The mother of Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof suffered a heart attack Wednesday, Dec. 7, soon after prosecutors described in graphic detail her son’s heinous attack on nine Black parishioners at Mother Emanuel A.M.E Church, according to court documents from Roof’s defense attorney.
Roof’s mother collapsed to the floor and repeatedly said, “I’m sorry!” as family members and court officials rushed to her aid, NBC News reported. Attorney David Bruck’s documents didn’t provide an update on the woman’s current condition.
Wednesday marked Day 1 of heartbreaking testimony from survivors of the deadly June 17, 2015, attack that shocked the nation. Survivor Felicia Sanders, filled with emotion, took the stand and recounted terrifying details of the night 22-year-old Roof joined the churchgoers for Bible study, then calmly walked out after shooting nine of them dead.
Sanders went on to describe the horror she felt as she watched the self-proclaimed white supremacist gun down her aunt and her son, as she and her niece ducked down beneath a table for protection. She recalled the moment Roof pumped four bullets into her son.
“Seventy-seven shots in that room, from someone we thought was looking for the Lord,” Sanders said of the gunman. “He just sat there the whole time [at Bible study], evil, evil, evil as can be.”
Sanders also testified that in the aftermath of the shooting, Roof threatened to kill himself.
“I was counting on that,” she said. “There’s no place on Earth for him other than the pit of Hell.”
In his notes, Bruck mentioned that Sanders’ testimony was so emotional that “spectators and even court personnel — including members of the prosecution and defense — were crying with her.” The heartbreaking details were just too much, so much so that the defense attorney called for a mistrial in the high-profile case.
According to Reuters, Bruck tried to argue that the shooting survivor’s testimony was inappropriate because it contained prejudicial opinions on the punishment Roof should face. But U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel on Thursday denied the attorney’s request to throw out the testimony, saying he interpreted Sanders’ comments as religious statement, not an opinion on sentencing.
In addition to hearing agonizing details of parishioners’ final moments in the church, on Thursday, jurors were shown surveillance video of Roof and Bible study-goers entering the building from the parking lot. The gunman, carrying a small pack on his waist, which investigators said held his ammunition, was then seen exiting the church 51 minutes later.
Images from inside the church were much more chilling. Mic reported that jurors viewed images of the victims’ belongings like Bibles, purses and notepads scattered across the floor of the church’s fellowship hall. Haunting panoramic images of the nine victims laying in pools of their own blood also were shown. One photo even showed an open Bible laying next to one of Roof’s emptied magazine clips, the website reported.
A Snapchat video showing one of the shooting victims in Bible study (with Roof nearby) also was presented as evidence in the case.
The accused gunman is facing 33 hate-crime charges for the racially motivated attack. He also faces a separate state murder trial in Charleston, S.C., where prosecutors also are seeking the death penalty.
Bruck told the Associated Press he doesn’t have much hope that his client will be found not guilty.
“There is not a great deal to dispute,” he said.