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CityPress - - News - – Staff re­porter

t is the ul­ti­mate of ironies ... and para­doxes. As rel­a­tives of those gunned down by Dy­lann Roof at a South Carolina church in the US this week spoke about how they had for­given him, his own fam­ily con­demned him and called for him to be put to death. “You took some­thing very pre­cious away from me,” said Na­dine Col­lier, daugh­ter of 70-year-old Ethel Lance, at Roof’s first court ap­pear­ance on Fri­day.

“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.”

Roof (21) was charged on Fri­day with nine counts of mur­der and one of crim­i­nal pos­ses­sion of a firearm.

He shot and killed nine black peo­ple dur­ing Bi­ble study at Emanuel African Methodist Epis­co­pal Church in Charleston on Wed­nes­day night in an al­legedly racially mo­ti­vated mas­sacre that stunned the US. He was ar­rested on Thurs­day.

“We wel­comed you on Wed­nes­day night in our Bi­ble study with open arms,” said Feli­cia San­ders, the mother of Ty­wanza San­ders (26), a poet who died try­ing to save his aunt, who was also killed. “You have killed some of the most beau­ti­ful peo­ple that I know. Ev­ery fi­bre in my body hurts, and I will never be the same ... But as we say in Bi­ble study, we en­joyed you. But may God have mercy on you.”

But Roof’s un­cle, Car­son Cowles, told ABC’s Good Morn­ing Amer­ica that his nephew should die if he was found guilty.

“If he’s found guilty, I’ll be the one to push the but­ton my­self,” he said. “If what I am hear­ing is true, he needs to pay for it.”

It emerged yesterday that Roof grew up in a frac­tured home where his “vi­o­lent” fa­ther beat his step­mother.

The Daily Mail re­ported that Roof’s life be­gan go­ing off the rails when he was 15 – af­ter his fa­ther sep­a­rated from his step­mother, the main an­chor in his life.

His fa­ther, Franklin Ben­nett Roof, was trav­el­ling for four days a week with his con­struc­tion com­pany.

Roof be­gan skip­ping classes, did not fin­ish high school and was un­em­ployed – liv­ing “on and off” with his fa­ther. He al­legedly spent his days tak­ing drugs and play­ing video games.

Mean­while, Chris­ton Scriven, a black drink­ing buddy of Roof’s, said Roof told him a week ear­lier that he planned to shoot up a col­lege cam­pus in the city.

On Fri­day, Scriven said he thought Roof’s state­ments were just drunken blus­ter. Still, Scriven said he was con­cerned enough that he and another friend, Joey Meek, went to Roof’s car and re­trieved his .45 cal­i­bre hand­gun and hid it in an air-con­di­tion­ing vent un­til they all sobered up.

“He just said he was go­ing to hurt a bunch of peo­ple” at the Col­lege of Charleston, said Scriven.

“I said: ‘What did you say? Why do you want to hurt those peo­ple in Charleston?’” “He just said: ‘In seven days ... I have seven days.’” The ex­change re­counted by Scriven matches ac­counts from other friends of Roof’s who were in­ter­viewed by AP.

They de­scribed him as a trou­bled and con­fused young man who al­ter­nated be­tween par­ty­ing with black friends and rant­ing against blacks to his white friends.

Four months be­fore the shoot­ing rampage, court records show Roof was ar­rested at a shop­ping mall on a mis­de­meanour drug charge af­ter go­ing around dressed all in black, ask­ing sus­pi­cious ques­tions about when stores closed and what time em­ploy­ees left for the night.

He was later ar­rested again, this time for tres­pass­ing at the mall, de­spite be­ing banned from the premises.

On his Face­book pro­file, Roof posted a photo of him­self wear­ing a jacket adorned with the flags of the old South Africa and Rhode­sia, yet he also counted sev­eral black peo­ple among his online so­cial con­nec­tions.

Scriven lives next door to Meek in a trailer park, where res­i­dents say Roof was a fre­quent visi­tor in re­cent months.

In an in­ter­view with AP on Thurs­day, Meek re­counted how Roof had com­plained while get­ting drunk on vodka that “blacks were tak­ing over the world” and that “some­one needed to do some­thing about it for the white race”.

Con­versely, Scriven said he and Roof never talked about race.

He said Roof con­fided that he was un­happy, bounc­ing be­tween the homes of his di­vorced par­ents.

Scriven said he could tell Roof was de­pressed and that he com­plained that he wasn’t get­ting the love and emo­tional sup­port he needed from his par­ents.

On Fri­day, the Charleston po­lice depart­ment re­leased new de­tails about the mas­sacre.

“All the vic­tims were hit mul­ti­ple times,” it wrote in the ar­rest war­rant. “The gun­man walked in wear­ing a [bumbag] and sat with the group talk­ing scrip­ture for nearly an hour be­fore he drew a gun and be­gan fir­ing.” On his way out, he stood over a sur­viv­ing wit­ness “and ut­tered a racially in­flam­ma­tory state­ment”.

How­ever, as Roof is now dis­cov­er­ing, love does ap­pear to be stronger than hate.

At a prayer vigil at­tended by thou­sands of black and white peo­ple on Fri­day night, Charleston mayor Joe Ri­ley vowed: “If that young man thought he was go­ing to di­vide this coun­try ... he mis­er­ably failed. Let’s keep these nine peo­ple and their fam­i­lies in our prayers and never for­get them.”

PHOTO: REUTERS

TROU­BLED Dy­lann Roof ap­pears by closed­cir­cuit TV at his bail hear­ing in Charleston, South Carolina, on Fri­day

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