The solemn verses of “We Shall Overcome” rang out in a college basketball arena at a vigil for the nine victims of a massacre at a historic African-American church last night.
CHARLESTON, SC- Hours after hearing words of forgiveness from some of his victims’ loved ones, Dylann Roof sat in his cell on suicide watch.
Wearing a striped inmate jumpsuit, the 21-year-old appeared Friday afternoon by video feed at a bond hearing in Charleston, South Carolina. He stood motionless, a blank expression on his face, as he listened to the anguished words of relatives of the nine people he gunned down Wednesday night at a Bible study class at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
“I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you,” a daughter of victim Ethel Lance said. “And have mercy on your soul. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people but God forgives you, and I forgive you.”
Felecia Sanders — mother of victim Tywanza Sanders and a survivor of the church shooting — said that “every fiber in my body hurts, and I will never be the same.”
“As we said in the Bible study, we enjoyed you,” she said of Roof. “But may God have mercy on you.”
The families’ words prompted a reaction from President Barack Obama.
“In the midst of darkest tragedy, the decency and goodness of the American people shines through in these families,” Obama said on Twitter.
While the nation rallies behind Charleston, an insight into Roof’s state of mind came Saturday from Charleston County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Maj. Eric Watson.
Roof, he said, “is in protective custody. He is currently sitting on his bed being monitored by two detention officers. He is on suicide watch.”
Roof’s family speaks for first time
Roof’s relatives spoke out for the first time in a statement Friday, extending their “deepest sympathy 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. We offer our prayers sympathy for all of those impacted by these events,” the statement says. It asks for privacy for the Roof family.
Roof barely spoke at the hearing, answering the judge’s questions about his unemployment with a “yes, sir” and “no, sir.”
In the video feed, Roof could hear, but not see, people in the courtroom. People in the courtroom could see and hear Roof.
Magistrate James B. Gosnell Jr. set bail at $1 million on a weapons possession charge. A circuit judge will hold a bond hearing later on the nine murder charges, but it’s unlikely Roof will be allowed to leave jail.
The suspect is being held in the North Charleston jail. Authorities didn’t want him to appear at the bond hearing in person for security reasons.
Roof may be prosecuted by federal authorities if it’s determined he committed a hate crime. The Justice Department said “it is looking at this crime from all angles, including as a hate crime and as an act of domestic terrorism.”
Roof admits he did it, sources say.
He told investigators he did it to start a race war, according to one of the officials.
A friend recalled a drunken Roof ranting one night about his unspecified six-month plan “to do something crazy” in order “to start a race war.” And the Berkeley County, South Carolina, government tweeted a picture of Roof in a jacket with flags from apartheid-era South Africa and nearby Rhodesia, a former British colony that was ruled by a white minority until it became independent in 1980 and is now known as Zimbabwe.
By telling authorities his aim, Roof admitted he attacked unarmed civilians for political purposes in an act of terror.
He faces a long legal road ahead, one that could end in his execution if prosecutors seek a death sentence, according to South Carolina law. Gov. Nikki Haley has indicated that’s what she wants.
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