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Dylann Roof Convicted In Slayings Of Black Church Members

Jurors have yet to decide if he will be put to death.

16/12/2016 7:39 AM AEDT | Updated 16/12/2016 9:53 AM AEDT

A jury on Thursday convicted Dylann Roof of slaughtering nine black members of a Charleston, South Carolina, church.

He was convicted of 33 federal charges, from hate crimes to the obstruction of the practice of religion.  

Roof, 22, walked into the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, commonly referred to as “Mother Emanuel,” in June 2015 during Bible study. He sat with congregation members before taking out a gun and starting his massacre.  

He killed Cynthia Hurd, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Daniel Simmons, Tywanza Sanders, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Myra Thompson and Clementa Pinckney, who was the pastor of the church.

The 12 jurors deliberated for less than two hours after six days of testimony. Seventeen of Roof’s federal charges carry the death penalty.

After his arrest, Roof spoke with FBI agents for two hours, during which time he said, “I am guilty. We all know I’m guilty.”

The tape, which was played for jurors, showed Roof telling the agents he committed the acts because he believed black men were raping white women “daily” and that white people had become second-class citizens.

Roof spared Polly Sheppard, a 72-year-old retired nurse, on the night of the massacre. 

“I was praying out loud,” Sheppard said during her emotional testimony. “He told me to shut up.”

After asking if she had been shot, Roof then told Sheppard he would let her live so she could tell the story.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) referred to Roof as an “evil man” in a statement released Thursday afternoon.

“As the killer now awaits sentencing, I want the families of those lost that day to know one thing: we are still with you,” the statement says in part.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) also expressed her condolences to the families who lost loved ones in the shooting.

Mother Emanuel, founded in 1816 by members of the black community who left their Methodist church over racial prejudice, has seen its share of discrimination. In 1822, white supremacists burned it to the ground, and in 1834, local laws banned black churches, forcing members to meet in secret.

Despite the continued hardships, the church has remained resilient. Last June, a Bible study and church service was held on the anniversary of the shootings. Kylon Middleton, who grew up with Pinckney and is the pastor of Mount Zion AME Church in Charleston, helped lead the service. Middleton shouted prayers for all the families affected by the tragedy ― including Roof’s own family.

Jurors will reconvene on Jan. 3 to decide whether Roof will be put to death or imprisoned for life. Roof plans to represent himself during the sentencing phase of his trial.

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