(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — Felicia Sanders, the mother of one of the victims killed by Dylann Roof in a Charleston church, told Roof Wednesday morning at his sentencing hearing, “I forgive you.”
“That’s the easiest thing I had to do. But you don’t want to help somebody who don’t want to help themselves,” she told her son’s killer, according to ABC affiliate WCIV. “May God have mercy on your soul.”
Felicia Sanders survived Roof’s shooting rampage in June of 2015 that killed nine black parishioners who had gathered at the Charleston, South Carolina, church for Bible study. She was there when her son, Tywanza Sanders, was shot to death.
“You took my love away from me, and since June 17 I’ve gotten to know you,” Sanders said, according to WCIV. “I know you because you are in my head all day.”
“I can’t hear balloons pop. I can’t see the fireworks,” she continued. “I cannot shut my eye to pray. I cannot do it because I have to keep my eye open to see those around me.”
On Tuesday, a jury sentenced Roof, 22, to death after three hours of deliberations. The jury’s decision had to be unanimous to sentence him to death.
The sentence comes at the end of the federal death penalty case in which he was convicted of hate crimes resulting in death, among other charges. Roof also faces a state trial in which he may again face the death penalty. This is the first time a death penalty verdict was rendered in a federal hate crimes case, the Justice Department
Before the jury began deliberating, Roof told the jury Tuesday in a closing statement, “I still feel like I had to do it.”
Roof also faces a state trial in which he may again face the death penalty.
U.S. Attorney Beth Drake of the District of South Carolina said Tuesday, “Motivated by racist hatred, Dylann Roof murdered and attempted to murder innocent African-American parishioners as they worshiped in the historic Mother Emanuel church.”
“But, contrary to Roof’s desire to sow the seeds of hate, his acts did not tear this community apart. Instead of agitating racial tensions as he had hoped, Roof’s deadly attack inside Mother Emanuel became an attack on all of us, and the community stood in solidarity. Now, following a trial, the jury has rendered a sentence that underscores the severity of his crimes,” Drake said. “We here in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice want to express our condolences to the victims and their loved ones, and to commend the dedication and hard work by the jury, the law enforcement officers that worked the case, the victim advocate team, and the court to ensure a fair and just process.”
Roof’s family said in a statement, “We will always love Dylann. We will struggle as long as we live to understand why he committed this horrible attack, which caused so much pain to so many good people. We wish to express the grief we feel for the victims of his crimes, and our sympathy to the many families he has hurt. We continue to pray for the Emanuel AME families and the Charleston community.”
Roof’s defense said in a statement that the “sentencing decision means that this case will not be over for a very long time. We are sorry that, despite our best efforts, the legal proceedings have shed so little light on the reasons for this tragedy.”
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