Security for a small, brown-brick federal courthouse in the Holy City’s downtown was heavy as testimony in the death penalty trial of Dylann Roof kicked off Wednesday.
More than a dozen officers from the Department of Homeland Security patrolled outside the J. Waties Waring Judicial Center, wearing tactical uniforms with bullet-proof vests. Several bomb-sniffing dogs accompanied them.
Parking spots along the street side of the courthouse were taken up by DHS sport-utility vehicles as well. At least one quick response law enforcement team was out of sight and ready for action.
When U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel addressed the newly empaneled jury, he referenced the heavy police presence.
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“Believe me, there is no place more secure than this courthouse,” Gergel said.
Those making their way inside were given airport-like searches by court security officers. Visitors were asked to remove their shoes and anything that might set off the metal detector. People with metal implants were patted down and scanned with a hand-held detector.
Upstairs, a court security officer gave anyone entering the trial courtroom an additional security check.
FBI agents were stationed on various floors as were several Charleston city police, in their blue uniforms.
Security was even heavier outside once court ended shortly after 5:30 p.m., when the family members of victims and other visitors made their way out of the courthouse and into the streets.