Dylann Roof – a self-proclaimed white nationalist who fancied himself the “last Rhodesian” in a racist manifesto posted online – has been found guilty in the Charleston Church massacre trial in South Carolina.
The 22 year-old was convicted on all counts, including hate crimes resulting in death, hate crimes with the intent to kill, and the of obstruction of the practice of religion causing death.
Shortly before the trial commenced, Roof was granted permission to defend himself, a potentially fraught situation that could have permitted the white nationalist to cross-examine survivors and family members of the deceased. His lawyers convinced him to change course, stepping in and spending their energies in an attempt to avoid the death penalty.
Following the convictions, Roof will purportedly seek yet again to defend himself during the next phase, which will decide his fate.
One of the survivors, Polly Sheppard, recounted a harrowing moment from the mass shooting in which she interacted with Roof. Standing over her, the self-radicalized youth asked if she had been shot, to which she replied that she had not.
Roof responded: “I’m not going to. I’m going to leave you here to tell the story.”
In a taped confession to the FBI, Roof admitted his heinous act: “I am guilty. We all know I’m guilty.” Offering a justification, he told agents that he “had to” because “no one else was brave enough.”
While the shooting took place in 2015, it is part of a growing trend of self-radicalized young white men online. Various mass shooters have found an outlet for their alienation and discontent on highly sexist and racist websites that loosely combine to form what has been benignly coined the “alt-right” movement, but which is essentially a rebounding of neo-nazi ideology. In an era of digital echo chambers that reenforce toxic ideologies and prejudices, the radical right has been newly emboldened, evidenced by the extreme uptick in hate crimes following the election of Donald Trump, who made ample use of “alt-right” and neo-nazi memes to whip up fear during the 2016 election.
Impact Tap will provide further coverage as the trial draws to a close.