A 12-member jury sentenced church shooter Dylann Roof, 22, to death on Tuesday, Jan. 10, for the massacre that killed nine African-American worshipers at Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Roof, who is the first person to receive the death penalty in federal court for a hate crime, carried out the racially charged attack that left the nation in shock, so the announcement of his pending execution came as a relief to many Americans who watched the heartbreaking case unfold. Still, there are some who argue that the young gunman doesn’t deserve to die but should instead be forgiven and have his life spared.
Among those calling for forgiveness were some family members of the slain victims. One after the other, the victims’ loved ones offered their final words to Roof during a court hearing Wednesday, Jan. 11, as the gunman was formally sentenced for his crime(s).
None of them condemned the shooter for his actions, telling him that they could not bring themselves to hate him for what he did, The Washington Post reported. This despite the fact that Roof offered no remorse, writing in a jailhouse journal that he wasn’t sorry for what he did.
“Yes, I forgive you,” Felicia Sanders, mother of shooting victim Tywanza Sanders, told the gunman. “That’s the easiest thing I had to do. But you can’t help someone who can’t help themselves. And that’s exactly what you are.”
Still, other loved ones offered a much harsher reaction to Roof’s lack of remorse, like Ashland Temoney, the niece of victim DePayne Middleton-Doctor, who called the gunman a “coward.”
“How can you sit here every day looking dumb-faced and acting like you did nothing?” Temoney asked. “You are the biggest coward I have seen in my life. You are the biggest coward because even today you can’t look at us.”
News of Roof’s death sentence also sparked mixed reactions among social media users who agreed that the church shooter should pay the ultimate price for the lives he took.
so fucking ecstatic Dylann Roof got the death penalty. Fry his ass like some kfc
— ♡ ˡᵘʳⁿ ᵉˡᶦᶻᵃᵇᵉᵗʰ (@babyloouu13) January 12, 2017
Me: "The death penalty is so barbaric & should not be done!"
Judge: "Dylann Roof gets the death penalty!"
— Lizzos Hot Evil Twin😈 (@ayoodestoo) January 12, 2017
Dylann Roof is the PERFECT person for the death penalty. No remorse, killed multiple innocent people AT CHURCH.
— Morgs (@not_sadanymore) January 12, 2017
… and those who felt his life should be spared.
Struggling with Death Penalty/ Life in Prison with no possibility of parole. As a Christian I can't go the death penalty route.#DylannRoof
— Pat Siegler (@PatSiegler) January 12, 2017
Some social media users felt that the death penalty wasn’t enough justice and suggested that Roof be forced to suffer in a jail cell for the rest of his life.
The fact that Dylann Roof WANTS the death penalty makes me hope he rots in a 10×10 cell the rest of his life. Don't give him shit he wants.
— Garrett Sechelski (@SkiBronJames) January 12, 2017
#DylannRoof worked to get death penalty. They should've let him rot in jail for decades, as he feared. Suicide-by-execution is his easy out😡
— ⛴ The Mary Ellen Carter 🌊 (@flyaway47) January 12, 2017
unpopular opinion but i'd rather see dylann roof rot in prison for life than have him dead. Imo death penalty is the easy way out 👀
— a (@rrreptilia) January 12, 2017
And others criticized Black Christians for being so forgiving in instances such as this, but then complaining that Blacks never get the justice they deserve.
Though Roof has already been sentenced to death by the government, he still faces a separate trial in South Carolina, where prosecutors there say they will also seek the death penalty. That trial is expected to begin later this year.