Dylann Roof, a white supremacist, confessed to the 2015 murders in a historic black church
Dylann Roof, the professed white supremacist who confessed to fatally shooting nine people at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, after sitting through a Bible study class, was found guilty of several charges today.
A jury of three black people and nine white people found Roof, 22, guilty of hate crimes, religious obstruction and firearms violations in the June 2015 attack, reports the Charleston Post and Courier.
He will be sentenced January 3, and faces either death or life in prison.
Roof allegedly sat alongside his victims for about one hour inside the Emanuel AME Church before opening fire on the parishioners, according to authorities.
His trial went forward only after U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ruled Roof to be competent to face charges and stand in his defense.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
Prosecutors said he was a calculating killer who began scouting the church nearly two years ago, traveling six times from his home 90 minutes away in Eastover as he planned the shooting.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams said in his closing argument that Roof pointed his .45-caliber Glock pistol on innocents who had their eyes closed for prayer.
“In that moment, a man of immense hatred walked that room shooting person after person after person, stopping only so he could reload more magazines and kill more people,” Williams told the jury, according to the Post and Courier. “It was an act of tremendous cowardice, shooting people as they have their eyes closed in prayer, shooting them on the ground.”
Jurors found Roof guilty of all 33 charges he faced, and returned their verdicts after less than two hours.
• Pick up PEOPLE’s special edition True Crime Stories: Cases That Shocked America,on sale now, for the latest on Casey Anthony, JonBenét Ramsey and more.
U.S. Senator Tim Scott, a Republican from South Carolina, responded to the verdict on Twitter, saying, “While today’s verdict will not bring back those lost, it does ensure that the families of those murdered and injured at Mother Emanuel will see justice come to the evil man who perpetuated this heinous crime. I know it was not easy for them to testify and sit and watch as photos and evidence from June 17, 2015, were shown in court.”
“As the killer now awaits sentencing, I want the families of those lost that day to know one thing: We are all still with you. While this chapter is now closed, the rest of this book has yet to be written. You strength and courage has changed Charleston, South Carolina, and our nation forever..”
He added: “We now that love can overcome hate, and that united we are greater than the sum of our parts. Because although a racist madman attempted to destroy us, and we will never forget the scars he gave us, what he really ended up doing was showing us what we must do every single day. Believe in love. Trust in each other. And be resolute in our determination to move forward together.”
Roof had pleaded not guilty. Is was not immediately clear whether he plans to appeal.