US & Canada

Charleston church shooting: What victims' families said to Dylann Roof

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Media caption"Everyone's plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love and their legacies will live in love. So hate won't win", a relative of one victim told the suspect

In a remarkable moment of courtroom drama, some of the relatives of the nine people shot dead at a Charleston church spoke directly to Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old accused of murdering their loved ones. While he stared impassively ahead, one by one they told him that they forgive him.


Ethel Lance

Image copyright Michael Skolnik

Nadine Collier, daughter of Ethel Lance, spoke on behalf of her mother in court. She also offered some remarks outside of the court, where she said she was a "Christian woman" and her faith would bring her through the tragedy.

"She's in a better place now, and we're all trying to get there," she said before the hearing. "God knows the Lance family is going to be okay."

Speaking to Dylann Roof in court, she said: "I just want everybody to know, to you, I forgive you. You took something very precious away from me. 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. You hurt me, you hurt a lot of people, but God forgive you, and I forgive you.


Myra Thompson

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Anthony Thompson is the husband of Myra Thompson and a reverend of the Anglican Church of North America. He spoke on behalf of his wife in court.

To Mr Roof, he said: "I forgive you and my family forgives you but we would like you to take this opportunity to repent. Repent, confess, give your life to the one who matters the most, Christ, so he can change it, and change your ways no matter what happened to you and you'll be okay through that. And better off than how you are right now."


Tywanza Sanders

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Tywanza Sanders' mother Felecia Sanders spoke directly to Mr Roof in court. Sanders was a recent college graduate who has been described as having a "warm and helpful spirit".

In court she told Mr Roof: "We welcomed you Wednesday night in our bible study with open arms. You have killed some of the most beautiful-est people I have known. Every fibre in my body hurts. And I will never be the same. Tywanza Sanders is my son but Tywanza was my hero, Tywanza was my hero."


Rev Daniel Simmons Sr

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Rev Simmons' granddaughter Alana spoke on behalf of their family. She was very composed and calm, stressing that hate would not win the day.

Ms Simmons addressed Mr Roof in court: "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 in love. So hate won't win and I just want to thank the courts for making sure that hate doesn't win."


Rev Depayne Middleton-Doctor

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Image caption Depayne Middleton-Doctor was the mother of four daughters

Bethane Middleton-Brown spoke on behalf of her sister Depayne. She admitted that she was "very angry" but also held forgiveness in her heart.

Speaking to Mr Roof, she said: "Depayne Doctor was my sister. And I too thank you [the judge], on the 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 Depayne ... taught me [is that] we are the family that love built. We have no room for hate so we have to forgive. I pray God on your soul and I thank God that I won't be around when your judgement day comes with him. May God bless you."


Sharonda Singleton

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Representatives of the Singleton family chose not to speak in court but spoke to the BBC at a vigil in their mother's honour. Both said they forgive the killer and that faith was helping them cope.

"We've already forgiven him for what he's done and there's nothing but love from our side of the family," Chris Singleton said. His sister Camryn said she felt filled with love from the community.

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Media captionChris and Camryn Singleton said they forgive their mother's killer

The families of shooting victims Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson and Rev Clementa Pinckney opted not to speak in court.

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Media captionA look at the victims of the shooting