Lexington County (S.C.) Detention Center/AP
June 19, 2015 08:15 AM

A survivor of the Charleston church massacre says she played dead to avoid drawing the attention of alleged gunman Dylann Roof.

Felecia Sanders lay on top of her young granddaughter to protect her from the hail of bullets as the shooter opened fire on the parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church – a 150-year-old institution that was originally started by slaves.

Sylvia Stevenson Johnson, cousin of slain Rev. Clementa Pinckney, told PEOPLE the miraculous story. “One survivor who I talked to… said her and her granddaughter and son said they would just play like they’re dead and just mingle within the blood because blood was everywhere.”

Added Johnson: “She said it was just awful. So I’m assuming he not only just shot once but shot each person several times.”

While Sanders survived, her son was not so lucky. “She just watched her son die right in front of her eyes,” said Johnson.

Cynthia Taylor, the niece of 87-year-old shooting victim Susie Jackson, said Sanders told her a similar story, the Associated Press reports.

Roof was arrested in North Carolina on Thursday during a traffic stop, authorities said. “He was stopped because a citizen alerted police to suspicious activity and he was stopped and apprehended,” Police Chief Gregory Mullen said at a press conference. “He was cooperative with the officer who stopped him I believe he acted alone. We don’t have any reason to believe there was anyone else involved.”

Roof allegedly sat beside his victims for about an hour before brutally gunning them down. As he was about to open fire, Sanders’ son confronted him and tried to calm him down, Johnson told PEOPLE.

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Roof allegedly responded: “No. You’ve raped our women and you’ve stolen and you’ve taken over the country, so no, this must be done,” Johnson said.

On Thursday evening, Roof was flown back to Charleston after he waived extradition.

Individuals who want to donate in memory of the victims of the Charleston church massacre are asked to text “prayforcharleston” to 843-606-5995 or donate online at the Palmetto Project.

Individuals who want to donate in memory of the victims of the Charleston church massacre are asked to text “prayforcharleston” to 843-606-5995 or donate online at the Palmetto Project.

Reporting by EMILY ZAUZMER

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