Relatives of Charleston Shooting Victims Address Dylann Roof in Court — ‘I Forgive You’
In an emotionally charged courtroom in North Charleston, South Carolina, relatives of the tragic church massacre on Wednesday spoke to the accused shooter, Dylann Roof, at his first court appearance on Friday through closed-circuit television. They took the chance to address him directly, with many offering prayers and forgiveness, despite their obvious grief.
Nadine Collier, the daughter of one of the victims, Ethel Lance, had some of the most poignant words:
I forgive you. You took something very precious away from me. I will never get to 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. If God forgives you, I forgive you.
Not everyone was so quick to immediately forgive, though. Felicia Sanders, the mother of Tywanza Sanders, did not say, "I forgive you," though she did wish him mercy:
We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with welcome arms. You have killed some of the most beautiful people that I know. Every fiber in my body hurts and I’ll, I’ll never be the same. Tywanza Sanders was my son. But Tywanza Sanders was my hero. Tywanza was my hero. … May God have mercy on you.
The sister of the slain DePayne Middleton Doctor spoke of love overcoming hate in this time of great anger:
That was my sister, and I’d like to thank you on behalf of my family for not allowing hate to win. For me, I’m a work in progress. And I acknowledge that I am very angry. But one thing that DePayne always enjoined in our family … is she taught me that we are the family that love built. We have no room for hating, so we have to forgive. I pray God on your soul.
Relatives of Myra Thompson and Daniel Simmons also spoke, echoing many of the themes above.
Roof, 21, has been charged with nine counts of murder and could face the death penalty if convicted. Officials say he was unrepentant about his crimes while allegedly confessing them to police. He is being held without bail. During the hearing, he said little, only the occasional "Yes, sir" or "No sir" in response to the judge's questions.