CHARLESTON, S.C., — A 72-year-old woman testified on Wednesday that she cowered under a table as Dylann Roof killed nine fellow worshippers at a historic black church in South Carolina and that he told her she was being spared so she could share the story of the massacre.
Polly Sheppard was the last witness to testify for the prosecution. Immediately after she recounted the bloodshed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Roof told the judge he did not want to testify and the defense rested its case.
Jurors also heard a tape of Sheppard calling emergency dispatchers for help after the shootings on June 17, 2015.
“Please come,” she said, describing how a white gunman had shot the church’s pastor and others attending a Bible study.
Sheppard, a member of the church’s trustee board, quiet and composed as she told jurors how Roof, 22, a self-described white supremacist, opened fire after parishioners had closed their eyes in prayer.
“Have I shot you yet?” Sheppard said he asked her.
When she responded no, Sheppard said Roof told her, “I’m not going to. I’m going to leave you here to tell the story.”
Testimony from Sheppard and a forensic pathologist on Wednesday were the final pieces of prosecutors’ death penalty case against Roof, who faces 33 charges of federal hate crimes resulting in death, obstruction of religion and firearms violations.
Some of the victims’ family members chose to leave the courtroom before Dr. S. Erin Presnell, a forensic pathologist at the Medical University of South Carolina, gave a grim accounting of the multiple gunshot wounds suffered by the dead.
Others stayed, wiping away tears as jurors viewed X-rays of the bodies and photos of the recovered bullets.
Myra Thompson, who had led the Bible study, was shot at least eight times, Presnell testified. Susie Jackson, who was 87 and the oldest victim, was hit at least 10 times. The Reverend Clementa Pinckney, pastor at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and a state legislator, died from five gunshots.
If Roof is convicted, he has indicated he wants to represent himself during the penalty phase of the trial, when jurors would decide if he should be sentenced to prison or death.