Family members of people who died in a Charleston church shooting confronted the chief suspect, Dylann Roof, in an emotional bond hearing Friday, describing through their tears the grief they’ve suffered and their struggle to forgive him.
Roof, 21, appeared on a television display in court via a closed-circuit camera feed. He was led into an enclosed room by two armed guards and stood in an oversized jail uniform, blinking impassively into the camera as aggrieved family members spoke to him directly.
“Every fiber in my body hurts, and I’ll never be the same,” said the mother of Tywanza Sanders, 26, who was among the 9 victims fatally shot during a bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Thursday. “Tywanza Sanders was my son, but Tywanza was my hero,” she said, her voice quivering through the statement. “May God have mercy on you,” she said.
“You hurt me, you hurt a lot of people,” said a daughter of victim Ethel Lance, 70, but forgiveness was a recurring refrain among the family representatives in court.
“I forgive you,” said Reverend Anthony Thompson, the husband of slain victim Myra Thompson, 59, before urging Roof to repent. “Give your life to what matters the most, Christ. He can change it, change your ways and what happened to you,” he said.
A report of the bond hearing later inspired President Barack Obama to tweet in support of the shooting victims’ families:
Roof briefly spoke to answer only three short procedural questions from the judge, and otherwise stood silent through the proceeding.
The hearing concluded with bail initially set at $1 million for possession of a firearm and court appearances scheduled for October 23 and February 5. Roof faces nine charges of murder, and is facing a federal investigation that could classify the crime as a hate crime or an act of terror, according to the Justice Department.