Charleston church massacre: More than a racist crime
On the night of June 17, 2015, a gunman opened fire during an evening Bible study at the historical Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Suspect Dylann Roof killed nine people, including the church’s senior pastor and state senator Clementa C. Pickney.
Scene of the crime
Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the scene of the crime, is one of the oldest black churches in the United States. The place of worship is also recognized in the country as a site for community organization around civil rights.
A website called The Last Rhodesian came to the public’s attention several days after Roof’s arrest. Police confirmed that the page is indeed owned by Roof, as it showed images of him posing with symbols of neo-Nazism. In the page, the suspect declared his hatred for African people and his support for white supremacy. The animosity was fueled by what the suspect saw as an increasing rate of crimes committed by black people on white people. The massacre further increased the racial tension in the state as Roof confessed to an intention to provoke a race war.
Illegal gun possession
Using money he received on his birthday, the suspect purchased a gun from a retail store in Charleston. Despite laws requiring background checks before a purchase, Dylann Roof was able to obtain a gun due to lapses in FBI’s system. This led the Charleston community as well as other US citizens to call for stricter gun control laws to prevent similar crimes in the future.
Roof was given 33 hate crime charges, including nine counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder, and one count for illegal gun possession, among many other offenses. After getting information from witnesses, authorities went on a manhunt and found the suspect in North Carolina. He subsequently admitted to the crime, and was arrested several hours after the incident.
Dylann Roof’s trial will begin on January 2017, where he will face the possibility of a death sentence.