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Rev. Simmons left handgun in car on night of Emanuel shooting, says son in testimony

Rev. Daniel Simmons carried a small pistol with him everywhere, even to church on Sundays and bible studies on Wednesday nights.

But on the night of the shooting that left nine people dead on June 17, 2015, that gun was sitting on the passenger seat of his favorite car -- in the church's parking lot.

Jurors learned that Thursday afternoon in testimony from Simmons's son Dan Simmons Jr. during the penalty phase of convicted church shooter Dylann Roof's hate crimes trial.

"My father was a protector. He knew how to use a weapon. He took a weapon with him every Sunday. I didn't know why he didn't have it with him," Simmons said.

It served as yet another what-if in the trial as witness after witness explained their deep connections to the witnesses, who were fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers, and best friends.

For each of the family members, it's those questions that continue to haunt their days as they wonder what it was that kept them in Mother Emanuel's fellowship hall that night.

ABC News 4 has a team of journalists in the federal courtroom covering every development and relaying the information in a live blog. Follow along here from the mobile app.


Rev. Anthony Thompson, Myra Thompson's husband, told jurors on Wednesday that his wife was planning to leave Emanuel and had pushed him several times to move to Charlotte so they could be closer to their grandchildren.

On Thursday, Denise Quarles, Thompson's daughter, said she had a dream of her mother dying.

Quarles said: "And I heard a voice; it was a man's voice, and it said, 'Your mommy has died.'"

The children of Rev. Depayne Middleton Doctor said she would often come home on bible study night and force them to get dressed and attend. But on the night of the shooting, she didn't ask them to attend.

Bethane Middleton described her sister as the good little girl who always followed the rules.

"Well, Depayne was the rule follower and I was the rule breaker. She was always the one that guided me and tried to keep me out of trouble," she said.

Bethane Middleton described her sister Rev. Middleton Doctor as the good little girl who always followed the rules.

"Well, Depayne was the rule follower and I was the rule breaker. She was always the one that guided me and tried to keep me out of trouble," she said.

Along with dozens of photos shared with the courtroom, jurors were able to hear Singleton and Middleton speak through recordings of the two women.

With their voices filling the courtroom, tears flowed from jurors and family members.

And then jurors heard from Lauren Knapp, an intelligence officer with the Charleston County Sheriff's Office who inspects all communication into and out of the church.

She read a journal of Roof's writings he wrote in his cell that espoused more racist and white nationalist beliefs, condemning Jews and Hispanics for manipulating the media and infiltrating the United States, respectively.

While jurors heard from family members, a battle contined to rage at the defense table between Roof and attorney David Bruck.

Quarles' testimony sparked action from Bruck.

Roof did not object and did not cross-examine Quarles. Bruck whispered something to Roof, but Roof shook his head and would not look at his standby counsel.

With the jury out of the room, Bruck filed a motion seeking to handle objections for Roof. He said Roof was not capable of intervening in the testimony to lodge an objection.

Bruck said he has been passing notes and telling Roof to object, especially on testimony of dreams and opinions on the crime.

But Roof wouldn't object.

"This is his sentencing. It is not a memorial service," Bruck said.

But U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson said it was Roof who chose to represent himself.

"He is the one that chose to kill nine people. He chose the church. And he chose to kill particularly good people," he said.

Gergel said he would not allow Bruck to stand in for Roof and object to testimony, explaining that Roof chose this route despite repeated warnings.

In the witnesses who followed Quarles, Roof did not object to any testimony despite apparent pushes from Bruck.

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