CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA - The sister of Myra Thompson, one of the nine people killed in Wednesday’s shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, says she cannot believe what happened.
“Never, never in a million years,” Marlene Coakley Jenkins told VOA in Charleston Friday.
“Our message to our community is we appreciate all the love and support; but, truly speaking, we didn’t expect any less because here we are like the climate; we are warm and we’re loving,” she went on to say.
She said her family grew up near the Emanuel AME Church and attended Sunday School there. She said her sister, Myra, was leading the Bible study session Wednesday.
"We are also forgiving people, we just loved our sister," Marlene Coakley Jenkins added.
Earlier Friday, in Dylann Roof’s first court appearance, another relative of Thompson said he forgives the alleged shooter.
“We would like you to take this opportunity to repent. ... Do that and you'll be better off than you are right now,” Anthony Thompson said.
Relatives of the other victims also addressed Roof, who watched remotely via a video hookup afternoon in a small room where he was flanked by two heavily armed law enforcement officers, occasionally dropping his eyes.
'Something very precious'
“You took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again,” said Nadine Collier, the daughter of victim Ethel Lance.
Collier's voice dipped and soared with pain. “But God forgive you. I forgive you.” Lance, 70, had been church sexton at Emanuel.
Charged with nine counts of murder, Roof will remain in prison, having accepted a “no bond arrangement” for the murder counts. Bail of $1 million was set for an additional weapons charge.
“We welcomed you Wednesday night into our Bible study with open arms. You have killed some of the most beautifulest people that I know. Every fiber in my body hurts,” said Felicia Sanders, the mother of the youngest of the shooting victims, 26-year old Tywanza Sanders.
Tywanza Sanders was a recent college graduate, who appears on Facebook in a sideways baseball cap next to a banner that reads, “Your dreams are calling you.”
The shooting victims were six women and three men. Three other people were wounded.