Charleston church shooter wanted to keep autism diagnosis under wraps

The white gunman convicted of murdering nine black parishioners during a bible study at a South Carolina church two years ago said he’d rather die than allow his lawyers to publicize his autism diagnosis.

“Because once you’ve got that label, there is no point in living anyway. You see what I am saying?” the 23-year-old gunman said at a November hearing during which his defense team tried to prove he was too incompetent to stand trial.

Jurors handed the shooter the death penalty in January after convicting him on 33 offenses, including murder and hate crimes, stemming from the June 17, 2015 attack at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. The shooter gunned down nine black parishioners during a bible study that evening and later told investigators he wanted to ignite a race war.

The gunman reportedly never expressed remorse for the killings and contradicted his legal team’s strategy to paint him as mentally disturbed, concerned he would “lose credit” for his crimes, even telling one evaluator autism “is for nerds and losers.”

“There’s nothing wrong with me,” he said in a transcript obtained by CNN. “The state psychiatrist told me there is nothing wrong with me. He said I don’t have autism. I’m just a sociopath.”

The revelation comes from a trove of records, including prison videos and psychiatric evaluations, unsealed by a federal judge last week.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Mark Gergel allowed journalists from some media outlets to view the documents and videos at the courthouse, but declined public release.

One of the mental health professionals who evaluated the gunman said he displayed symptoms inconsistent with autism spectrum disorder, such as “anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, disordered thinking, and psychosis, including delusions of grandeur and somatic delusions.”

The Daily Mail reports the shooter believed fellow white supremacists would overthrow the government, pardon him for the killings and make him governor of South Carolina in just “four or five years.” He also insisted he contracted syphilis in prison and wore his hair in a bowl cut to disguise his forehead, which he believed to be too large.

“It is my impression that it is too early to predict his psychiatric trajectory,” Dr. Rachel Loftin wrote in one report, according to CNN, “but his symptoms appear to me to be consistent with the schizophrenia spectrum.”

Last week, Gergel denied the Charleston church shooter’s request for a new trial.

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