'It scared me' - Branch AME church member reacts to new Roof documents

Branch AME Church (Source: Live 5)
Branch AME Church (Source: Live 5)

CHARLESTON, SC (AP/WCSC) - Prosecutors in South Carolina say GPS evidence shows Dylann Roof drove toward a second black church the night he shot nine people to death during a Bible study.

In court documents unsealed Tuesday, federal prosecutors said they had evidence from Roof's GPS device showing on the evening of the shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church, Roof drove approximately 20 miles down I-26 before exiting the interstate at the Jedburg Road exit and drove towards Branch AME Church, "another church with a predominantly African-American congregation and a sign showing a scheduled Wednesday night Bible study."

"It scared me, very much," said Jannette Alston, a life-long member of Branch AME.

Alston heard about the news Wednesday morning and recalls they didn't have bible study the night of the shooting.

"It was a sign from God," Alston said.

Documents state as he approached the church, he slowed down and then his GPS device was deactivated for approximately two to three minutes, which prosecutors suggest is consistent with Roof stopping his car.

"It just blew my mind," Alston said. "Very frightening."

The documents also reveal this wasn't Roof's first time going to Branch AME.

Prosecutors said Roof had driven by the church on February 27th, months before the shooting at Mother Emanuel, "in the midst of his ongoing preparation for his offense."

Alston said Roof could have been there the same time she was rehearsing for the choir.

"I'm out there by myself, and the door isn't locked, it's open," she said. "It could have been me. He could have been out there scouting or whatever, seen a car and then come in the church."

Alston said her church is now more aware of new people in attendance, and urges other to keep a watchful eye.

She also adds, this news is likely to be discussed before bible study Wednesday night.

Six days after the motion to include Branch AME evidence, prosecutors filed a motion deciding to forgo the presentation of the evidence during Roof's federal trial. They did, however, present evidence about a handwritten list of predominantly African-American churches in the Lowcountry and Midlands found on a piece of paper in Roof's car.

Roof was sentenced to death last month after a jury convicted him of 33 federal charges. He's currently awaiting a second death penalty trial in state court.

Copyright 2017 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.