The 21-year-old man suspected of opening fire in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, has been captured and ordered to remain in prison without bond until his trial.
He has been charged with nine counts of murder and one weapons offence. The next hearing is scheduled for October 23rd of this year.
The man, identified as Dylann Roof, was arrested during a traffic stop in the neighbouring state of North Carolina.
The families of the nine victims killed during prayer time at a historic African-American church were invited to address the suspect during his Friday hearing. Among the messages of grief there was also forgiveness. “We have no room for hate, and so we have to forgive”, said one family member in mourning.
Meanwhile, President Obama spoke of the need for stricter gun control legislation. “Once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun,” Obama said.
Roof received the suspected murder weapon, a .45 calibre pistol, as a birthday gift from his father, his uncle told Reuters.
Texas lawyer and National Rifle Association executive, Charles Cotton, suggested in an online chat room that the person responsible for the shootings was slain Reverend and Senator Clementa Pinckney. In 2011 Pickney had voted against gun-friendly legislation that would have allowed concealed handguns in churches, as well as restaurants and day-care centres. According to Cotton more gun-friendly laws are necessary in order for citizens to defend themselves from such attacks.
The attack is being investigated as a hate crime. In his Facebook profile picture Roof is seen wearing a black jacket, with the South African apartheid regime flag and the flag of Rhodesia sewn on. The two former states were infamous for their institutionalised white supremacy.