Dylann Roof’s mass murder of nine black churchgoers in 2015 left behind many loved ones, some of whom have begun speaking out following a jury’s decision Tuesday that Roof will die for his racially-motivated crimes.
Roof’s sentencing “sends a strong message” about the intolerance for hate crimes, Malcolm Graham told the Associated Press. Graham’s sister, Cynthia Hurd, was killed in the 2015 attack.
There is “no room in a civilized society for hatred, racism and discrimination,” Graham told the AP.
A second of Hurd’s brothers, Melvin Graham (pictured above), agreed: “Today we had justice for my sister,” he told reporters, according to CNN. “This is a very hollow victory, because my sister is still gone. I wish that this verdict could have brought her back. But what it can do is just send a message to those who feel the way he feels that this community will not tolerate it.”
“It’s a hard thing to know that someone’s going to lose their life,” Melvin said. “But when you look a the totality of what happened, it’s hard to say that this person deserves to live when the nine others don’t. How do you justify saving one life when he took nine? And in such a brutal fashion, with no remorse.
“He just took them away from us because he wanted to. He decided the day, the hour and the moment that my sister was going to die, and now someone’s going to do the same for him.”
Roof was found guilty in December on 33 federal counts, and a jury sentenced him to death on Tuesday. Prosecutors say he carefully planned his attack on the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Roof joined his victims for bible study for about an hour before opening fire.
“In that moment, a man of immense hatred walked that room shooting person after person after person, stopping only so he could reload more magazines and kill more people,” assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams told the jury in December.
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The reaction to Roof’s death sentence was not unanimous, however, and many of the relatives of his victims have yet to speak publicly. Journalist Shaun King wrote on Twitter Tuesday that many of the relatives did not want Roof to die.
Two victims’ family members forgave Roof at his bond hearing soon after the shooting, setting off a broader narrative about the black community’s capacity for forgiveness instead of anger that has been dismissed as reductive.
The mother of another victim, who watched him die in the shooting, has reportedly said she would be okay if Roof spent the rest of his life in prison, though she later testified, “There’s no place on Earth for him except the pit of hell.”
Hurd’s husband, Arthur Hurd, told The Intercept before the sentencing that he did not need Roof to receive the death penalty.
“Cynthia wasn’t a big proponent of that,” he says. “Up until this point, I really was. Now, all I can say is, if they give him death, that’s the easy way out.”