Families of the victims of the Charleston church shootings addressed race hate murder suspect Dylann Roof in court on Friday in a heartbreaking display of grief and forgiveness.
One after another, relatives took the rare opportunity to directly confront the 21-year-old gunman accused of killing nine churchgoers during a Bible study meeting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Wednesday evening.
Rather than direct feelings of hatred toward the alleged shooter, many chose instead to offer forgiveness and hope that he can find peace in God.
The extraordinary display of raw emotion came as Roof made his first court appearance since his arrest on Thursday.
According to the New York Times, Magistrate James B. Gosnell, Jr., set bail at $1 million on the gun charge.
The defendant watched impassively on a video link from a nearby jail, flanked by two guards, as the judge invited victims’ relatives to speak.
“I’m a work in progress and I acknowledge that I’m very angry,” said Bethane Middleton-Brown, sister of the Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor. “She taught me we are the family that love built. We have no room for hate. We have to forgive.”
“We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with open arms,” said Felicia Sanders, who was in the room when the gunman fatally shot nine people, including her son, Tywanza,
“You have killed some of the most beautiful people that I know. Every fiber in my body hurts, and I’ll never be the same. Tywanza Sanders was my son, but Tywanza was my hero.”
But Sanders, who only survived by playing dead, added: “May God have mercy on you.”
Choking back emotion, the daughter of another victim, Ethel Lance, said: “I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again.But I forgive you – and have mercy on your soul. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people, but God forgive you.”
Roof spoke only when questioned by the magistrate, confirming his address in the tiny town of Eastover, giving his age, and stating that he is unemployed, said the Times.