A handwritten list of Charleston and Columbia area churches, most of them with African-American congregations, was found during a search of Dylann Roof’s car just days after the accused Charleston church killer was arrested in June 2015, according to testimony in federal court Monday.
Roof’s papers listed more than a dozen other churches besides Charleston’s Emanuel AME church, where Roof is accused of the killings of nine African-Americans at a Bible study class in June 2015.
The list included Bethel AME Columbia, New Light Beulah Baptist and Friendship Baptist in Hopkins and Antioch AME Zion in Eastover.
“I don’t know why he skipped our church and went to Charleston but, thank God, he did,” said Pelham Myers, chairman of the deacon board at New Light Beulah Baptist.
According to previous testimony, Roof settled on Emanuel AME because it is in a historic city and the highest-profile of all African-American churches on his list.
The motive of Roof, 22, a self-avowed white supremacist, was to kill blacks for “perceived offenses against the white race,” assistant U.S. attorney Jay Richardson told the jury last week.
Also listed was Trinity Episcopal Cathedral across from the State House, a church that Columbia area resident Roof noted “Just to Tour.” Unlike the other churches, Trinity is largely white.
“Hearing that news certainly comes with an emotional impact,” said Rev. Timothy Jones, cathedral dean. “It makes me sad to think he even might have thought of doing violence here.”
Richardson, who is lead prosecutor, is a Trinity member. He declined comment Monday.
Myers and Jones said security has increased at their churches, a step urged by law enforcement leaders.
Roof’s notes were taken from his car along with numerous other items as State Law Enforcement Division investigators methodically searched his car a day after the killings.
If the jury convicts Roof of the hate crimes offenses involving the killings, the same jury will deliberate whether to sentence him to death or give him life in prison without parole.
In other testimony Monday:
▪ Tracy Sicks, a member of the FBI cyber-crimes unit, read a manifesto prosecutors say was published by Roof on his website. In the manifesto – whose contents have earlier been reported – Roof discusses the purported racial superiority of whites and belittles Africans-Americans, Jews, Hispanics and Asians and all but says he is going to Charleston to start a race war. “I hate the sight of the American flag,” Roof wrote.
▪ Sixty photos taken by Roof at various sites around South Carolina were shown. Many were self-portraits in places that memorialized slavery, such as antebellum plantations and a marker at Sullivan’s Island where thousands of slaves were brought from Africa.
▪ Defense attorney Kimberly Stevens asked Sicks about white extremist Internet sites Roof had visited and wanted to know if the FBI monitored The Daily Stormer and Storm Front. “I don’t feel comfortable answering that question,” Sicks replied.
▪ Images seized from a computer Roof had used at his father’s home in Columbia contained photos of a person with a Nazi tattoo and a Ku Klux Klan member as well as a digital copy of a book on the KKK called “Invisible Empire.”
Staff writer Teddy Kulmala contributed to this story.