Charleston Church Massacre Survivor Describes Terrible Night 9 Were Shot Dead During Bible Study
A 72-year-old retired nurse was told to shut up while she prayed aloud during the violent mass shooting at a historic black Church last year, she told jurors on Wednesday.
Dylann Roof, 22, is accused of killing nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June 2015. The attack claimed the church's pastor and others who were attending a Bible study at the time.
Polly Sheppard, a retired nurse, was one of the few survivors of the attack, and was the last to testify for the prosecution at Roof's federal trial. Sheppard said that Roof had opened fire after her fellow parishioners had closed their eyes in prayer. She had thought the sound she heard to be electrical, until she heard Felicia Sanders, another survivor, screaming, "He's shooting everybody, Miss Polly!"
Sheppard then dived under a table for cover. She prayed aloud as shots were fired, but said that Roof told her to shut up.
"Have I shot you yet?" Sheppard said Roof asked her. She testified that she said no, to which Roof responded: "I'm not going to. I'm going to leave you here to tell the story."
Jurors heard the recording of Sheppard pleading with emergency dispatchers on the phone following the shooting.
"Please come," Sheppard had said.
The church's pastor, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, died from five gunshots. The oldest victim, Susie Jackson, 87, was hit at least 10 times, a forensic pathologist testified. Roof faces charges of hate crimes resulting in death, obstruction of religion, and firearms violations.
The case against Roof is substantial. A self-described white supremacist, he has admitted to the crime in a videotaped interview. He has offered to plead guilty should the federal prosecutors choose not to pursue a death sentence, however the government has refused to renege, and Roof awaits penalty, if he is convicted, in January.
Additional reporting by Reuters.