In the summer of 2015, 21-year-old Dylann Roof entered the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston South Carolina. There he sat, prayed for an hour and then open fired during the service. He shot and killed nine of the churchgoers reloading on his victims seven times. A survivor playing dead heard Roof say to a pleading victim that “you’ve raped our women, and you are taking over the country … I have to do what I have to do.” Then he shot and killed the young man.
On Wednesday, January 11, Judge Richard Gergel formally sentenced Dylann Roof to death. Roof will become the first to be sentenced to death for a federal hate crime, however, it will take years before his execution occurs. In the courtroom, Roof represented himself and told the jury, “In my confession to the FBI I told them that I had to do it, and obviously that’s not really true. … I did not have to do anything. But what I meant when I said that was, I felt like I had to do it, and I still do feel like I had to do it.” In trial, US attorney Jay Richardson reminded the court of the evidence against Roof that he sat with the group for 40 minutes before shooting, he pulled the trigger “more than 75 times … reloading seven times” as he stood over his victims, shooting them repeatedly. Through all of this, Roof “showed not one ounce of remorse.”
The death penalty is such a controversial issue in the United States that it was prohibited for a 16-year period. Many claim that death is the easiest way out, that it is immoral, or that it needs to be done in order to get justice. In the case of Dylann Roof, he clearly planned out his attack and felt like he needed to murder innocent African American worshippers. He will go down as a white supremacist, a terrorist, and a murderer. Only three federal inmates have been executed in the United States since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988. Those three include Oklahoma City bombing terrorist, Timothy McVeigh in 1995 who killed 168 people. After six years, he was executed on June 11, 2001. There was also Juan Raul Garza who was convicted of killing three people and running a marijuana drug ring in Texas. He was executed June 19, 2001. In addition, Louis Jones for the kidnapping and murder of 19-year-old Army Pvt. Tracie McBride. He was executed March 18, 2003. Before McVeigh’s execution in 2001, the federal government had not put anyone to death since 1963. However, there are 63 other federal prisoners awaiting their execution and thousands of prisoners on death row in state and county jails.
Charleston church shooter, Dylann Roof. Photo credit: CNN
By Jordan Tarrow