Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Charleston nine murderer held on $1 million bond

Published:Friday | June 19, 2015 | 6:23 PM
Dylann Roof appears via video before a judge in Charleston today. The 21-year-old accused of killing nine people inside a black church in Charleston made his first court appearance, with the relatives of all the victims making tearful statements.

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP):

They forgave him. They advised him to repent for his sins, and asked for God's mercy on his soul. One even told Dylann Storm Roof to repent and confess, and "you'll be OK."

Relatives of the nine community leaders shot down during a Bible study session at their historic black church confronted the shooting suspect Friday during his initial court hearing, and spoke of love.

"I forgive you, my family forgives you," said Anthony Thompson. "We would like you to take this opportunity to repent. ... Do that and you'll be better off than you are right now."

Roof, who faces nine counts of murder, was ordered held on $1 million bond on a separate gun charge. He appeared by video from the county jail, looking somber in a striped jumpsuit and speaking only briefly in response to the judge's questions.

Felecia Sanders survived the Wednesday night attack by pretending to be dead, but lost her son Tywanza. She also spoke from the judge's courtroom, where Roof's image appeared on a television screen.

"We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with open arms. You have killed some of the most beautifulest people that I know. Every fiber in my body hurts ... and I'll never be the same," Sanders told Roof.

"Tywanza was my hero," Sanders said, but even she showed some kindness as she confronted the man accused of killing her son: "As we said in Bible Study, we enjoyed you but may God have mercy on you."

Roof, 21, looked sad and bowed his head slightly, but showed no other emotion as the relatives spoke. From the jail, he could hear the people talking, but couldn't see them, because the camera shows only the judge.

The relatives' remarkable comments seemed in keeping with a spirit evident on the streets of Charleston Friday, where people built a memorial and planned a vigil to repudiate whatever a gunman would hope to accomplish by attacking the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the nation's most important African-American sanctuaries.

"A hateful person came to this community with some crazy idea he'd be able to divide, but all he did was unite us and make us love each other even more," Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. said as he described plans for the evening vigil at a sports arena.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said the state will "absolutely" want the death penalty.

A steady stream of people brought flowers and notes and shared somber thoughts at a growing memorial in front of the church, which President Barack Obama called "a sacred place in the history of Charleston and in the history of America."

"This was an act of racial terrorism and must be treated as such," the Rev Cornell William Brooks, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said today in Charleston.

Roof had complained while getting drunk on vodka recently that "blacks were taking over the world" and that "someone needed to do something about it for the white race," according to Joey Meek, who tipped the FBI when he saw his friend on surveillance images.

Roof also told him he used birthday money from his parents to buy a .45 Glock pistol before the attack, Meek said.