COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The man convicted of killing nine worshippers during Bible study at a black church in 2015 drove toward a second black parish afterward, according to federal court documents unsealed Tuesday, but no one was there because that sanctuary’s class had been canceled.
According to the documents, federal prosecutors said they had GPS evidence showing that after the fatal shootings at Charleston’s Emanuel AME church on June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof exited the interstate and drove approximately 30 miles northwest toward the Branch AME Church in Summerville. The Branch church also had a sign advertising Bible study, the prosecutors said, and Roof shut off his GPS device, which they said indicated he stopped the car.
Branch AME pastor the Rev. Rufus Berry told The Associated Press that he called off Bible study that night because he was going to be late leaving his job at a cement company. He said he was shocked when he learned through news reports that his church, which has 70 members, was a second target.
“I would hate to know what the outcome would be. I dread to even think about that,” Berry said Wednesday, moments before heading to the very Bible class that was canceled the night of the shootings. “I thank God that he had us protected” from a second attack, he said.
In December, a jury convicted Roof on 33 federal charges for gunning down nine people as they prayed at the end of a Bible study at the historic Charleston church known as Mother Emanuel.
During trial, prosecutors presented evidence showing that the self-taught white supremacist, now 22, had lists of other black churches in his car when he was arrested in Shelby, North Carolina. The details about the Branch AME church were not mentioned, however.
During a lengthy confession the day after the shootings, Roof told FBI agents he was too tired after the Emanuel killings to carry out any other violence.
State prosecutors are pursuing the death penalty against Roof on murder charges. No date has been set for his trial, which had been indefinitely postponed during the federal proceedings. Roof is also seeking a new federal trial, saying prosecutors didn’t have jurisdiction to bring their case against him.
Foreman reported from Charlotte, North Carolina. Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP . Read more of her work at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/meg-kinnard/
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