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Relatives of some of the people gunned down at a historic black church in Charleston faced the accused shooter in an emotionally wrenching court hearing Friday — and told him they forgive him.
"I would just like him to know that ... I forgive you, my family forgives you," Anthony Thompson said during a bond hearing for the suspect, Dylann Roof. His grandmother, Myra Thompson, 59, was one of nine people killed in the horrific attack at Emanuel African Episcopal Church on Wednesday.
"We would like you to take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess. Give your life to the one who matters the most: Christ. So that he can change it," Anthony Thompson told the accused gunman. Roof, 21, appeared via a closed-circuit video link at jail.
Roof, who was ordered held on $1 million bond during the hearing, looked down briefly during the proceedings, but he remained largely stone-faced as the family members addressed him. He is charged with nine counts of murder and one count of possession of a weapon to commit a violent crime.
A police affidavit released Friday says Roof arrived at the church wearing a "fanny pack" just after 8 p.m. Wednesday and joined a Bible study group. After about “an hour of studying, the defendant stood up and with malice and aforethought pulled out handgun and began shooting at the parishioners inside the hall striking nine victims," the affidavit says.
All nine victims were hit multiple times, the affidavit said. Roof stood over a surviving witness and “uttered a racially inflammatory statement to the witness,” according to the affidavit. The witness was not identified.
Roof’s father and uncle called police after the shooting and said Roof was the man pictured in photos released by authorities, the affidavit said. Roof’s father said his son owned a .45-caliber handgun, and .45-caliber casings were found at the crime scene, the affidavit said.
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Other families whose loved ones were gunned down had the opportunity to speak. Many expressed forgiveness for Roof, 21, who was welcomed to a Bible study at the church and even sat among the parishioners before he opened fire.
A woman who survived the massacre by playing dead, even as her son was cut down by the gunman's bullets, told the suspect that their Bible study had welcomed him with open arms — but now she'll never be the same.
"You have killed some of the most beautifulest people that I know. Every fiber in my body hurts," said Felicia Sanders, the mother of the slain Tywanza Sanders.
An unidentified daughter of victim Ethel Lance said she also forgave Roof.
"I think he took something very precious away from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you," she said. "You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. May God forgive you," she said. "And I forgive you," she repeated. Ethel Lance was a mother of five, according to an obituary.
The mother of victim Tywanza Sanders, 26, also said she wished God would forgive her son's accused killer.
"May God have mercy on you," she said. "Every fiber in my body hurts, and I’ll never be the same," she added.
"Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate ... everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love," said Alana Simmons, the granddaughter of Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74. "Hate won’t win."
The sister of victim Rev. Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49, said she was "very angry," but said, "we have no room for hate so we have to forgive."
"I pray God on your soul," Doctor's sister, who did not identify herself, said. "And I also thank God that I will be around when your judgment day comes with him. May God bless you."