Dylann Roof Hears Victims' Families Speak at First Court Appearance: 'I Forgive You'

Victim's mother said, "As we said at Bible study, may God have mercy on you."

ByABC News
June 19, 2015, 4:05 PM

— -- Several family members of the nine people killed at Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church balanced their grief with forgiveness at Dylann Roof’s first court appearance this afternoon.

“I forgive you,” the daughter of victim Ethel Lance, 70, said through tears to Roof, who appeared at the bond hearing via video-conferencing from jail. "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."

Dylann Roof is seen in custody on June 19, 2015.

Felicia Sanders, the mother of the slain Tywanza Sanders, 26, said, "We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with open arms."

"Every fiber in my body hurts," Sanders said. "And I'll never be the same."

Alana Simmons, granddaughter of victim Daniel Simmons Sr., 74, 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."

Bethane Middleton Brown, the sister of Rev. 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."

"I forgive you," said Anthony Thompson, the husband of slain Myra Thompson, 59. "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."

The Justice Department said today it is expediting a $29 million grant to go toward victim assistance in Charleston.

Judge James Gosnell, before asking relatives whether they wanted to comment, opened Roof's hearing with a lengthy statement, calling for strength for the victims' families and the family of the alleged shooter.

“There are victims on this young man’s side of the family," Gosnell said. “We must find it in our heart…to help his family as well.”

Roof stood expressionless. He was cuffed with two heavily armed guards behind him.

Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime, according to the Charleston Police Department. Roof was ineligible for bond on the murder charges in Gosnell’s court, by state law. But the judge set $1 million bond on the single weapons charge.

Friday evening, Roof's family released a statement expressing their "deepest sympathies and condolences to families of the victims."

"Words cannot express our shock, grief, and disbelief as to what happened that night. We are devastated and saddened by what occurred," the statement said.

"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, 21, allegedly confessed to killing nine people at the Charleston church Wednesday night, according to a law enforcement source briefed on the investigation.

"We are getting cooperation at this point," the official told ABC News today.

Interviews with Roof are ongoing, the official said.

He has been assigned public defender Ashley Pennington, according to court personnel. Pennington has not responded to ABC News' request for comment.

Roof’s next court appearances are scheduled for Oct. 23 and Feb. 5, 2016.

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