Timeline: Dylann Roof, Charleston shooting and the battle for white supremacy

The year 2016 witnessed the killing of African Americans by white men in the United States of America. The killers were mainly police officers who with a little restraint on their part would not have taken an innocent life, as many of those killed were unarmed.

37-year-old Alton Sterling was shot several times by a police officer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The next day, police near St Paul, Minnesota, shot Philando Castile, a 32-year-old cafeteria supervisor with no criminal record, after a routine traffic violation. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, live-streamed the shooting’s aftermath on her Facebook page.

But in 2015, there was a clear show of “white supremacy”, by Dylann Roof, then 21, who killed nine blacks in a church in Charleston.

His action, sparked outrage, as many wondered what could have sparked such hate in a young man?

Here is a timeline of events from the day of the shooting:

June 17, 2015: During a routine Bible study, Roof armed with a handgun opened fire at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, United States, killing nine African Americans and injuring one other person, in what was dubbed a hate crime.

One of those killed was the senior pastor of the church and state senator, Clementa C. Pinckney.

June 18, 2015: Roof was arrested in Shelby, North Carolina, after a manhunt.

June 19, 2015: Roof was charged with nine counts of murder and one count of possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.

June 20, 2015: Authorities discovered a website, titled The Last Rhodesian which was later confirmed to be owned by Roof.

The website contained photos of Roof posing with symbols of white supremacy and neo-Nazism, along with a manifesto in which he outlined his views towards blacks, among other peoples.

June 22, 2015: Attorney General, Loretta Lynch announced a grand jury had indicted Roof on 33 federal charges: 12 counts of committing a hate crime against black victims, 12 counts of obstructing the exercise of religion and nine counts of using a firearm to commit murder.

July 7, 2015: Roof was indicted on three new charges of attempted murder, one for each person who survived the shooting.

July 16, 2015: Roof’s trial in state court was scheduled by Circuit Court Judge J.C. Nicholson to start on July 11, 2016.

July 20, 2015: Roof was ordered to provide handwriting samples to investigators. The order explained that following his arrest in Shelby, notes and lists were found written on his hand and at other locations; that the handwriting samples were needed to determine if the handwriting matched.

July 31, 2015: Roof pleaded not guilty to the federal charges against him at the behest of his lawyer David Bruck. Roof wanted to plead guilty, but Bruck stated he was not willing to advise a guilty plea until the government indicated whether it wanted to seek the death penalty, as 18 of the 33 charges could carry the death penalty.

September 3, 2015: State prosecutor Scarlett Wilson said that she intended to seek the death penalty for Roof because more than two people were killed in the shooting and others’ lives were put at risk.

September 16, 2015: Roof said through his attorney that he was willing to plead guilty to the state charges in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without parole.

October 23, 2015: Roof reappeared in state court before Nicholson.

May 24, 2016: The Justice Department announced they would seek the death penalty for Roof. As he was already facing the death penalty in South Carolina, Dylann Roof became the first person in U.S. history to face both a federal and state death penalty at the same time.

June 9, 2016: Roof, through his lawyers, announced that he did not want to be tried by a jury.

August 2, 2016: Roof’s lawyers filed a motion arguing that the federal capital punishment laws were unconstitutional.

August 22, 2016: Federal prosecutors filed a response asking the judge to reject the motion.

August 23, 2016: Federal prosecutors filed court documents announcing their intention to call thirteen expert witnesses at trial, including white supremacy experts who are expected to testify on Roof’s “extremist ideology, including a belief in the need to use violence to achieve white supremacy.”

August 31, 2016: District Judge Richard Gergel ordered that an in camera hearing be held on September 1. The judge was to rule on the admissibility of some “potentially explosive” evidence.

September 6, 2016: Federal prosecutors filed a motion seeking to bar Roof’s attorneys from asking the jurors for their client’s mercy during sentencing should he be found guilty of the charges against him.

September 26, 2016: Jury selection started and the initial pool of three thousand candidates was narrowed down to the final jury of twelve, plus alternates.

November 8, 2016: District Court judge Richard M. Gergel ordered a competency evaluation for Roof, which Gergel scheduled for November 16, 2016. Gergel also postponed the jury selection to November 21, 2016.

November 14, 2016: Gergel delayed the competency hearing to November 17, 2016.

November 16, 2016: Gergel delayed the competency hearing to November 21, 2016. Gergel also delayed the jury selection to November 28, 2016.

November 22, 2016: The competency hearing ended. 

November 25, 2016: Roof was declared competent enough to stand trial.

November 25, 2016: A federal judge granted Roof’s motion to represent himself.

December 4, 2016: Roof, in a handwritten request, asked Gergel to give him back his defense team for the guilt phase of his federal death penalty trial.

December 5, 2016: Gergel allowed Roof to hire back his lawyers for the guilt phase of his trial.

December 6, 2016: A federal judge denied a motion by Roof’s defense team to delay Roof’s trial.

December 7, 2016: Dylann Roof’s federal trial began.

December 9, 2016: Roof’s confession was played in court, admitting that he had killed the people at the church before chuckling.

December 15, 2016: After about two hours of deliberation, the jury found Roof guilty on all 33 counts he faced.

Roof is also awaiting trial in South Carolina state court on nine counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. That trial is set to start on January 17, 2017.

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