ABC News Internet Ventures – South Carolina police have arrested a 21-year-old suspect they say shot and killed nine people during a Bible study session he attended inside their historic Charleston church Wednesday night.
Today, during his initial court appearance, the suspect heard not only words of anguish and pain from the victims’ families but words of love and forgiveness as well.
“I forgive you, my family forgives you,” said Anthony Thompson, whose relative Myra Thompson was killed. “We would like you to take this opportunity to repent. … Do that and you’ll be better off than you are right now.”
The families are determined not to respond in kind to the hate that resulted in the deaths of their loved ones, said Alana Simmons, who lost her grandfather, the Rev. Daniel Simmons.
“Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate,” she said, “this is proof — everyone’s plea for your soul is proof they lived in love and their legacies will live in love, so hate won’t win.”
Felecia Sanders survived the Wednesday night attack by pretending to be dead, but lost her son Tywanza. She also spoke in the courtroom. It is not unusual in South Carolina for the families of victims to be given a chance to address the court during a bond hearing.
“We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with open arms. 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,” Sanders said.
After the suspect was ordered held on $1 million bond for nine murders, his family issued a statement offering prayers and sympathy for the victims, and expressing “shock, grief and disbelief as to what happened that night.”
“We have all been touched by the moving words from the victims’ families offering God’s forgiveness and love in the face of such horrible suffering,” the statement said.
Read the full story from ABC News: // Charleston Church Victims’ Families Forgive Suspect in Court
Read CNN’s coverage: Charleston church shooter hears victims’ kin say, ‘I forgive you’