recruited him or influenced him, he said all the incitement he needed was on the Internet.

“Black people see everything through a racial lens, white people don’t,”  Roof said. “I don’t think the white race is dominant, but it should be. White people are superior.”

Roof said he never shared his views with his friends or family.

He then detailed his actions before and during the night of the mass shooting, an account in which the mundane and the shocking transpired side-by-side.

The night before the murders, Roof said, he went to a local movie theater near his home outside of Columbia, South Carolina, and saw "Jurassic World." Detectives testified the ticket stub from the movie was still in his pocket when police arrested him.

Roof said he rose early on June 17, 2015, because he was accompanying his father to work. All the while, he said, he was driving around with his gun in the car because he had grown ready to carry out the shooting.

After working with his father all that day, Roof set out for Charleston and the AME Church.

He said he was not on any drugs or medication at the time, but he did take a few gulps of Vodka before entering the church wearing a military style waist bag full of hollow point bullets.

Roof recalled the Bible study focusing on a parable about riches. He believed he had only been in the church for 15 minutes when in reality he was there for 50. He said the parishioners seemed surprised to see a white man entering their church. Roof he sat through the meeting going back and forth in his mind about whether to carry out his plan or just walk out of the door.

“It’s not like I was totally mentally prepared. It was like a jerk reaction,” he said.

Roof said he was surprised to find no one outside when he left the church that night. He had left some ammunition in a magazine with plans to kill himself in the event police were converging on the scene. Roof said he had no plans to open fire on police or responders.

Instead, he got in his car and drove to North Carolina, deciding en route that his eventual destination would be Nashville.

Why Nashville? Stansbury asked him.

"Why not?" Roof said, adding that he believed the police would eventually catch him no matter where he went.

When questioned, Roof said he believed he had killed four or five people and was in disbelief when told that he killed nine people.

“Well that makes me feel bad,” he said.

When asked if he could go back would he change anything, he said, “I’d say so.” He told Stansbury that if given another chance he might leave instead.

After photographing and cuffing him, Stansbury informed Roof that he had failed in his mission to agitation racial tensions.

“I told him, ‘you failed. The people of Charleston came together, there was no violence.’”

Roof didn't react. Instead, he sat silently for a few minutes, then asked where he would be taken.

Where do you want to go? Stansbury asked.

"Home," Roof said.

After the video was shown and the jurors excused for the weekend, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson told U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, "We have been moving along quite well," and said the government expected to finish presenting its case sometime next week.

Attorneys for both sides suggested Gergel break early for the holidays and schedule the penalty phase of the trial, if not resolved by then, for early January.

Gergel did not immediately address the suggestion. He did, however, ask for the defense team's input on the verdict form for the jury, and ask that they provide him with any of their suggestions when the trial resume on Monday at 9:30 a.m.

Categories / Criminal, Trials

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