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Documents: Dylann Roof drove toward second AME church after Emanuel AME Church shooting

February 22, 2017 GMT

Dylann Roof drove to a second church with black parishioners after gunning down nine worshipers during a Bible study at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church on the night of June 17, 2015, according to newly unsealed court records.

A September motion from federal prosecutors indicates that Roof drove about 20 miles from Charleston after the massacre and headed straight for Branch AME Church in Jedburg, which also advertised a weekly Bible study that night.

Investigators traced Roof’s route by analyzing a GPS device found in his car. The GPS showed that Roof shut off the device for about two minutes as he approached Branch AME, a sign that he had stopped his car near the church, prosecutors said.

The GPS data also showed that Roof had driven by Branch AME about four months before the shooting, on Feb. 27, 2015, prosecutors said. At the time, the then-21-year-old man was living some 74 miles away in Eastover - more than hour’s drive from the church. The trip also took place around the time Roof purchased a web domain that would serve as the host site for a racist manifesto he posted just before his killing spree at Emanuel.

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The similarities between Emanuel and Branch AME churches, coupled with the fact that Roof was still armed, “supports the inference that Defendant intended to continue his racially-motivated violence at Branch AME Church that night and, more specifically, that his intended targets were African-American congregants at a church,” prosecutors stated in their motion.

The motion was among several documents unsealed late Tuesday, around the same time federal prosecutors signaled their opposition to Roof’s request for a new trial, maintaining that the Emanuel AME Church shooter is relying on failed legal arguments that have already been hashed over by the court.

Prosecutors were responding to a motion ?led earlier this month by Roof’s lawyers, who are seeking to throw out his death sentence in favor of a life prison term by targeting the charges eligible for capital punishment. Of Roof’s 33 federal counts, which included hate crimes and religious freedom violations, 18 were eligible for the death penalty.

But prosecutors argued that the issues raised were already considered and dismissed by U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel prior to the start of Roof’s trial in December. Roof’s attorneys argued that his actions didn’t constitute interstate commerce — a necessary component for the federal prosecution — because the attack was planned and executed completely within South Carolina. Prosecutors called the argument “misguided.” They noted that Roof used interstate highways, telephones and the internet to prepare for and carry out his attack, and interstate commerce enabled him to obtain a foreign-made gun, ammunition, magazines and a tactical pouch that he used in the massacre of nine black worshippers at the Charleston church.

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Defense attorneys also argued that the charges for which Roof was convicted don’t meet the de?nition of “crimes of violence” necessary under federal law to support death penalty convictions.

Prosecutors noted that Gergel already torpedoed that argument prior to trial. Defense lawyers are now trying to paint that decision as incorrect without offering any new arguments or evidence to support that position, the prosecution motion stated.

Roof, a 22-year-old self-avowed white supremacist, was sentenced to death in January for the June 2015 mass shooting. He is now being held at the Charleston County jail while he awaits a state trial on murder charges stemming from the attack