Charleston church shooting suspect Dylann Roof appeared in court via videolink yesterday for the first time since Wednesday's massacre.
Friends and family of the nine people who died at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were present to see the 21-year-old, wearing a prison jumpsuit, appear for his bond hearing.
What they said to him in court has moved America.
A daughter of victim Ethel Lance said:
You took something very precious from me and 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.
Felicia Sanders, mother of victim Tywanza Sanders and herself a survivor of the attack, said:
We welcomed you Wednesday night in our bible study with open arms. Every fibre in my body hurts. And I'll never be the same.
Alana Simmons, granddaughter of retired pastor Daniel Simmons Sr who died in the attack, said:
Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, this is proof everyone's plea for your soul is proof that they lived and loved and their legacies will live and love. So hate won't win and I just want to thank the court for making sure that hate doesn't win.
Anthony Thompson, whose wife Myra Thompson died at the church, said:
I forgive you. But we would like you to take this opportunity to repent. Repent, confess, give your life to the one who matters most: Christ. So that he can change it, can change your ways no matter what happened to you and you'll be OK. Do that and you'll be better off than what you are right now.
Bethane Middleton Brown, the sister of victim DePayne Middleton-Doctor, said:
For me, I am a work in progress. And I acknowledge I am very angry. But one thing that she's always joined in our family with is that she taught me that we are the families that love built. We have no room for hate so we have to forgive. I pray God on your soul and I also thank god that I will be around when your judgment day comes with him. May God bless you.
Later, Barack Obama tweeted:
Roof meanwhile gave no visible reaction to the families of his alleged victims publicly forgiving him.
In a statement, his family said:
Words cannot express our shock, grief, and disbelief as to what happened that night. We are devastated and saddened by what occurred.
We have all been touched by the moving words from the victims’ families offering God’s forgiveness and love in the face of such horrible suffering.
Roof has reportedly already confessed to the nine murders. The governor of South Carolina has said he should face the death penalty if convicted.
Roof is not due back in court again until October and then February next year. He is currently in a cell at Charleston County jail adjacent to Michael Slager, the white police officer charged with murdering unarmed black man Walter Scott in Charleston earlier this year.
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