Dylann Roof confessed almost immediately to the massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, according to an FBI video shown Friday at his murder trial in Charleston, South Carolina.
“I went to that church in Charleston and I did it,” he said with a laugh.
“Did you shoot them?” a law enforcement officer asked.
“Yes,” Roof replied matter-of-factly, with another laugh.
Asked how many people he killed that day, the young man in the mushroom-shaped haircut calmly replied: “If I was going to guess, 5 maybe. I’m really not sure.”
In the video, Roof said he opened fire with a Glock .45-caliber pistol.
“I didn’t say anything to them,” he said of his victims.
What about after the shootings?
“I didn’t talk to them.”
Roof admitted in the video sitting with his victims about 15 minutes.
“It was a bible study,” he said.
He had seven magazines with him, he told investigators. A bag and his weapon.
“I was sitting there thinking if I should do it or not for 15 minutes,” Roof said, according to the video. “I could have walked out. I don’t want to say it was spur of the moment.”
In the video, Roof is seen sitting at a circular table at the Shelby, North Carolina, police department. He occasionally gestures with his hands but his voice — deep and monotone — betrays no emotion. The sun hits the camera lens, washing out the young man’s face.
Before his confession, Roof munched on Burger King hamburger brought to him by police officers.
The showing of the video to the jury Friday morning caps a dramatic and emotional week in court.
Roof’s mother passed out and collapse during a lunch recess in the courtroom Wednesday. His attorney said in a court filing that she suffered a heart attack.
Roof was “cold and calculating” in planning an attack, a federal prosecutor said Wednesday in opening statements at Roof’s trial in Charleston, South Carolina.
Roof studied the church’s long history in the black community, found out what time a Bible study class would be held, loaded his gun the night before, packed extra ammunition and drove more than an hour to the church, Assistant US Attorney Jay Richardson told the jury of nine whites and three African-Americans.
He was welcomed into the Bible study and displayed a “cold and hateful heart” by sitting with the group more than 30 minutes, Richardson said.
As the 12 people stood to offer prayers and close their eyes, Roof opened fire with the pistol, firing 70 rounds, Richardson said. Nine people were killed.
Tywanza Sanders, one of those killed, told Roof that he didn’t have to shoot them, saying, “We mean you no harm,” the prosecutor said, recounting the story of one of the survivors.
Roof, who is white, replied, “Y’all are raping our white women, y’all are taking over the world,” Richardson said.
After he was captured, authorities learned Roof had written a “manifesto” of his racist beliefs and posed for photos with the US flag burning in one hand and the Confederate flag in the other, Richardson said.
Roof also designed his own logo that included his initials, a swastika and the number 88, which for white supremacists stands for “Heil Hitler,” the prosecutor said. “He created the symbol to reflect who he was, what he thought and what he had done,” Richardson said.
Opening for the defense, attorney David Bruck told the jury, “You’re probably wondering why there has to be a trial.”
Authorities previously said Roof had confessed to the killings and told the FBI that he hoped to provoke a race war.
The practical reason for the trial, Bruck said, is that the government has asked for the death penalty.
Bruck said the jury will decide guilt or innocence in the first phase of the trial. In the second phase, the jury will decide on punishment.
Bruck reminded the jury of Roof’s youth and urged them to try to understand him. Roof told the FBI he didn’t have any friends, Bruck said.
Jurors should ask where Roof’s feelings of racial hatred came from, Bruck said.
“How much sense does this crime make, does it make any sense and if any at all, what does that tell you?” he asked.
Bruck ended by saying he probably would not call any witnesses.
Roof sat mostly motionless in his state-issued, gray-and-white striped jumpsuit throughout both opening statements, barely looking up from the defense table.
Tywanza Sanders came to Bible study
Felicia Sanders, who survived the shooting, was one of seven prosecution witnesses to testify Wednesday. Sanders’ 26-year-old son, Tywanza, and 87-year old aunt, Susie Jackson, were victims.
Sanders teared up recalling her close friends and members of the church, including the Rev. Daniel Simmons, 74, a church staff member and former pastor of Friendship AME Church in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
Simmons, who was killed, “was the backbone of the church,” Sanders said.
Richardson showed pictures of all nine victims as Sanders spoke. They were smiling and looked happy.
She screamed, ‘He has a gun’
At Bible study, Sanders recalled the church’s then-pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was killed in the shooting, gave Roof a copy of the page they were studying in the group.
Sanders said Roof hung his head down during their group “just as he’s doing right now.”
Roof also appeared to have his eyes closed throughout Sanders’ testimony.
Sanders recalled the group in the Bible study shutting their eyes.
Then, “a lot of sound went off,” she said.
She said she screamed, “He has a gun.” But Roof had already shot Pinckney.
She said Simmons stood and said, “Let me check on the Pastor, just let me check on the Pastor.”