By Chris Rivera
On Wednesday, June 17th, South Carolina fell victim to heinous crime. Dylan Roof, age 21, walked into a Bible study at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston around 8pm ET. There, it’s been reported that he walked into the church and asked for the pastor, the pastor being kind enough, welcomed Mr. Roof into his congregation.
Snapchat video also shows Mr. Roof sitting at the table with a small group. Many people within the church tried to get this young man to participate in their Bible study. He then began to argue with the participants as they discussed scripture. After an hour of being there Mr. Roof stood up and pulled out a gun. It is reported that one participant, Tywanza Sanders, tried to talk him out of the violence he was about to commit, telling him, “You do not have to do this.” The gunman responded, “Yes. You are raping our women and taking over the country.”
He then proceeded to take aim at one of the oldest members within the Bible Study, Susie Jackson, 87. It was at this moment that Susie Jackson’s nephew, Mr. Sanders pleaded that Mr. Roof point the gun at him instead, but the gunman answered, “It doesn’t matter. I’m going to shoot all of you.”
Eight people were killed at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal, the ninth person died at the hospital. Six were women and three were men. They were shot at close range, officials said, rather than a random spray of gunfire from across the room. The victims were:
- Cynthia Hurd, 54, a librarian from the Charleston County Public Library.
- Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41, a Senator from South Carolina since 2000. He had also been a pastor since the age of 18.
- Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, a speech therapist and coach of the girls’ track and field team at Goose Creek High School.
- Tywanza Sanders, 26,
- Ethel Lance, who had worked at the church for 30 years
- Susie Jackson, 87, Lance’s cousin who was named by a relative and was a longtime church member
- Rev. Depayne Middleton, a mother of four, minister and fixture in the church choir.
- Myra Thompson, 59
- Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74
At least two people survived the attack. One was a five-year-old who listened to her grandmother’s advice when she told her to play dead. Another was a woman who was spared and told, “’I’m not going to kill you, I’m going to spare you, so you can tell them what happened.”
On a website that may be linked to Dylan Roof, the Last Rhodesian, list a manifesto where it states that, “I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”
Also in the manifesto, it mentions how the Trayvon Martin case inspired his views on white supremacy, “The event that truly awakened me was the Trayvon Martin case. I kept hearing and seeing his name, and eventually I decided to look him up. I read the Wikipedia article and right away I was unable to understand what the big deal was. It was obvious that Zimmerman was in the right. But more importantly this prompted me to type in the words ‘black on White crime’ into Google, and I have never been the same since that day.”
On Thursday morning, 14 hours after the deadly shooting, Mr. Roof was arrested about 245 miles away in Shelby, North Carolina. Debbie Dills spotted Mr. Roof’s black Hyundai sedan and called the police as she followed him for 35 miles. The police stopped his vehicle at 10:44am at a traffic stop. He was arrested and in his possession he had a gun, although law enforcement wasn’t sure if it was the same gun used in the deadly shooting. After the arrest Roof waived his extradition rights and was put on a plane from North Carolina.
As Roof entered the jail a fifteen-year-old boy from North Charleston held a sign that read, “Your evil doing did not break our community! You made us stronger!”
On Sunday, Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church once again opened their doors and became a house of worship. They did not let this horrific scene stop them as they held service at 9:30am. During the prayers Rev. Norvel Goff reminded the church that, “No evildoer, no demon in hell or on Earth can close the doors of God’s church.”
Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has been present within Charleston since 1816, it was led by free slaves, who broke away to form their own congregation. It is also the oldest black congregation south of Baltimore, and was burned to ground in the 1820s, and rebuilt a decade later.