Funeral to be held for woman whose husband forgave suspect in Charleston church shootings

Published 9:54 am Monday, June 29, 2015

CHARLESTON, S.C. — The funeral for the victim whose husband offered forgiveness to the suspect in the deadly shootings at a South Carolina church will be held today at the church where the attack took place.

Myra Thompson, 59, was one of nine people gunned down during Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston on June 17.

During a court appearance last week, Thompson’s widower, Anthony Thompson, told the 21-year-old suspect, Dylann Storm Roof, that his family offered their forgiveness.

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“We would like you to take this opportunity to repent,” Anthony Thompson said by video stream. “Do that and you’ll be better off than you are right now.”

All nine of the victims in the shooting were black and police contend the attack was racially motivated.

Thompson’s funeral today will follow services for four other victims held at Emanuel AME this weekend that brought political and religious leaders in addition to friends and family.

Those who spoke at the services echoed the similar theme that the lives lost would bring about positive social change.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and the Rev. Jesse Jackson attended the funerals on Saturday and Sunday, delivering similar remarks while adding personal touches for the different victims.

During the funeral Saturday for Tywanza Sanders, 26, and his aunt, Susie Jackson, 87, Haley said the attack happened on her watch and promised “we will make this right.” The governor did not say what actions she planned to take.

Haley has already joined a host of politicians in Southern states who have spoken out in favor of removing symbols of the Confederacy from flags, monuments and license plates after Roof was shown in photos posing with a Confederate battle flag and burning the U.S. flag.

Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley Jr. said at Saturday’s service for Cynthia Hurd, 54, that the tragedy “shook an America that didn’t want to believe this kind of hatred could still exist.”

Hours before the funeral for DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, began Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden made a surprise appearance at the church’s morning service to speak and worship.

Biden gave his condolences to the families of the victims and received a standing ovation after reading a selection of scripture.

The vice president’s son, Beau, died late last month of brain cancer. Beau Biden narrowly avoided death as a young boy in a 1972 car crash that killed Joe Biden’s first wife and his daughter.

“The reason I came was to draw strength from all of you,” Biden said. “I wish I could say something that would ease the pain.”

The vice president later joined the congregation in holding hands and singing “We Shall Overcome.”

The crowd of family and friends was so large at Middleton-Doctor’s funeral, which Biden did not attend, that many watched the service on closed-circuit TV from the church’s first floor, where the shooting took place. The mood in the overflow space was enthusiastic and many stood to clap, sing and even shake a tambourine along with the music being played at the service one floor above.

The funeral for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Emanuel AME’s pastor and a state senator, was held Friday at a basketball arena in Charleston with President Barack Obama delivering a eulogy.

The president spoke about the need to address issues like poverty, gun control and job discrimination before surprising many when he began singing “Amazing Grace.”

Malik Shabazz, the national chairman of the New Black Panther Party, told about 30 people gathered in a small park in Charleston on Sunday evening that the message of forgiveness expressed by the families of the shooting victims was “unnatural.”

Shabazz praised Denmark Vesey, a founder of the Emanuel AME Church who was killed for attempting to organize a failed slave revolt. Using force, including weapons, is justified in self-defense against “white supremacy,” Shabazz said. But he denied he supports violence against white people.