Repent & be saved, 'Emanuel 9' families urge Roof

CHARLESTON, S.C. (BP) -- Convicted murderer Dylann Roof should repent of the massacre of nine people he killed at Mother Emanuel church, the victims' survivors said after a jury recommended the death penalty Jan. 10.

Family members of Myra Thompson, one of nine blacks killed during the June 17, 2015 massacre at Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, S.C., urged convicted killer Dylann Roof to repent after a jury recommended the death penalty. ABC's Steve Osunsami (left) interviewed Thompson's widow Anthony and their daughter Denise Quarles.
ABC Nightly News screen capture
"Judgment day is coming sooner for him than what he expected," Denise Quarles, daughter of massacre victim Myra Thompson, said on ABC News after the jury's decision was announced. "He definitely needs to [repent]." Her father and Thompson's widow Anthony Thompson said "yes" in agreement.

Roof, an avowed white supremacist, affirmed his decision to kill the black worshippers as recently as the December 2016 sentencing phase of the trial, it was widely reported. Acting as his own attorney, he said, "I felt like I had to do it and I still feel like I have to do it," Roof said then, ABC News reported.

Myra Thompson, a 59-year-old wife and mother of two children, was among those Roof killed after they welcomed him to a June 17, 2015 Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (also known as Mother Emanuel AME) in Charleston, S.C. During the closing prayer, Roof began firing 77 rounds from a Glock .45 caliber handgun, reloading the 13-round chamber several times before leaving the church.

Melvin Graham, the brother of 54-year-old victim Cynthia Graham Hurd, also encouraged Roof to repent.

"He's in God's hands now," Graham said in an interview recorded by several news outlets, including PBS, outside the federal courthouse in Charleston. "And if he turns his life around, if he makes a humble confession to God … he can join my sister and the other eight in heaven. Because God said, 'I will forgive you for no matter what you do, I will forgive you,'" said Graham, paraphrasing Scripture.

"Just like when he showed no remorse here, when that time comes if he chooses not to show any remorse, then he again will determine his sentence," said Graham, a father and grandfather who lives in Goose Creek. "He has another chance."

Family members of the victims notably expressed forgiveness to Roof before the Grand Jury when charges were filed against the white supremacist, but Graham said he's still trying to forgive Roof.

"I'm a work in progress," Graham said during the interview, but expressed assurance that in time "peace will come."

Among Roof's victims was Emanuel AME pastor and legislator Clementa Pinckney. Emanuel's current pastor Eric S. C. Manning was not available to Baptist Press for comment today (Jan. 11), as he was in court hearing U.S. District Judge Richard Giegel officially sentence Roof to death, a church staff member told Baptist Press.

During the trial, Roof never expressed remorse for the crime and insisted that he is not mentally ill.

"I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed," Roof wrote from jail days after confessing to the crime, according to the FBI. "I would like to make it crystal clear. I do not regret what I did. I am not sorry." Roof laughed nine times about the killings during his recorded confession, the FBI said.

Roof has already requested an appeal of the death sentence, ABC News reported. Because Roof represented himself during the sentencing phase, he would also be responsible for filing an appeal, according to ABC News.

Roof is the first person sentenced to death for a federal hate crime. He also faces state charges punishable by death, but a date for the state trial has not been set.

A memorial to the victims remains on Emanuel AME's website. "In Loving Memory. Gone But Never Forgotten," accompanies photos of the victims. "Thank you to all who have prayed, sent cards, gifts, and for other acts of kindness as we continue to grieve and heal."

Read BP's report on the one-year anniversary of the massacre here.

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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