Fam­i­lies tell sus­pect of an­guish, for­give­ness

Charleston rel­a­tives face ac­cused killer in court

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Joseph Tan­fani and Richard A. Ser­rano

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — In an ex­tra­or­di­nary emo­tional dis­play of raw pain and grace, the rel­a­tives of those slain in a shoot­ing at a his­toric black church con­fronted sus­pected killer Dy­lann Roof in court on Fri­day. Through tears, some reached for for­give­ness.

“We wel­comed you Wed­nes­day night in our Bi­ble study with open arms,” said Fele­cia San­ders, who sur­vived the at­tack at the Emanuel African Methodist Epis­co­pal Church, where her son, Ty­wanza, died. “You have killed some of the most beau­ti­fulest peo­ple that I know. Ev­ery fiber in my body hurts … and I’ll never be the same.”

“Ty­wanza San­ders was my son, but Ty­wanza was my hero,” she said. “May God have mercy on you.”

An­thony Thompson, the grand­son of vic­tim Myra Thompson, told Roof, “I for­give you, my fam­ily for­gives you. … We would like you to take this op­por­tu­nity to re­pent. Do that and you’ll be bet­ter off than you are right now.”

Roof, 21, ap­peared on a video screen in the small court­room in North Charleston, next door to the jail where he has been held since be­ing cap­tured in North Carolina on Thurs­day af­ter an ex­ten­sive man­hunt. He stood with his hands cuffed be­hind his back and an­swered “Yes, sir” or “No, sir” in a flat voice to ques­tions from Chief Mag­is­trate Judge James Gos­nell.

The judge be­gan the hear­ing with a state­ment of sym­pa­thy for those slain — as well as for Roof ’s fam­ily.

“We have vic­tims, nine of them, but we also have vic­tims on the other side,” Gos­nell said. “There are vic­tims on the other side, this young man’s fam­ily. No one would ever have thrown them into the whirl­wind they have been thrown into.”

In a state­ment later, the Roof fam­ily ex­tended its “deep­est sym­pa­thies and con­do­lences” to the 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,” they said, ask­ing for pri­vacy.

In South Carolina, it is not un­usual for vic­tims or rel­a­tives to speak at a bond hear­ing like Roof ’s. But Fri­day’s hear­ing was an ex­cep­tional dis­play of emo­tion.

“I will never talk to her ever again. I will never hold her ever again,” said one sob­bing woman who iden­ti­fied her­self as the daugh­ter of Ethel Lance. “You hurt me. You hurt a lot of peo­ple. But God for­give you. I for­give you.”

Roof is be­ing held in a spe­cial iso­la­tion unit in the jail. In the next cell is Michael Slager, the white North Charleston po­lice of­fi­cer charged in the fa­tal shoot­ing of an un­armed black man in April.

Gos­nell, a lower-court judge, does not have au­thor­ity to set bond in a cap­i­tal case, but he set a $1-mil­lion bond on a weapons charge. The judge set the next hear­ings for Oct. 23 and Feb. 5.

Pres­i­dent Obama again weighed in on gun vi­o­lence on Fri­day. Speak­ing at the U.S. Con­fer­ence of May­ors in San Fran­cisco, he said that it’s not enough to show em­pa­thy for vic­tims of gun vi­o­lence but that lead­ers must also push for a change in public opin­ion.

“Ev­ery coun­try has vi­o­lent, hate­ful or men­tally un­sta­ble peo­ple,” Obama said. “What’s dif­fer­ent is not ev­ery coun­try is awash with easily ac­ces­si­ble guns. ... It is not good enough sim­ply to show sym­pa­thy.”

In the North Charleston court Fri­day, of­fi­cials filed crim­i­nal com­plaints and war­rants from po­lice that re­vealed more de­tails about the at­tack.

Af­ter shoot­ing nine peo- ple, Roof taunted one of the sur­vivors and “ut­tered a racially in­flam­ma­tory state­ment,” ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments that said the vic­tims, all African Amer­i­cans, had been shot mul­ti­ple times.

“The de­fen­dant did en­ter the church at ap­prox. 8:06 p.m. with a fanny pack,” the doc­u­ments said. “He met with the parish­ioners who were con­duct­ing Bi­ble study for the evening.

“Af­ter ap­prox­i­mately an hour of study­ing, the de­fen­dant stood up and with mal­ice and afore­thought pulled out a hand­gun and be­gan shoot­ing at the parish­ioners in­side the hall … mul­ti­ple times.

“Prior to leav­ing the Bi­ble study room he stood over a wit­ness to be named later and ut­tered a racially in­flam­ma­tory state­ment to the wit­ness,” the doc­u­ments say.

In­side the church, the records state, po­lice re­cov­ered a num­ber of .45-cal­iber shell cas­ings. Roof ’s fa­ther told author­i­ties that his son owns a .45-cal­iber hand­gun, the doc­u­ments said.

Author­i­ties ini­tially sus­pected Roof af­ter his fa­ther and un­cle called Charleston po­lice and “pos­i­tively iden­ti­fied” him and his ve­hi­cle in im­ages re­leased by po­lice. A citizen’s tip led to Roof ’s ar­rest in Shelby, N.C., about 250 miles away from the shoot­ing.

Roof has re­port­edly made state­ments “tan­ta­mount to a con­fes­sion” in the shoot­ing, a law en­force­ment source said ear­lier Fri­day.

The fed­eral law en­force­ment of­fi­cial, speak­ing anony­mously, said he was told that Roof talked to lo­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tors and de­scribed some de­tails about the shoot­ing. The of­fi­cial has been briefed on the mat­ter but is not per­mit­ted to speak pub­licly be­cause the case is un­fold­ing.

Among the vic­tims was the church’s pas­tor, state Sen. Cle­menta Pinck­ney, who had spon­sored a bill in the Leg­is­la­ture to re­quire po­lice to wear body cam­eras — a move that came af­ter Slager, the white po­lice of­fi­cer, killed Wal­ter Scott in North Charleston.

In ad­di­tion to Pinck­ney, 41, the other vic­tims in the church shoot­ing were Cyn­thia Hurd, 54; Ty­wanza San­ders, 26; Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jack­son, 87; and the Revs. DePayne Mid­dle­tonDoc­tor, 49, Sharonda Sin­gle­ton, 45, and Daniel Sim­mons Sr., 74. Three peo­ple sur­vived.

Mid­dle­ton-Doc­tor’s sis­ter also spoke to Roof in court, say­ing she is still strug­gling to for­give.

“For me, I’m a work in progress, and I ac­knowl­edge that I’m very an­gry,” said Bethane Mid­dle­ton-Brown. “We have to for­give. I pray God on your soul. And I also thank God I won’t be around when your judg­ment day comes.”

‘We wel­comed you Wed­nes­day night in our Bi­ble study with open arms. ... I’ll never be the same.’

— Fele­cia San­ders, who sur­vived the at­tack but lost her son, Ty­wanza

Win McNamee Getty Im­ages

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Photos of the nine peo­ple killed at a Charleston, S.C., church are dis­played at a prayer vigil Fri­day at Metropoli­tan AME Church.

Katie Falkenberg Los An­ge­les Times

LOS AN­GE­LES: Mem­bers of the South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Con­fer­ence Min­is­te­rial Al­liance join hands in prayer at South L.A.’s Ward AME Church on Thurs­day.

Richard El­lis Euro­pean Pressphoto Agency

CHARLESTON, S.C.: A girl leaves f low­ers at a me­mo­rial out­side Emanuel AME Church, where nine peo­ple were killed Wed­nes­day dur­ing Bi­ble study.

Eric Thayer Getty Im­ages

NEW YORK: Clergy lead­ers and other mourn­ers march through Har­lem dur­ing a prayer vigil Thurs­day in honor of the Charleston shoot­ing vic­tims.

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