Home / National News / Charleston Church Shooting Survivor Recounts Watching Her Son Die at Dylann Roof Trial

 

(CHARLESTON, N.C.) —  When Dylann Roof opened fire at a church in Charleston last summer, Felicia Sanders clutched her granddaughter tight and told her to play dead.

“I muzzled her face to my body so tight,” she testified in federal court. “I could feel the warm blood flowing on each side of me.”

“I was just waiting on my turn,” she said. “Even if I got shot, I just didn’t want my granddaughter to get shot.”

 Amidst the chaos and the bloodshed, her youngest son, Tywanza, stood up and confronted the assailant: “Why are you doing this?” he asked, according to Sanders’ testimony.

“And he told our son, ‘I have to do this because ya’ll raping our women and taking over the world,'” Sanders said. “And that’s when [the gunman] put about five bullets in my son.”

A tearful Sanders then recalled watching her son die.

“We watched him take his last breath,” she said. “I watched my son come into this world, and I watched my son leave this world.”

Roof, who is white, is accused of fatally shooting nine black parishioners, including Sanders’ son, during a Bible study at the predominantly black Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015. Sanders and her granddaughter survived without physical injury.

Roof, who was 21 at the time, entered the Emanuel AME Church armed and “with the intent of killing African-Americans engaged in the exercise of their religious beliefs,” according to the federal indictment against him. The parishioners welcomed Roof into their Bible study group, according to the indictment, after which Roof drew his pistol and opened fire.

The 33 federal counts against Roof include hate crimes resulting in death and obstruction of exercise of religion resulting in death.

Roof has pleaded not guilty.

He also faces a state trial, set for early next year, in which he may also face the death penalty.

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