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Charleston: US church massacre relatives forgiving

By AP Reporter

Published 20/06/2015

Charged: Dylann Roof
Charged: Dylann Roof

Relatives of the nine black community leaders shot down during a Bible study session confronted the shooting suspect 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."

Dylann Storm Roof, who faces nine counts of murder, appeared by video from jail in South Carolina, looking sombre in a striped jumpsuit and speaking only briefly in response to questions.

Roof was ordered to be held on bail of $1m (£630,000) on the weapons charge pending another hearing by another judge on the murder charges.

Felecia Sanders survived the Wednesday night attack by pretending to be dead, but lost her son Tywanza. She spoke from the 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 fibre 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 looked sad and bowed his head slightly, but showed no other emotion as the relatives spoke.

Their remarkable comments seemed in keeping with a spirit evident on the streets of Charleston, 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.

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

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