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Charleston Shooter Dylann Roof Has Been Sentenced to Death

Roof showed no emotion as the judge read out the decision on Tuesday.
Photo by Grace Beahm-Pool/Getty Images

Dylann Roof, the 22-year-old white supremacist who murdered nine parishioners of a South Carolina church in June 2015, was sentenced to death on Tuesday, the New York Times reports.

He reportedly showed no emotion as the judge read out the decision, which was reached by nine white and three black jurors and capped off a saga of a high school dropout who self-radicalized by reading racist material on the internet.


Almost 18 months ago, Roof walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and opened fire on a Bible study group with a semi-automatic handgun. Last month, he was found guilty of 33 counts—18 of which carried the possibility of execution. Hate crimes are tried at a federal level, and cases tried by the US government are divided into guilt and sentencing phases. During the trial to determine what punishment Roof would receive, the convicted killer called no witnesses and represented himself out of concern that lawyers would attempt to suggest he was mentally unwell.

Roof received money to purchase a gun from his uncle for his 21st birthday. At the time, he was unemployed and had a history of erratic behavior, including getting busted with Suboxone after acting bizarrely at a Bath and Body Works. A local retailer in West Columbia called Shooter's Choice took advantage of a loophole in the federal system that should have prevented Roof from buying a gun because he had been busted with an illegal substance.

In the weeks leading up to the shooting, he crashed in a trailer park with friends and bragged about potentially doing "something crazy" with the weapon. On June 17, 2015, he entered a historic church and sat quietly for 45 minutes before fatally shooting Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who was also a state senator. He then put bullets into eight others—including an 87-year-old grandmother—before sparing a woman named Polly Sheppard so she could "tell the story." Unnervingly, the shooter appeared to smile as cops took him away in handcuffs.

South Carolina governor Nikki Haley (who's now the US ambassador to the UN under Trump) said she hoped that Roof would get the death penalty. Meanwhile, family members of the deceased prayed for mercy on the racist's soul at his first bond hearing. Back in August, a black inmate assaulted Roof in jail. Now, he might be the first person executed by the government since 2003.

Throughout his trial, Roof made a point of showing no remorse. He adorned his prison shoes with white supremacist symbols and seemed annoyed when family members of the victims testified about the characters of their lost loved ones. He was unapologetic about wanting to start a race war, and justified his actions by claiming that black men raped white women in a jailhouse manifesto.

"Sometimes sitting in my cell," Roof wrote in jail. "I think about how nice it would be to watch a movie or eat some good food or drive my car somewhere, but then I remember how I felt when I did these things, and how I knew I had to do something. And then I realize it was worth it."

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