The self-described white supremacist accused of killing nine African American churchgoers in Charleston had a gun, more ammunition and a list of churches in his car, jurors in his federal death penalty trial heard Monday.
Dylann Roof was ruled unfit to purchase the gun he used to kill the parishioners. But by the time the store that sold him the weapon was informed, it was already too late to prevent the June 17, 2015, attack, the court heard.
In his car, Roof had a handwritten note listing six churches in Charleston’s black community, including the target of his attack, as well as the Glock .45 semi-automatic handgun and eight ammunition magazines, investigators said.
Investigators also found a Confederate battle flag, a symbol of the US South in times of slavery, as well as a sweater emblazoned with a large “88,” an abbreviation of the Nazi salute “Heil Hitler.”
Roof’s journal, uncovered in his car, included condemnation of racial integration, Jews and homosexuality.
The reclusive youth, who glorified Nazism and apartheid, does not contest the facts and has so far not expressed remorse over his massacre at “Mother Emanuel,” the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the US South.
The FBI had previously made the stunning admission last year that Roof should have been denied the gun purchase, citing a breakdown in the background check system and paperwork confusion.
Gun store Shooter’s Choice sold Roof the gun and eight ammunition magazines despite not having received the results of his mandatory background check because the law allowed them to do so after a three-day delay, The Post and Courier newspaper cited store manager Ronald Thrailkill as saying.
“That’s standard practice,” Thrailkill said, adding he was only told on June 29, 2015, that Roof should have been denied the gun.
Prosecutors are hoping to wrap up their case this week. The roof has not said anything in court since the trial began Wednesday, maintaining a stone-faced demeanour and refusing to lift his eyes from the defence table where he sat, even as photographs of his blood-soaked crime scene were displayed and a survivor called him “evil.” Roof’s mother suffered a heart attack during testimony on the first day.
On Sunday, the defence filed a motion requesting Judge Richard Gergel to bar descriptions of Roof as “evil” and other such language from the courtroom in order to preserve fairness in the trial.
The mass murder stunned the country as it grappled with a series of high-profile police shootings of African Americans.
Roof, 22, faces the death penalty if convicted on hate crimes charges over the massacre. Prosecutors refused to accept his offer to plead guilty to the 33 federal charges against him in exchange for a life sentence. So Roof then entered a not guilty plea.
The accused gunman is also facing state murder charges in South Carolina that could see him sentenced to death. That trial is not due to begin until January 17.