Thursday 8 December 2016

I wanted to start a race war, says US church killer

Suspect confesses as the governor of South Carolina calls for death penalty

Andrew Marzal in New York

Published 20/06/2015 | 02:30

Police lead suspected shooter Dylann Roof, 21, into the courthouse in Shelby, North Carolina, June 18, 2015. Roof, a 21-year-old with a criminal record, is accused of killing nine people at a Bible-study meeting in a historic African-American church in C
Police lead suspected shooter Dylann Roof, 21, into the courthouse in Shelby, North Carolina, June 18, 2015. Roof, a 21-year-old with a criminal record, is accused of killing nine people at a Bible-study meeting in a historic African-American church in C

Dylann Roof, the man suspected of a church massacre in Charleston, South Carolina in which nine people were slain while they prayed, has confessed to the killings.

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He said "wanted to start a race war", according to reports.

Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder and one weapons possession charge, police say.

South Carolina governor Nikki Haley called for Roof to face the death penalty if convicted.

In an interview on NBC's 'Today' show, Ms Haley said, "This is a state hurt by the fact that nine people innocently were killed. We will absolutely want him to have the death penalty."

Ms Haley also said she wanted Dylann Roof tried on state charges in South Carolina rather than on federal charges.

On Thursday night, Roof was flown back to South Carolina in chains hours after his arrest.

Having waived his right to extradition, Roof appear ed by video link from the Charleston-area detention centre where he was jailed, said Major Eric Watson, a Charleston county sheriff's office spokesman.

US attorney general Loretta Lynch said her office was investigating whether to charge Roof with a hate crime motivated by racial or other prejudice.

Under federal and some state laws, such crimes typically carry harsher penalties. But South Carolina, which has the death penalty, is one of just five US states lacking hate crime laws.

The extradition came as a Snapchat video taken from inside the African American church during the study session emerged, which appeared to show Roof before the massacre.

More details have emerged of the shooting at a Bible study session in the nearly 200-year-old Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, which authorities say was motivated by racial hatred.

Felecia Sanders described how she had survived the shooting massacre by playing dead as she lay on top of her granddaughter to protect her.

Ms Sanders' account was recounted by Cynthia Taylor, the niece of 87-year-old shooting victim Susie Jackson, to AP.

A friend of Roof's described how the suspect had told him that "blacks were taking over the world" and "someone needed to do something about it for the white race."

Joseph Meek Jr said Roof "wanted segregation between whites and blacks" and had drunkenly boasted of "a plan" after spending his 21st birthday money from his parents on a gun.

Mr Meek said he was so concerned by Roof's behaviour that he took the gun from Roof's car boot and hid it, but later returned the weapon when Roof was sober.

The details emerged a day after the Charleston massacre, which set off an intense 14-hour manhunt that ended with Roof arrested at a traffic stop in a small North Carolina town, 220 miles north of Charleston.

Four pastors, including Democratic state senator Clementa Pinckney (41) were among the six women and three men shot dead at the church nicknamed "Mother Emanuel."

The gunshot victims ranged in age from 26 to 87.

Three who were present survived the rampage unscathed, including a 5-year-old who, according to CNN, avoided being shot by playing dead.

In addition to the church's leader, Mr Pinckney, other victims included three pastors - DePayne Middleton-Doctor, (49); Sharonda Coleman Singleton (45) and Reverend Daniel Simmons (74).

Also killed were Cynthia Hurd (54) a public library employee; Susie Jackson (87); Ethel Lance (70); Tywanza Sanders (26); and Myra Thompson (59), an associate pastor at the church, according to the county coroner.

As night fell yesterday, mourners returned to the church for a vigil, placing candles outside the building next to a growing memorial of flowers, plush toys, balloons and placards.

A woman played 'Amazing Grac' on the bagpipes across the street.

US senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, joined the subdued crowd of blacks and whites paying respects. He laid a bunch of flowers, then stood and prayed for a few moments.

"It is very hard to understand this. To go into God's space and do this - I just do not understand," Mr Graham told reporters. "This is going to rock this state."

Irish Independent

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