Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old accused of killing nine people at a black church in Charleston, S.C., appeared via a jailhouse videolink today for his first court hearing. The judge set a $1 million bond for a weapons possession charge but said he did not have the authority to set bail on the nine counts of murder.
“We have victims, nine, but we also have victims on the other side,” Judge James Gosnell said. There are victims on this young man’s side of the family.
“We must find it in our hearts at some point in time not only to help those that are victims but to help his family as well,” he said.
“We are a loving community and we will reach out to the victims — all of them,” the judge said.
During an emotional courtroom scene, family members of some of the victims gave statements, many saying they forgave the shooter and calling on him to repent his sins.
“I just wanted everybody to know, to you, I forgive you,” a daughter of Ethel Lance, 70, one of the nine people killed at Emanuel AME church on Wednesday night said. “You took something very precious away from me.
“You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. But I forgive you. I forgive you,” she said.
The Rev. Anthony Thompson, the husband of 59-year-old victim Myra Thompson, called on Roof to “Repent, confess. Give your life to Christ.”
Felicia Sanders, the mother of Tywanza Sanders, 26, said of the suspect, who reportedly sat in the church for a full hour before opening fire: “We welcomed you Wednesday night at our Bible study with open arms.”
“Every fiber in my body hurts and I’ll never be the same. … May God have mercy on your soul,” she said.
Alana Simmons, the grand daughter of victim the Rev. Daniel Simmons, 74, pleaded that the court ensure “hate won’t win.”
The sister of Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49, admitted “For me, I am a work in progress and I acknowledge that I am very angry.
“We have no room for hate, so we have to forgive,” she said.
Gosnell said Roof’s next court appearance had been scheduled for Oct. 23.
The hearing in Charleston took place as the Justice Department said it was investigating Wednesday’s shootings as a possible hate crime and an act of domestic terrorism.
Watch the court appearance in this video from ABC News: