Dylann Roof Trial: Day 2 opens old wounds with photo evidence, more emotional testimony


CHARLESTON, S.C. — On Thursday, the second day of the Dylann Roof trial, supporters of the nine black churchgoers gunned down at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were present, as jurors were shown graphic evidence of the attack.

First was the video surveillance of the parking lot, the parishioners arriving for Bible study. Next, the jury saw images of the victims' belongings — Bibles, notepads, purses — strewn across tables in the church's fellowship hall.

In yet another photo, an open Bible lies next to an emptied magazine clip.

And then came the panoramas: graphic landscapes revealing the victims' lifeless bodies in pools of blood. These nine lives were claimed in Roof's alleged attempt to make the Emanuel Bible study meeting a flashpoint for a race war.

"There's no shame in stepping out for this," U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said, addressing several rows of family, friends and clergy ahead of lengthy testimony from crime scene investigators.

Some took Gergel's advice. During testimony from a former agent of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, one man hastily exited the courtroom as the footage flashed on television screens in the open courtroom. Others averted their eyes or dabbed at their tears with tissues. 

A Charleston police detective testified about his experience retrieving the surveillance footage from the church. There were no cameras inside the church hall where the attack was carried out. 

Stephen B. Morton/AP

Prosecutors played the soundless footage, as people in the court looked on in silence. They saw 45-year-old victim Sharonda Coleman-Singleton park and quickly enter the 125-year-old Gothic structure through a side door. Next, Susie Jackson is dropped off and enters the church with the assistance of a walking cane. Myra Thompson, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor and Rev. Daniel Simmons appear sometime after the others — they exchange hugs.

Polly Sheppard, one of the few survivors, arrives around the same time as victims Cynthia Hurd and the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, head pastor of Emanuel AME. Pinckney ushers a young girl inside the church. It's unclear if video surveillance captured victims Ethel Lance, Tywanza Sanders, and his mother, Felicia Sanders, who survived the attack with her 11-year-old granddaughter. 

Surveillance footage shows dusk setting in as Roof pulls up in a dark-colored vehicle, parks and walks in wearing a large black pouch containing a handgun and magazines. Those items would later be shown in court.

Authorities say Roof sat through the 45-minute-long Bible study meeting, waiting until the closing prayer to take out his weapon and open fire. He shot each victim multiple times, said investigators. One testified that Roof shot the 87-year-old Jackson at least 11 times.

U.S. District Court

Each time a victim's body was identified by an investigator on the stand, sobs from supporters grew in volume, punctuated, at times, with gasps.

It was that sense of disbelief to which Keon Gordon testified on Thursday. Prosecutors called the electrician to the stand to talk about his friend Tywanza Sanders and the strange thing he saw on Sanders' Snapchat account the night of the attacks.

Gordon told jurors he had learned of the attack via friends' text messages. As he processed the news, he opened the app and noticed his friend's latest snap was of the Bible study. 

"I thought it was very strange to see the last thing he posted was still there," Gordon said in court. "I thought that would be something worth keeping [because,] in the corner of the video, you could see the accused killer in it."

Gordon took a recorded a video of the Sanders' snap with another smartphone and saved it. On Thursday, that snap was officially entered into evidence.

The 10-second clip shows a pan of the room from the vantage point of 26-year-old Sanders. The camera steadily spans the width of the fellowship hall. In the corner, from a distance, Dylann Roof's head comes into sight.