Nobody suspected that quiet boy Dylann Roof was about to unleash hell.


PA Photos

It was Wednesday evening, 17 June 2015, and a bible-study group was gathering at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

The church’s congregation was known to be predominantly black, but tonight they were joined by a young, white man.

Just minutes after members of the congregation welcomed each other on the steps of the church with kisses and hugs, the man was filmed on CCTV walking calmly inside.

He was given a warm welcome, and invited to sit with everyone and take part in the prayers.

The man’s name was Dylann Roof. But he wasn’t there to get closer to God. He was there to unleash hell…

After sitting with the group for nearly an hour with his head hung low, Roof chose to strike, just as the group got ready for their final prayer.

He pulled out his Glock handgun and, before anyone had a chance to run, he opened fire. The peace in the church was shattered by the sound of round after round of bullets.

As his victims lay dying in pools of blood across the church floor, others dived for cover and hid under tables.

But Dylann Roof showed no mercy. He stalked the floor, pumping shot after shot through the tables at the terrified churchgoers underneath, determined to end as many innocent lives as possible.

As his victims lay dying, Roof stood insulting them.


Felicia Sanders survived the attack, and recalled lying on the floor with her terrified granddaughter.

‘Play dead, play dead,’ she told her.

The pair miraculously managed to get out alive – but nine others weren’t so lucky, including Felicia’s son Tywanza Sanders, 26, and aunt Susie Jackson, 87.

The church’s pastor Reverend Clementa Pinckney was also among the victims. As he took his final breaths, his wife Jennifer was hiding in a store cupboard with their young daughter. She’d locked the cupboard, clamping her hand over the little girl’s mouth to stop her screaming as they listened to the carnage going on just metres away.

Roof continued to prowl for more victims, trying the handle of the cupboard door before moving on.

By the time his massacre was complete, the scene was a bloodbath beyond imagination.

Dead bodies lay all around, and more than 70 bullet casings were scattered among the pools of blood.

Brazenly, Dylann Roof left the same way he came in – through the front door, the gun still in his hand – and went on the run. But it didn’t take long for police to track him down and arrest him.


But what made a young man commit such a horrific crime?

Roof’s family and friends say he’d had a troubled childhood, spent shuttling back and forth between his divorced parents.

At school, he wasn’t very bright and struggled to keep up, before eventually dropping out.

Friends said he liked drinking, and dabbled in drugs, and that, in the months before the shooting, he’d been in trouble with the law for committing minor offences.

But what many of Dylann Roof’s family and friends didn’t know was that the youngster was a white supremacist, with very extreme, violent views.

‘Our people are superior – that’s just the fact,’ he said in his interview with police, where he quickly admitted his guilt, albeit peppered with outlandish, false claims.

‘I did it… Somebody had to do it. Black people are killing white people every day… What I did is so minuscule compared to what they do to white people every day.’

He hoped his actions would start a race war.

Tributes to the 9 victims (Photo: PA Photos)

After Roof’s arrest, police discovered a website set up by him, detailing a ‘manifesto’ packed with racist slurs, and explaining the motivation for the sickening massacre.

He described black people as ‘stupid and violent’, and admitted to admiring Hitler and supporting the Ku Klux Klan.

He declared, We have no skinheads, no 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 person has to be me.

In a journal, Roof wrote, I would like to make it crystal-clear I do not regret what

I did. I am not sorry… I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed.

During his trial, Roof remained emotionless, even as survivors recounted the shooting in heartbreaking detail.

Against the advice of his lawyers, Dylann Roof chose to represent himself. And, in December last year, a jury took just two hours to find him guilty of all 33 charges, including murder, attempted murder and obstruction of religion.

Speaking after the verdict, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said, ‘It is my hope that the survivors, the families, and the people of South Carolina can find some peace in the fact that justice has been served.’

In January, Roof was handed the death sentence, which he has said he will appeal.

‘I forgive you,’ said Nadine Collier, the daughter of Ethel Lance, one of Roof’s victims, ‘and have mercy on your soul.’