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Family of Victims to Shooting Suspect: 'I Forgive You'

Family members of the victims of the Charleston church shooting told the suspect they forgive him during an emotion court appearance Friday afternoon.
Dylann Roof appears in bond court on June 19, 2015.

Charleston, SC (WLTX) - Family members of the victims of the Charleston church shooting told the suspect they forgive him during an emotion court appearance Friday afternoon.

Dylan Roof, 21, appeared via closed circuit TV before a magistrate judge inside a courtroom at the Charleston County Detention Center for a bond hearing. Earlier in the day, police announced Roof had been charged with nine counts of murder and one count of possession of a firearm.

Roof said little, only answering the judge's questions about where he lived, his age, and confirming that he was unemployed.

The judge set bond at $1 million the weapons charge, but could not set bond on the murder charge. Under South Carolina law, bonds for high crimes must be sent in general sessions court.

Before setting bond, the judge allowed family members of the nine victims to speak. Roof could not see them, since he was being broadcast into the courtroom by a piped TV feed, but he could hear them.

One by one, those who chose to use the opportunity to say that they forgave the man accused of one of the most horrific acts of violence in state history.

"I forgive you, my family forgives you," said Anthony Thompson, who represented the family of Myra Thompson. "We would like you to take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess. Give your life to the one who matters the most, Christ, so he can change your ways no matter what happens to you and you'll be OK. Do that and you'll be better off than you are right now."

At the time of the killing, Mother Emanuel AME Church was holding a Bible study.

"We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with open arms," said Felecia Sanders, the mother of Tywanza Sanders, the 26-year-old and recent Allen University graduate who lost his life Wednesday . 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."

Felecia Sanders is one of the three people who survived the attack. A friend told the media that she was able to make it out alive by pretending to be dead.

"Tywanza Sanders was my son, but Tywanza was my hero. Tywanza was my hero. But as we said in Bible study, we enjoyed you but may God have mercy on you."

"I forgive you," said Nadine Collier, the daughter of Ethel Lance, the victim who had worked for 30 years at Mother Emanuel. "You took something really precious away from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you and have mercy on your soul. It hurts me, it hurts a lot of people but God forgive you and I forgive you."

Alana Simmons, the granddaughter of Daniel Simmons, said, "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, so hate won't win. And I just want to thank the court for making sure that hate doesn't win."

For several of the victims, including state legislator Clementa Pinckney, no one in court opted to speak on behalf of the family. A representative for victim Sharonda Coleman-Singleton was in court but when called on by the judge, chose not to speak.

Affidavits released Friday confirmed an earlier media report that Roof stood over a witness immediately following the shooting and made the racial remark after the shooting. The documents also say that Roof's father and uncle called authorities after seeing surveillance photos of him publicized. Roof's father told investigators his son owned a .45-caliber handgun.

The judge said Roof's next court appearance will take place on October 23 at 2 p.m.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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