CHARLESTON, S.C. — If there was any question as to whether Dylann Roof had a change of heart from the time he penned his jailhouse manifesto in August 2015 to now, a new revelation raised in court Friday effectively dashed those hopes.
FBI agent Joseph Hamski said Friday that at points in the legal proceedings — and as recently as Monday — Roof, 22, had been wearing a pair of white slip-on sneakers with a racist symbol drawn on the heel to court.
The news seemed to surprise those assembled for the third day of testimony in Roof's sentencing trial. Hamski, the agent who analyzed Roof's writings and belongings for links to white nationalist ideologies, testified to Roof's motive in his June 2015 massacre of nine black parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
"United White Front is the coalition of racist groups," Hamski said in court, before describing a symbol commonly used by those who affiliate themselves with the group — the Celtic Cross, the symbol found on Roof's standard issue shoes.
Hamski went on to detail Roof's online activity, focusing on the popular white nationalist web forum Storm Front, where Roof posted under the handle "LilAryan."
"I would like to expand on why I disagree with your opinion, Ian," Roof wrote in one of three public messages on Storm Front. "I consider myself well-versed in racism."
Following Hamski's testimony, family members of Roof's victims retook the stand for the prosecution's victim impact statements. Former North Carolina state Sen. Malcolm Graham, the brother of victim Cynthia Hurd, told jurors his life has been completely upended since her death.
"I'm breathing, I'm healthy, but my life is empty," Graham said on the witness stand. "There's something missing. I can't go to the store and replace it. It can't be reinvented."
In a rare moment of levity, Najee Washington, granddaughter of Ethel Lee Lance, with whom she lived, said Lance snored really loudly. Lance would tease her when Washington complained.
But it was when she testified about having to identify her grandmother's body with the coroner that her smiles turned to tears.
"I'm breathing, I'm healthy, but my life is empty. There's something missing."
Washington told jurors that when she arrived at the hotel that law enforcement reserved for family members, shooting survivor Polly Sheppard handed her Lance's bloodstained phone. It was the phone Sheppard used to dial 911. The coroner, Washington said, asked her whether she knew what her grandmother wore to church that evening, but she didn't know.
The last time she'd seen her, that morning, her grandmother was still in her pajamas, a detail that prompted two of Lance's relatives to leave the courtroom, one of them doubled over and crying uncontrollably.
When Washington returned home early the next morning, her home wasn't the same. "The apartment just felt dark," she told jurors. "Everything felt cold. It wasn't my home anymore."
Federal prosecutors said they expect to wrap up sentencing trial testimony Monday. U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said he will likely give the jury instructions for deliberation the following day.
Roof, who is acting as his own attorney, has said he would not call witnesses or present evidence during his sentencing.