Charleston massacre suspect's family provides first statement

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Marci Gonzalez reports from Charleston. (WABC)

The family of the man accused of killing nine people inside a black church in Charleston made their first statement Friday afternoon.

It read, "The Roof Family would like to extend their deepest sympathies and condolences to families of the victims in Wednesday night's shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. 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. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those killed this week. 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. Our hope and prayer is for peace and healing for the families of the victims, the Charleston community, and those touched by these events throughout the state of South Carolina and our nation.
As you can imagine, words are hard to find and we would ask that the media respect our family's privacy at this time."

Meantime, Roof made his first court appearance Friday, with the relatives of all the victims making tearful statements.

Dylann Roof appeared via video before a judge in South Carolina, wearing a jail jumpsuit and handcuffed. He spoke only to answer questions. When asked his age, he told the judge he was 21. He also told the judge he was unemployed.

Relatives of the shooting victims spoke at the hearing, with one victim's daughter sobbing as she said, "I forgive you." The mother of Tywanza Sanders told Roof that "every fiber in my body hurts." Roof did not react and appeared to show no emotion as the relatives spoke.

Here are the words of the victims' family members:

"You took something precious away from me," Ethel Lance's relative said. "I will never talk to her again. I will never hold her again. But I forgive you. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. But God forgive you, and I forgive you."

"I forgive you, and my family forgives you," Myra Thompson's relative said. "But we would like you take this opportunity to repent."

"We welcomed you with open arms to our bible study Wednesday night," Felicia Sanders' relative said. "You have killed some of the most beautiful people I know. Every fiber in my body hurts, and I will never be the same...May God have mercy on you."

"Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, this is proof, everyone's plea for your soul is proof they lived in love and their legacies will live in love," Daniel Simmons' relative said. "So hate won't win."

"For me, I am a work in progress," Rev. Depayne Middleton said. "I am very angry...We are the family that love built. We have no room for hate, so I have to forgive. "

The magistrate judge set bond for a weapons charge at $1 million, but doesn't have the authority to set bond on the nine murder counts that Roof faces. That will be left up to a circuit judge at a later date.

Meanwhile, a former friend who had reconnected with Roof said he had become an avowed racist.

Joey Meek reconnected with Roof a few weeks ago and said that while they got drunk together on vodka, Roof began complaining that "blacks were taking over the world" and that "someone needed to do something about it for the white race."

Roof is accused of fatally shooting nine people during a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston on Wednesday night, ripping out a piece of South Carolina's civic heart and adding to the ever-growing list of America's racial casualties.

Police captured Roof after a motorist spotted him at a traffic light on her way to work. His apprehension ended an intense, hours-long manhunt.

A law enforcement source briefed on the investigation said that Roof has confessed to killing the nine people at the AME church.

"We are getting cooperation at this point," the official told ABC News. Interviews with Roof are continuing.

Charleston officials announced a prayer vigil for Friday evening. The city's mayor described the shooting at the church as an act of "pure, pure concentrated evil."

The victims included a state senator who doubled as the church's minister, three other pastors, a regional library manager, a high school coach and speech therapist, a government administrator, a college enrollment counselor and a recent college graduate - six women and three men who felt called to open their church to all.

The chief wouldn't discuss a motive. Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. called it "pure, pure concentrated evil." Stunned community leaders and politicians condemned the attack on The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the Justice Department has begun a hate crime investigation.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said Friday morning that the gunman should get the death penalty. Speaking Friday morning on NBC's "Today" show, Haley said, "we will absolutely will want him to have the death penalty."

Charleston officials held a prayer vigil Friday evening. The city's mayor described the shooting at the church as an act of "pure, pure concentrated evil."

The throngs of people gathered on Friday night at the College of Charleston's arena. Some brought their children with them.

The Rev. Nelson Rivers of Charity Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston told victims' relatives to contact him if they needed anything - including a church for funeral services since theirs may be off limits during the investigation.

Rabbi Stephanie Alexander said the same hatred that killed four girls in Birmingham, Alabama, was responsible for the slayings more than 50 years later.

"How do we eradicate the hate? How do we eradicate the violence?" she said. "We search, but we search together."

State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Church, had already been identified as one of those killed. Pinckney, 41, was a married father of two who became the youngest member of the South Carolina state House when he was elected as a Democrat at 23.

Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten said Thursday afternoon that the others have been identified as Cynthia Hurd, 54; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Sharonda Singleton; Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr.; and DePayne Doctor.

Jackson's grandson lives in New Jersey. Walter B. Jackson wrote on Facebook, "Woke up this morning, saying to myself...."It was all a dream"! Then my heart got heavy and the tears started up again and I realized that this is real!"

Sanders had recently graduated from Allen University. Hurd worked for Charleston County's library system for 31 years. Doctor was an enrollment counselor at Southern Wesleyan University's Charleston Campus, according to a friend.

Wooten said autopsies would be conducted over the next several days and did not have specific information on how many times the victims were shot or the locations of their injuries.

President Barack Obama, who personally knew the slain pastor said these shootings have to stop.

"At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries," Obama said.

Three people survived the shooting, but details about them were not immediately available.

This shooting "should be a warning to us all that we do have a problem in our society," said state Rep. Wendell Gilliard, a Democrat whose district includes the church. "There's a race problem in our country. There's a gun problem in our country. We need to act on them quickly."

"Of all cities, in Charleston, to have a horrible hateful person go into the church and kill people there to pray and worship with each other is something that is beyond any comprehension and is not explained," Riley said. "We are going to put our arms around that church and that church family."

NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks said "there is no greater coward than a criminal who enters a house of God and slaughters innocent people."

A few bouquets of flowers tied to a police barricade outside the church formed a small but growing memorial.

"Today I feel like it's 9-11 again," Bob Dyer, who works in the area, said after leaving an arrangement of yellow flowers wrapped in plastic. "I'm in shock."

Charleston residents Samuel Ward and Evangeline Simmons stood silently at the barricade with arms around each other. Simmons belongs to another AME congregation, and said "It's like it's just trying to strip away part of your faith ... But it just makes you stronger."

The attack came two months after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man, Walter Scott, by a white police officer in neighboring North Charleston that sparked major protests and highlighted racial tensions in the area. The officer awaits trial for murder, and the shooting prompted South Carolina lawmakers to push through a bill helping all police agencies in the state get body cameras. Pinckney was a sponsor of that bill.

"I am very tired of people telling me that I don't have the right to be angry," Community organizer Christopher Cason said. "I am very angry right now."

PHOTOS: 9 dead after Charleston church shooting

In a statement, Gov. Nikki Haley asked South Carolinians to pray for the victims and their families and decried violence at religious institutions.

"We'll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another," Haley said.

The Associated Press and ABC News contributed to this reporting.
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